Justice to Victory

“A battered reed He will not break off, and a smoldering wick He will not put out, until He leads justice to victory.” (Matthew 12:20, NASB)

At first blush this verse seems to be out of place in the Christmas devotional booklet, but it has everything to do with the birth of the Lord Jesus. He was born in humble circumstances. No armies guarded the infant Jesus. So it was in His ministry; He humbly retreated when faced with opposition (Matthew 2:14, 22; 4:12; 12:15; 14:13; 15:21; 16:4; 21:17). In Matthew 12:14 the Pharisees took counsel how “they might destroy Him.” The Lord’s response was not to fight and make a big scene, but simply to retire from them. This was exactly as Isaiah 42:2–3 predicted. In fact Christ humbly dealt with “battered” reeds and “smoldering” wicks. Reeds were cheap and dispensable. A smoldering wick could be quenched with a squeeze of the thumb and forefinger. Matthew 12:19 further states He would not cause a loud public clamor in the streets.

This is a description of Christ’s earthly ministry in weakness. 2 Corinthians 13:4 says, “He was crucified because of weakness.” A crucial point in Matthew 12:20 is the adverb “until.” The construction in the Greek NT gives an impression of some indefinite future time. In this age we are still seeing the weakness of Christ—the blaspheming of His name, the mocking of Christians, and the flaunting of disobedience to the point of lasciviousness. However, one day this will change when He returns to reign and “He leads justice to victory.” Although great power is revealed in the gospel (Romans 1:16), the whole world still lies in the Evil One (1 John 5:19).

Jesus is our example (1 Peter 2:21). We are not to be brawlers but quietly and gently to be His servants. As Paul stated, we are to eat our bread in quietness (2 Thessalonians 3:12). What a gentle Christmas reminder Matthew 12:20 is.