Who needs a judge?
Sermon, Day of Fulfilment, Sunday November 25, 2018
John 5:21-29 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
I don’t like being judged. I don’t think anyone likes being judged, be it fairly or unfairly.
Sometimes people judge you unfairly, making you out to be something you are not – a liar, a cheat, a power junkie, a failure, a smooth talker, and etc….. Sometimes people judge you quite fairly. You might know that their judgement of the situation and of you in it is fair and true, but it is still not something you enjoy!
Here we have Jesus as our judge.
“….the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son…”
This is not nice and cuddly Jesus! This is not “nice’ religion or spirituality. This is not what most people want from their religion or for their life.
We tend to want “no judgement” from anyone on anything. The worst sin you seem to able to commit now is to make a judgement about someone’s actions or attitudes- even if it is actually fair and true.
On the other hand, we now seem to be so quick to judge and condemn anyone who is different in belief, behaviour or even ethnicity.
If you disagree with someone’s attitude or actions and beliefs, then it seems like it is open slather. Go ahead, plaster it all over Facebook, with a photo or two for extra effect on Tumblr or Instagram as well! Tweet about how terrible that person is for who they are or what they have done – and feel very smug about it!
Our judgments of each other seem to be rather fickle. I guess this is because we can only know so much and see so far.
The Scriptures declare that there is a Judge of all attitude, behaviour, good bad, right wrong, cultural group, cause, movement, world system and all government, and that he is human and yet Divine.
The final judge who has the final and full word on how we are, who we are and how we live in all facets of life – from our homes to world systems of economics and power is this ‘Son of God’, the man, Jesus Christ, dead, risen and ruling with full vision, excellent hearing, great wisdom and insight into people. He is coming to finalise all accounts, sort out all debts, make a final call on you and me and everything that has breath.
We say we believe this often. We speak it in the two great Christian creeds, Nicene and Apostles’. “He shall come to judge the living and the dead”.
This is not welcome news normally – even for people engaged in church. News that Jesus is the final judge tends to be seen 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.
But I wonder whether we don’t realise how much we actually need a final authoritative judge.
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 seeing your good efforts. 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 of all’ idea and be myself, be free, live the way I want”.
At the start it feels good. There is lightness to denying that there is a final judge of our lives.
But what about the injustice and cruelty that just seems to go on and on in a never ending spiral of pain and conflict and trouble that breaks up families, destroys the planet and us along with it!
In that very same moment of wanting to be free, we find that we are not. We might then be very glad that there is a final judge. If there is a final judge of all then there is real meaning in how I live and who I am.
This is especially the case if the judge is any good! He is. The final judge of my life is Jesus, and not some merely human judge who can be blind or narrow or corrupt.
He can’t. He isn’t. he’s proven that to you.
According to Apostle John, this judge is driven by love for you. He is love, perfect love for you and for his whole world. That makes a huge difference! This final 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.
This Jesus judges to give life and peace and joy to undeserving sinners.
So, there is a judge at the bench. And he is very wise, very good, very loving and coming one day to finalise everything well.
“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.
By faith in his goodness and grace, given already in all he has done and said and still does and says, you are off the hook already!
Without him you are back in the dock alone with only yourself to give very feeble defense. With him you are not in the dock and you don’t need a defence because he is your defence.
We have been judged and condemned and then pardoned and set free to truly live. This first happened on the day you were drowned in the water of the font and raised to breath new air in your lungs.
This baptism water flowed from his wounded side on the cross. This holy meal of love flows from his pierced hands, feet and torso – and the blood is life – the life the judge grants when you had no hope, no chance, no future.
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.
I am relieved that I am not the judge of you too. 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.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…
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……
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.