As the evangelists set out to write about their understanding of their community’s experience of Jesus,
they searched the Hebrew Scriptures for words which would help them understand that experience. We must not forget that Jesus, Paul and all the New Testament writers, except perhaps Luke, were Jews. They worshipped with their fellow Jews in the synagogues until the end of the first century. It was natural, therefore, for them to try to understand the Christ by reflecting on the Hebrew Scriptures.
Isaiah 10 is a perfect example. From the stump of Jesse and the Davidic line the Messiah has come forth. We are excited about the fulfillment of the scriptures when we read Isaiah’s comments about justice and peace—animals who are natural predatory enemies lying down together in the pasture. It is a poetic narrative about where we are headed but we have not yet arrived.
We are less excited when Isaiah goes from preaching nice words to meddling in our very lives. The Messiah will not be about conquest and military victory over enemies—Assyrians, Babylonians, Romans and the like. The Messiah, the Christ, is about justice. This is not the retributive justice we are accustomed to in our courts. This is restorative justice where God has a special care for the poor, oppressed, and downtrodden and will bring judgment upon the wicked:
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. (Is 10)
While we need to exercise caution when we apply scriptural understanding to current events, it still strikes me that there are elements of restorative justice in the Occupy Wall Street Movement. I feel comfortable in saying that, if he were alive today in the flesh, Jesus would be camped out—outraged over enormous gaps in income which cause so much human misery. Of course, the Christ is present in the camps promising much needed relief to the downtrodden whether they have taken a bath or looked for a job that is not there. The Psalmist says it all:
He shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save. (Ps 72)
God is truly meddling in our lives when God reminds us that it is about justice—right order. Jusitce is a kin-dom value. It is about restoring right order. There can be no semblance of right order when gross inequities cause interminable human suffering with billions living on $1 -$2 a day. There can be no justice when a hungry woman is sentenced for stealing a loaf of bread and Wall Street extortionists walk free. There can be no justice when rich and powerful nations wage war on impoverished people in order to get their natural resources.
Isaiah tells us that God will judge the wicked—those who are driven by greed and lack compassion for the suffering of their fellow creatures—two-legged and four-legged.
The Christ praises Abba because the Holy One has shared what is hidden with the childlike:
Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,
“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.(Lk 10:21)
Revealing to the childlike is a radical statement because children were not held in high esteem. Children were right in there with tax collectors and the like. They were not highly valued in that society. Yet, the Christ tells us that they will understand what the Kin-dom is all about—justice. They will grasp what don’t get about the message of the Christ.
Paraphrasing Isaiah, we pray this day:
May the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon us:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and our delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Our mission shall be to set the oppressed free
And to bring justice to earth.
May justice roll down like a mighty stream!
And may we birth the Christ in our society.