Jesus “Establishes Justice in the Earth”
1, 2. On what occasion did Jesus become angry, and why?
JESUS was visibly angry—and with good reason. You might find it difficult to imagine him that way, for he was such a mild-tempered man. (Matthew 21:5) He remained perfectly controlled, of course, for his was righteous wrath.a But what had so provoked this peace-loving man? A case of gross injustice.
2 The temple in Jerusalem was dear to Jesus’ heart. In all the world, it was the only sacred place dedicated to the worship of his heavenly Father. Jews from many lands traveled great distances to worship there. Even God-fearing Gentiles came, entering the temple courtyard set aside for their use. But early in his ministry, Jesus entered the temple area and met with an appalling sight. Why, the place was more like a market than a house of worship! It was crowded with merchants and money brokers. Where, though, was the injustice? For these men, God’s temple was merely a place to exploit people—even rob them. How so?—John 2:14.
3, 4. What greedy exploitation was taking place at Jehovah’s house, and what action did Jesus take to correct matters?
3 The religious leaders had ruled that only one specific type of coin could be used to pay the temple tax. Visitors had to exchange their money to acquire such coins. So money changers set up their tables right inside the temple, charging a fee for each transaction. The business of selling animals was also very profitable. Visitors who wanted to offer up sacrifices could buy from any merchant in the city, but the temple officials might well reject their offerings as unfit. However, offerings bought right there in the temple area were sure to be accepted. With the people thus at their mercy, the merchants at times charged exorbitant prices.b This was worse than crass commercialism. It amounted to robbery!
4 Jesus could not tolerate such injustice. This was his own Father’s house! He made a whip of ropes and drove the herds of cattle and sheep from the temple. Then he strode over to the money changers and overturned their tables. Imagine all those coins skittering across the marble floor! He sternly ordered the men selling doves: “Take these things away from here!” (John 2:15, 16) No one, it seems, dared to oppose this courageous man.
“Take these things away from here!”
Like Father, Like Son
5-7. (a) How did Jesus’ prehuman existence influence his sense of justice, and what can we learn by studying his example? (b) How has Jesus addressed the injustices that Satan instigated, and how will he do so in the future?
5 Of course, the merchants returned. About three years later, Jesus addressed the same injustice, this time quoting Jehovah’s own words condemning those who made His house “a cave of robbers.” (Jeremiah 7:11; Matthew 21:13) Yes, when Jesus saw the greedy exploitation of the people and the defilement of God’s temple, he felt just as his Father did. And no wonder! For countless millions of years, Jesus had been taught by his heavenly Father. As a result, he was imbued with Jehovah’s sense of justice. He became a living illustration of the saying, Like father, like son. So if we want to obtain a clear picture of Jehovah’s quality of justice, we can do no better than ponder the example of Jesus Christ.—John 14:9, 10.
6 Jehovah’s only-begotten Son was present when Satan unjustly called Jehovah God a liar and questioned the righteousness of His rule. What slander! The Son also heard Satan’s later challenge that no one would serve Jehovah unselfishly, out of love. These false charges surely pained the Son’s righteous heart. How thrilled he must have been to learn that he would play the key role in setting the record straight! (2 Corinthians 1:20) How would he do that?
7 As we learned in Chapter 14, Jesus Christ gave the ultimate, conclusive answer to Satan’s charge impugning the integrity of Jehovah’s creatures. Jesus thereby laid the basis for clearing God’s holy name, Jehovah, from all slander—including the lie that His perfect way of ruling is faulty. As Jehovah’s Chief Agent, Jesus will establish divine justice throughout the universe. (Acts 5:31) His life course on earth likewise reflected divine justice. Jehovah said of him: “I will put my spirit upon him, and what justice is he will make clear to the nations.” (Matthew 12:18) How did Jesus fulfill those words?
Jesus Clarifies “What Justice Is”
8-10. (a) How did the oral traditions of the Jewish religious leaders promote contempt for non-Jews and women? (b) In what way did the oral laws turn Jehovah’s Sabbath law into a burden?
8 Jesus loved Jehovah’s Law and lived by it. But the religious leaders of his day twisted and misapplied that Law. Jesus said to them: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! . . . You have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice and mercy and faithfulness.” (Matthew 23:23) Decidedly, those teachers of God’s Law were not making clear “what justice is.” Rather, they were obscuring divine justice. How so? Consider a few examples.
9 Jehovah directed his people to keep separate from the pagan nations surrounding them. (1 Kings 11:1, 2) However, some fanatic religious leaders encouraged the people to hold all non-Jews in contempt. The Mishnah even included this rule: “Cattle may not be left in the inns of the gentiles since they are suspected of bestiality.” Such blanket prejudice against all non-Jews was unjust and quite contrary to the spirit of the Mosaic Law. (Leviticus 19:34) Other man-made rules demeaned women. The oral law said that a wife should walk behind, not beside, her husband. A man was warned against conversing with a woman in public, even his own wife. Like slaves, women were not allowed to offer testimony in court. There was even a formal prayer in which men thanked God that they were not women.
10 The religious leaders buried God’s Law under a mass of man-made rules and regulations. The Sabbath law, for instance, simply forbade work on the Sabbath, setting that day aside for worship, spiritual refreshment, and rest. But the Pharisees made a burden of that law. They took it upon themselves to decide just what “work” meant. They labeled as work 39 different activities, such as reaping or hunting. These categories gave rise to endless questions. If a man killed a flea on the Sabbath, was he hunting? If he plucked a handful of grain to eat as he walked along, was he reaping? If he healed someone who was ill, was he working? Such questions were addressed with rigid, detailed rules.
11, 12. How did Jesus express his opposition to the unscriptural traditions of the Pharisees?
11 In such a climate, how was Jesus to help people understand what justice is? In his teachings and in the way he lived, he took a courageous stand against those religious leaders. Consider first some of his teachings. He directly condemned their myriad man-made rules, saying: “You make the word of God invalid by your tradition that you have handed down.”—Mark 7:13.
12 Jesus powerfully taught that the Pharisees were wrong about the Sabbath law—that, in fact, they had missed the whole point of that law. The Messiah, he explained, is “Lord of the Sabbath” and therefore entitled to cure people on the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:8) To stress the point, he openly performed miraculous cures on the Sabbath. (Luke 6:7-10) Such cures were a preview of the healing that he will perform earth wide during his Thousand Year Reign. That Millennium will itself be the ultimate Sabbath, when all faithful mankind will at last rest from centuries of laboring under the burdens of sin and death.
13. What law came into being as a result of Christ’s earthly ministry, and how did it differ from its predecessor?
13 Jesus also made clear what justice is in that a new law, “the law of the Christ,” came into being after he completed his earthly ministry. (Galatians 6:2) Unlike its predecessor, the Mosaic Law, this new law largely depended, not on a series of written commands, but on principle. It did include some direct commands, though. One of these Jesus called “a new commandment.” Jesus taught all his followers to love one another just as he had loved them. (John 13:34, 35) Yes, self-sacrificing love was to be the hallmark of all those who live by “the law of the Christ.”
A Living Example of Justice
14, 15. How did Jesus show that he recognized the limits of his own authority, and why is this reassuring?
14 Jesus did more than teach about love. He lived “the law of the Christ.” It was embodied in his life course. Consider three ways in which Jesus’ example made clear what justice is.
15 First, Jesus scrupulously avoided committing any injustice. Perhaps you have noticed that many injustices come about when imperfect humans grow arrogant and overstep the proper bounds of their authority. Jesus did not do that. On one occasion, a man approached Jesus and said: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus’ response? “Man, who appointed me judge or arbitrator between you two?” (Luke 12:13, 14) Is that not remarkable? Jesus’ intellect, his judgment, and even his level of God-given authority exceeded that of anyone on earth; yet, he refused to involve himself in this matter, since he had not been granted the particular authority to do so. Jesus has always been modest in this way, even during the millenniums of his prehuman existence. (Jude 9) It says much for Jesus that he humbly trusts Jehovah to determine what is just.
16, 17. (a) How did Jesus display justice in preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom? (b) How did Jesus show that his sense of justice was merciful?
16 Second, Jesus displayed justice in the way he preached the good news of God’s Kingdom. He showed no bias. Rather, he earnestly endeavored to reach all kinds of people, whether rich or poor. In contrast, the Pharisees dismissed poor, common people with the contemptuous term ʽam-ha·ʼaʹrets, or “people of the land.” Jesus courageously set that injustice right. When he taught people the good news—or, for that matter, when he ate with people, fed them, cured them, or even resurrected them—he upheld the justice of the God who wants to reach “all sorts of people.”c—1 Timothy 2:4.
17 Third, Jesus’ sense of justice was profoundly merciful. He reached out to help sinners. (Matthew 9:11-13) He readily came to the aid of people who were powerless to protect themselves. For instance, Jesus did not join the religious leaders in promoting a distrust of all Gentiles. He mercifully helped and taught some of these, even though his primary mission was to the Jewish people. He agreed to perform a miraculous cure for a Roman army officer, saying: “With no one in Israel have I found so great a faith.”—Matthew 8:5-13.
18, 19. (a) In what ways did Jesus promote the dignity of women? (b) How does Jesus’ example help us to see the link between courage and justice?
18 Similarly, Jesus did not support the prevailing views toward women. Instead, he courageously did what was just. Samaritan women were held to be as unclean as Gentiles. Yet, Jesus did not hesitate to preach to the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar. In fact, it was to this woman that Jesus first plainly identified himself as the promised Messiah. (John 4:6, 25, 26) The Pharisees said that women should not be taught God’s Law, but Jesus spent much time and energy teaching women. (Luke 10:38-42) And whereas tradition held that women could not be trusted to give reliable testimony, Jesus dignified several women with the privilege of being the first to see him after his resurrection. He even told them to go tell his male disciples about this most important event!—Matthew 28:1-10.
19 Yes, Jesus made clear to the nations what justice is. In many cases, he did so at great personal risk. Jesus’ example helps us to see that upholding true justice requires courage. Fittingly, he was called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” (Revelation 5:5) Recall that the lion is a symbol of courageous justice. In the near future, though, Jesus will effect even greater justice. In the fullest sense, he will establish “justice in the earth.”—Isaiah 42:4.
The Messianic King “Establishes Justice in the Earth”
20, 21. In our own time, how has the Messianic King promoted justice throughout the earth and within the Christian congregation?
20 Since becoming the Messianic King in 1914, Jesus has promoted justice in the earth. How so? He has sponsored the fulfillment of his prophecy found at Matthew 24:14. Jesus’ followers on earth have taught people of all lands the truth about Jehovah’s Kingdom. Like Jesus, they have preached in an impartial and just manner, seeking to give everyone—young or old, rich or poor, male or female—an opportunity to come to know Jehovah, the God of justice.
21 Jesus is also promoting justice within the Christian congregation, of which he is the Head. As prophesied, he provides “gifts in men,” faithful Christian elders who take the lead in the congregation. (Ephesians 4:8-12) In shepherding the precious flock of God, such men follow the example of Jesus Christ in promoting justice. They keep ever in mind that Jesus wants his sheep to be dealt with justly—regardless of position, prominence, or material circumstances.
22. How does Jehovah feel about the rampant injustices of today’s world, and what has he appointed his Son to do about it?
22 In the near future, though, Jesus will establish justice in the earth in an unprecedented way. Injustice is rampant in this corrupt world. Every child that dies of starvation is a victim of an inexcusable injustice, especially when we think of the money and time that are lavished on producing weapons of war and indulging the selfish whims of pleasure seekers. The millions of needless deaths each year are but one among many forms of injustice, all of which provoke Jehovah’s righteous anger. He has appointed his Son to wage a just war against this entire wicked system of things to end all injustice permanently.—Revelation 16:14, 16; 19:11-15.
23. After Armageddon, how will Christ promote justice throughout all eternity?
23 However, Jehovah’s justice calls for more than merely the destruction of the wicked. He has also appointed his Son to rule as the “Prince of Peace.” After the war of Armageddon, Jesus’ reign will establish peace throughout the earth, and he will rule “through justice.” (Isaiah 9:6, 7) Jesus will then delight in undoing all the injustices that have caused so much misery and suffering in the world. Throughout all eternity, he will faithfully uphold Jehovah’s perfect justice. It is vital, then, that we seek to imitate Jehovah’s justice now. Let us see how we can do that.
a In displaying righteous anger, Jesus was like Jehovah, who is “ready to express his wrath” against all wickedness. (Nahum 1:2) For example, after Jehovah told his wayward people that they had made his house “a cave of robbers,” he said: “My anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place.”—Jeremiah 7:11, 20.
b According to the Mishnah, a protest arose some years later over the high price of the doves sold at the temple. The price was promptly reduced by some 99 percent! Who profited most from this lucrative trade? Some historians suggest that the temple markets were owned by the house of High Priest Annas, providing much of that priestly family’s vast wealth.—John 18:13.
c The Pharisees held that lowly people, who were not versed in the Law, were “accursed.” (John 7:49) They said that one should neither teach such people nor do business with them nor eat with them nor pray with them. To allow one’s daughter to marry one of them would be worse than exposing her to wild beasts. They deemed the resurrection hope to be closed to such lowly ones.