Day of Fulfilment Sunday November 22, 2015 John 5:21-29 Hope brings life now; not just later because God will make all things right – we need a judge for that.
21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him. 24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. 28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.
PRAY: Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord that we may know you better through this word. Amen
We have been talking about hope these last weeks; the hope we already have and hope for a sure future given by Jesus to us already and what shape this gives to the way we live our hope.
We hear of Jesus being given the authority to judge all humanity again today.
“….the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son…”
This whole business of the final judgement of humanity is a topic many people find rather unsavoury. It is uncomfortable to contemplate. If this is true then what we say and do and don’t say and do actually does count. How I live my life is being watched and understood. I can’t simply make my own choices, assemble my own version of truth and do what I want.
This is not popular! We want “no judgement”. Our Christian bookstores are full of books like “Chicken soup of the soul”, not “Judgement day for the soul”!
However, we often speak this very truth together as a community. We speak it in the two great Christian creeds, Nicene and Apostles’. “He shall come to living and the dead”, we confess. The truth is that Jesus Christ will come to judge everyone who has ever lived.
SOMETHING TO GET RID OF
News that God is the final judge on life tends to be seen these days as either primitive at best or dangerous at worst. Talk of God being the judge of our lives is often believed to be old fashioned stuff that we have spent our adult years trying to get away from in the church! All this talk of God being the judge of the world is very much seen as part of the problem we are facing in our day. All religion, especially Islam, Judaism and Christianity, are lumped into the same basket as being full of judgement that leads to violence that leads to death and suffering. Religion and its God is therefore judged; judged to be a dangerous thing to rid the world of.
WE NEED A JUDGE
But, I wonder whether it might it be true that we don’t realise how much we need a judge.
Yes, the image of judge many have is intimidating. We hear John declaring that judgement of us all will be in Jesus’ hands and we might picture ourselves being in a large, high ceiling, mahogany saturated court room where the judge sits up high looking down over you. You are shaking in your boots as the judge does the work of accounting for your life.
LIFE: A CASE TO PROVED?
With this common view of the judge we often may look at life as a case to be proved. This belief that life is a case to be proved to God or to others can be a whole orientation in life by which you spend much energy trying to prove you are good person, a good husband, good wife, a good pastor, a ‘good’ Christian, teacher, worker, or farmer.
This is hard work! If God is an angry judge who is going to judge me at the end, it is no surprise that many people give up on God and church and faith. As people give up on God they also give up the belief that there is right and wrong, good and evil, heaven and hell, judgement and salvation.
But what if you were in your imaginary law court one day and you finally had the courage or the inquisitiveness to look up to the judge’s bench? And what if when you did that you got the shock of your life. What if you finally saw that the judge’s chair was empty? You would be crushed by the reality that all along, there was no judge. All that hard work to prove yourself was a waste of effort! No one was watching, no one was counting, no one was judging you on how good or influential or wealthy or productive you were. That would be a moment of despair!
After the initial despair, you might then feel quite liberated. You might say to yourself, “Finally I can do what I want! Finally I can shake off this primitive and dangerous Judge idea and be myself, be free, live the way I want”. At the start it feels good. There is lightness to denying that God is judge. There finally seems to freedom from all of this talk of judgement and accountability.
“LIBERTY” AT THE COST OF MEANINGLESSNESS
But in that very same moment there is another side to the coin. If there is no judge of this world then isn’t everything quite meaningless for us? Sure, you can reject the truth that God is judge over all life and go about living any way you judge to be best or wise or most effective, but so what? Who cares if your kind or loving of hateful or anything?
There is no accountability if there is no final judge who brings everything to its rightful end. More importantly, if there is no judge, there is no end, no righting of the ship called life, no end to the negative stuff, the painful stuff, the injustice, the terrorism, the fear we feel, the questions we have. When you think about it, if there is no judge in the chair, then there can only be a lot of confusion, competition and taking the law into our own hands.
Aren’t we seeing this confusion and meaninglessness played out in families, in countries, in war zones around the world and right here in our community? We have “liberation” at the cost of any meaning, and that is actually bondage – we are bound by our own weakness, ignorance, ego and self-interest.
Friends, here in John 5 and in all the gospels, Jesus speaks of a final judgement. The truth is that we need a final judge. If God is not angry with injustice and the pain it causes to people or has no will to right all things, then he is not worth much. But this judge has shown himself to be worth much. This judge is the One who is pleased to give life, not meter our death! “….the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.
A JUDGE TO GIVE LIFE
This Judge is Jesus. He judges to give life and peace and joy from a heart of great love for undeserving sinners. Judge Jesus has the expressed aim of giving life and freeing humanity from death! There is a judge at the bench and he is favourably disposed to all people. So great is his love for prideful, unbelieving, untrusting people that he has already provided the way for a human being to pass from this cycle of death to a never ending cycle of life.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life“.
We have already crossed over. We have been judged and condemned and then pardoned and set free to truly live – all in the cross and empty tomb and in that font and in the fellowship we share in his Spirit. We are living in his life now and for people who receive Jesus’ word of life and trusts him for their life, there is only life to come – now in part, one day at the last, in full.
THANKFUL FOR JUDGEMENT
I am thankful to Jesus for his judgement. I am grateful that there will be a final accounting of my own life and this world with all its injustice and pain. I am glad he is watching me because I know that he does this to keep me in his life, not banish me to a godless death.
With him in the judge’s chair I am safe and the world is a better place. I do not have to take the law into my own hands but hand over my hurt and those who perpetrate it to a just Judge who loves my enemies much more than I can or often do, and who has the final say on what has happened and will happen.
I am relieved that I am not the judge of you, nor you of me. Jesus is the final judge of us all and his judgement is wise, full, understanding and perfect truth – his judgement is life.
“Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live“.
We, the risen dead hear your voice, Jesus, and we are alive with hope. Amen
CONVERSATION STARTERS Read the bible text carefully (John 5:21-29) noting down anything that raises a question in your mind or makes you imagine things. Share those questions/pictures/thoughts….. Each person gets an opportunity to share without comment from the others at this stage.
How does the thought of God watching every move you make and keeping a tally of wrongs and rights to be read out on the final day of judgement make you feel? Share your thoughts.
Among your circle of friends/family, do people fear this whole thing of a final judgement day, or do they laugh it off or never really think about it?
What did you think about the scene of the person finally looking up to the judge’s bench in the big courtroom only to find that there was never any judge at the bench? Read this version of it and share your thoughts at the end…
The person has spent the whole of her life trying to prove that really is OK in her own right. She has made choices, tried to be good, and tried to prove to everyone and herself that she really is worthy, wise, happy or healthy. Can you imagine her horror when she figures out that she did not need to prove anything to anyone and that no one has ever been keeping the score of her life?
At first she would feel angry and shocked. But then she might feel free. She might enjoy the fact that there is no judge over her life for a time….until someone wrongs her or something bad happens to her or someone she loves or she gets sick of all this ISIL terrorism and what it is doing to the world….
Then she might wish there was a judge on that bench overseeing the world and overseeing her life. If she could ever hear that there is in fact a judge on that bench and that he is Jesus – the One who gave his own life for hers and declared her not guilty and will one day right all injustice and terrorism and pain and suffering, her life would change.
Does this story relate to you?
How would this person’s life change if she heard that Jesus is the Judge and he judges people not in anger or hate but in love and grace?
What difference would it make to her trying to prove herself all the time? Jesus shows us that God is indeed the final judge and that he is ‘pleased to give life’ not meter out more death and destruction.
The word for ‘judgement’ in the New Testament is not so much punishment but fulfilment or restoration. God judges not to condemn but to save (John 3:16). If people receive his promises in his word and live in that word of grace, then there is no judgement on them at all.
The Apostle John tells that Jesus is the one who has been given all authority to judge all people and that if anyone has heard the word of Jesus and placed their faith in him and his Word, they have already ‘crossed over’ from death to life. So, we who have been named by God in baptism and are on the journey of being his disciple have already been through this judgement day and the judge declared us free, not guilty and dearly loved!
Do you think the Christians you know think of God’s judgement this way? Share your thoughts…
Have you ever realised that Jesus is your judge and he has already judged you not guilty? Wouldn’t that change your whole way of living from having to prove yourself or be someone special to simply loving him and serving him as you give your life in service and love for others and leave the judgement of others to him? Share your thoughts……
PRAY Jesus, Judge of the world and Saviour, keep on speaking to us and help us hear what you say and put it into practice as we hear of these rumours of wars and the pain we experience so that we have confidence and hope in you. Amen.