taking the words of Jesus seriously

Transcript of Jarrod McKenna’s Lent reflection on Isaiah 42:1-4 for Common Grace’s 2024 Lent Series

Bible Verse – Isaiah 42:1-4

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.


Lent is the season where we’re again immersed in this strange reality. Resurrection Hope is summed up in Christ and Him crucified.

Imagine for a moment your city has been leveled by one of the most powerful nations on Earth. You’ve watched as most people you know have been killed or carried off. Age, disability, vulnerability were not considerations as they carried out their orders and killed comprehensively. Everything smells like burning. And there is no water to wash away the taste of death. Underneath the rubble of what once was your life, horrifically, are your loved ones. In the dust and the disease and the trauma, a word is being spoken. Not a word of certainty, predicting a future. Not a campaigning word, pushing forward a certain reform. But a vulnerable poem, cutting through the numbness and the nihilism and the noise.

This is the context that most Hebrew Bible scholars situate the prophet in Isaiah 42. After the Babylonian
invasion, armed only with this vulnerable vision that cannot be bandaged in prose, a prophet speaks.

Weaponised hatred would be understandable. Revenge fantasies seem inevitable. Yet, like water in the wilderness, the prophet’s poem speaks of a vulnerable power that will never forsake the vulnerable. The power of a non-violent suffering servant, not an authoritarian strong man.

Here is the surprise of a suffering servant as Savior and a justice that will defend every life but refuses to take life.

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights.
I put my Spirit upon him.
He will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry, or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the streets.
a bruised reed he will not break.
a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the Earth.
and the coastlands wait for his teaching

Friends, surprisingly, the prophet’s poetry does not mirror the surrounding brutality, nor escape into an otherworldly fantasy of neutrality. But there is talk of tenderness and intimacy in the Creator’s delight. Where some spirituality see forgiveness as the end of what the Savior brings rather than the beginning, the prophet sees the suffering servant’s job as bringing forth justice. Not justice as an optional extra for those so inclined by personality or necessity. Justice is the suffering servant’s purpose, vocation, and calling.

Please don’t miss the how. This is not a mendacious justice where your enemy is hungry and you engage in
the war crime of deliberate starvation, blocking off food after bombing.

No, the reason why this side of the resurrection the early Christians evoked the poems of the suffering servant when meditating on the crucified one is because Jesus brings a justice that breaks no bruised reeds. Jesus brings a justice that extinguishes no vulnerable candles.

Did you catch it? A Jesus-like justice rejects a way of working where those considered damaged goods are expendable for the greater good. A Jesus-like justice will have nothing to do with the extinguishing of the vulnerable smoldering light of those who others merely see as expendable.

A Jesus-like justice is not just for us, but for all of us. No one left out because everybody is made in the image of God. Jesus brings a justice that has no collateral damage. Jesus brings a justice that does not run on ‘us and them’, a justice where no life is worth more than any other, no child worth less than any who are suffering. Jesus brings a justice that doesn’t justify the bombing of children for any political or ideological or eschatological end.

Our hope is not sitting at the table with the lamb and the wolf and thinking that our role as Christians is to say grace before the strong devour the weak for dinner. Our hope is that us, bruised reeds, us candles, that only just hold on to a little light would be welcomed into a new world that doesn’t need more victims to bring justice.

Our hope is not a pious neutrality where we calculate when it will be too costly to protest against the bruising of those particular reeds. Our hope is not assessing whether the issue is popular enough to stand against the extinguishing of those smoldering wicks. No, our hope is to unashamedly put our bodies where Christ is, with those who are suffering.

This is why this Lent many of us are walking a peace pilgrimage the length of Gaza, knowing our hope is just putting one foot in front of the other as we around the world pray with our feet that the longed-for tidal wave of justice can finally rise up, and hope and history rhyme. We’re seeking to repent of the silence by taking up our cross and praying for an end to the killing and the oppression, so a Jesus-like justice would finally dawn. Because every Palestinian child is as precious to God as every Israeli child.

I do not do so simply because I qualify for Israeli citizenship, and I feel like I must do something. I do not do so simply because I worked in the region and my friends are crying out and I must answer. I do not do so simply because my nation is selling weapons that are killing children, and as a citizen, I have to respond. I don’t even do so because the incredibly moving, non-violent witness of our Palestinian sisters and brothers in Christ. Ultimately, I do so because I have been baptised in the Spirit of my suffering servant, a Savior who didn’t hide in neutrality but loved me and gave himself for me. A suffering servant who didn’t calculate, am I worth speaking up for? But set his face like flint towards Calvary.

This Lent may we be found trusting in resurrection and taking up our cross. This Lent may we realize with Daniel Berrigan that if we’re gonna follow Jesus, we better look good on wood. This Lent may we be found in the hope of Christ as he stands with the bruised reeds and smoldering wicks bringing a Jesus-shaped justice in resurrection power.


Reflection Questions

What darkness and pain are you aware of in your community, in creation, or the world? What might
Jesus-shaped justice look like here?

What surprising hope do you find in the image of Jesus as the suffering servant faithfully bringing forth justice to the nations?

This Lent, how can we be living out our hope in Christ?


Lord and Saviour Jesus.
As our hearts break by a world marred by conflict and injustice, may we find hope in you. A hope that is never realised through retaliation or violence, but triumphs through mercy, love, and compassion.

Pour Your Spirit upon us, that we might embody this ‘Jesus-shaped justice’ in our daily lives. Strengthen our resolve to follow in the footsteps of Christ, to not break a bruised reed or snuff out a smoldering wick, but to uplift the downtrodden and bring forth justice with patience and faithfulness.

As the early Christians found hope in Jesus, let us too cling to the resurrected Christ, committing ourselves to be peacemakers and bearers of Your divine justice. In the midst of suffering, may our actions reflect Your love and bring hope to those who despair.


Reflection shared by Jarrod McKenna

Jarrod McKenna is passionate about God’s nonviolent-love becoming our experience of prayer and program for transformation. Jarrod is the co-host of the popular InVerse Podcast, served as the Nonviolent Social Change Advisor for World Vision (Middle East/Eastern Europe) and as a Former National Director of Common Grace. Jarrod pastors with Steeple Church in Melbourne and is a co-founder of the global peace pilgrimages for Gaza.

Connect with Jarrod McKenna



About The Author


Australian pastor and social change educator, Jarrod McKenna, has been described by Rev. Jim Lawson, as “an expert in nonviolent social change.” Jarrod is the Founding Director of CommonGrace.org.au, a co-initiator of the #LoveMakesAWay movement for refugee rights and is a co-founder of the global GazaCeasefirePilgrimage.com movement. Jarrod pastors with Steeple Church in Melbourne and Table in the Trees in Perth, and is the co-founder of the InVerse Podcast and Collective with Dr Drew Hart. He is living on Wadjuk Noongar land, found on most maps as Perth, Australia, with the love of his life Kathleen and their boys.

Related Posts

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.


Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
    Check which Newsletter(s) you'd like to receive:    

You have Successfully Subscribed!