Sometimes when I read the Gospel stories, I am filled with jealousy. Always with awe and grace and love, but sometimes also with jealousy.
I am jealous of the people who walked the streets with Jesus. I am jealous of the people who listened to his words live and in-person. I am jealous, even, of the woman who, knowing a simple touch of Jesus would heal her, was courageous enough to bust her way through a crowd and touch his cloak.
Here, too, at the start of the passage for today, Jesus is reported as healing the ill walking among him. Jealous!
True, there are many things about life in that time of which I am not jealous—especially as a woman. And yet, my heart longs for the opportunity to see Jesus, to reach out and touch his cloak, to have him tell me I am loved. Can you imagine what that would be like?
And then Jesus does that thing which is so baffling to me: he tells those he heals to tell no one. I’ve heard all the logical arguments for this and I know the wisdom in letting changed lives speak for themselves. That being said, I can’t imagine keeping quiet in a moment like that! Finally healed and freed—and saying nothing? I truly can’t fathom it.
I read the passage from Matthew in six different versions, and it wasn’t until I read it in the Message that I began to see things differently. Here’s the end of the passage from The Message: “He won’t walk over anyone’s feelings, won’t push you into a corner. Before you know it, his justice will triumph; the mere sound of his name will signal hope, even among far-off unbelievers.”
In today’s climate of judgment and hatred, with everyone fighting for their position to be recognized as ‘right,’ these words from Isaiah are like putting on a pair of glasses with a new prescription. You thought all along you were seeing just fine; then the new, slightly adjusted lenses came, and you experienced a whole new clarity.
These words remind us how Jesus was sent to usher in God’s kingdom: persistently, yet without hatred/judgment/violence.
I am coming to believe that Jesus ordered people to keep quiet because Jesus knew if we talked, we would mess up the simple message: Jesus is the Son of God and he was sent to this earth to free the oppressed and bring restoration to the whole of humanity and creation. Clearly, Jesus was right to expect that we would mess that up.
We live in a world full of evidence that we do not understand how to live out that message; rather than returning to Jesus to guide us, we argue ourselves to exhaustion. Meanwhile, Jesus persists. Jesus’ justice will triumph no matter who is elected, no matter which side wins the argument, no matter how many times the enemy interjects. Jesus’s justice will triumph.
And with each triumph, the sound of his name will signal hope. And, not just hope from a human understanding, but assured hope; a hope that is certain and attainable.
So, then, what do we do? If Jesus’ justice will triumph despite the way we tend to muddy things up with our tongues, why bother? Because justice for the oppressed, all oppressed, is the unavoidable call upon all who name Jesus as their Lord and Savior. But take your cue from his actions. Do justice (Micah wasn’t simply trying to come up with a slogan!). Speak justice when needed, but focus on doing justice. Persistently and courageously. Do justice every day. Don’t lessen your efforts by speaking words that trap you in an unending circle of debate. Do justice with Jesus walking beside you, guiding you. Allow the name of Jesus, the one thing that should be spoken at all times, to be the signal of hope. Allow Jesus’s justice to triumph.
Actions really do speak louder than words.