By Jim Tune
I encounter a lot of beat-up people. The general anxiety level in society is high, and it’s easy to feel anxious even in the best of times. Throw in financial, relational, and other stresses, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
Whenever I encounter beat-up people, or feel like one myself, I like to remind myself of Isaiah’s picture of Jesus: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench” (Isaiah 42:3, English Standard Version).
The image of a bruised reed and a faintly burning wick may seem strange at first. A bruised reed is useless and beyond repair. It’s damaged, good only for the scrap heap. A faintly burning wick is past its prime and ready for extinguishing. The bruised reed is internally damaged; the faintly burning wick is out of external resources.
Most people look at the damaged, the weak, and the tired as expendable. Jesus sees them as valuable. He refuses to give up on them.
In May 2009, a man in deep financial debt in China stood on a bridge contemplating suicide. Police closed the bridge, disrupting traffic for five hours. Suddenly a 66-year-old man pushed his way past barriers, reached out to shake the hand of the man considering suicide, and then pushed him off the bridge. Fortunately, the suicidal man landed on an inflatable emergency cushion the police had prepared.
“I pushed him off because jumpers like (him) are very selfish,” the pushy man explained. “Their action violates a lot of public interest. They do not really dare to kill themselves. Instead, they just want to raise the relevant government authorities’ attention to their appeals.”
Jesus does not push troubled people off bridges. A bruised reed he will not break. A smoldering wick he will not snuff out. He is patient and merciful.
I overheard a person in his 20s being referred to as strong and independent. I chuckled. The person does look strong and independent, but also young. It’s easy to feel invincible at that age. By the time we put on a few more decades, most of us know we’re often weak and dependent. When we feel this way, we can be confident Jesus isn’t done with us yet.
Jesus loves the weak and tired. Even better, Jesus is capable of curing and revitalizing them. When the Gospel writer quoted this passage (in Matthew 12:20), he did so soon after Jesus healed a man’s withered hand. Jesus not only cares; he restores and heals.
“As a mother is tenderest toward the most diseased and weakest child, so does Christ most mercifully incline to the weakest,” wrote Richard Sibbes. We never have to worry that our weakness disqualifies us. Jesus seems to do his best work with people who feel weak without him.
Feel like a bruised reed or a faintly burning wick? He won’t break or quench you. Jesus isn’t done with you yet.