Jesus Confronts Unrighteous Judgment
By Greg Wright
Preached at Grace Bible Fellowship on June 12, 2011
Good morning and welcome to Grace Bible Fellowship. As you know, Mark and Barbara are away at a family reunion in Wisconsin. We hope they are enjoying good food, fun, fellowship, and rest while they are away. Meanwhile, I appreciate Mark for giving me another opportunity to bring a sermon before you. Today we will be looking at the seventh chapter of the Gospel of John.
The topic we are considering is one that affects all of us. Many people, Christians and nonbelievers, are familiar with Matthew 7:1, which says, “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.” Fewer people are familiar with John 7:24, which says, “Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.” Perhaps you already sense the tension between those two verses – a command to not judge and a command to judge with righteous judgment. We will address that tension in this sermon, which I have titled Jesus Confronts Unrighteous Judgment. The unrighteous judgment Jesus confronts is the condemnation he receives from the Jewish leaders for healing a paralyzed man on a Sabbath Day. The hostility towards Jesus that comes out of this event in John 5:8-9 continues to threaten Jesus in John 7, leading Jesus to confront his accusers at the Feast of Tabernacles. We will take a close look at that confrontation. Using John 7:1-24 we will consider:
1. The timing of the confrontation.
2. The background of the confrontation.
3. The confrontation itself with respect to:
a. Unrighteous hostility exposed.
b. Unrighteous judgment answered.
4. Righteous judgment explained.
5. Righteous judgment applied.
I will be reading from the Holman Christian Standard starting with John 7:1:
After this, Jesus traveled in Galilee, since He did not want to travel in Judea because the Jews were trying to kill Him. 2 The Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 so His brothers said to Him, "Leave here and go to Judea so Your disciples can see Your works that You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret while he's seeking public recognition. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world." 5 (For not even His brothers believed in Him.) 6 Jesus told them, "My time has not yet arrived, but your time is always at hand. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it does hate Me because I testify about it-- that its deeds are evil. 8 Go up to the festival yourselves. I'm not going up to the festival yet, because My time has not yet fully come." 9 After He had said these things, He stayed in Galilee. 10 After His brothers had gone up to the festival, then He also went up, not openly but secretly. 11 The Jews were looking for Him at the festival and saying, "Where is He?" 12 And there was a lot of discussion about Him among the crowds. Some were saying, "He's a good man." Others were saying, "No, on the contrary, He's deceiving the people." 13 Still, nobody was talking publicly about Him because they feared the Jews. 14 When the festival was already half over, Jesus went up into the temple complex and began to teach. 15 Then the Jews were amazed and said, "How does He know the Scriptures, since He hasn't been trained?" 16 Jesus answered them, "My teaching isn't Mine but is from the One who sent Me. 17 If anyone wants to do His will, he will understand whether the teaching is from God or if I am speaking on My own. 18 The one who speaks for himself seeks his own glory. But He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. 19 Didn't Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law! Why do you want to kill Me?" 20 "You have a demon!" the crowd responded. "Who wants to kill You?" 21 "I did one work, and you are all amazed," Jesus answered. 22 "Consider this: Moses has given you circumcision-- not that it comes from Moses but from the fathers-- and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses won't be broken, are you angry at Me because I made a man entirely well on the Sabbath? 24 Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.
Let us pray: Dear heavenly Father, as we consider your holy Word, please open our hearts to understand it. We welcome your power and presence in this worship service, and we long to see your Word practically applied in our hearts and lives. Please also bless Mark and Barbara while they are away, keeping them safe in every way as they travel and interact with family and friends, and giving them the rest they need. We also pray that they might be salt and light in their various interactions with people. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
II. The timing of the confrontation.
As we consider this passage, first we note the timing of the confrontation. Verse one says, “After this, Jesus traveled in Galilee, since He did not want to travel in Judea because the Jews were trying to kill Him.” While Judea was ruled by Pilate, Galilee was ruled by Herod Antipas. The Jewish leaders had less power over Jesus in Galilee, making it safer for Jesus to remain there.
In doing this Jesus exercises wise constraint. Most of us know what it is like to be unjustly accused. When that happens, there is something inside of us that demands that we be exonerated and our accusers silenced at that very moment. How often have we lashed out at an offender, only to later wish we had waited for better timing and safer circumstances?
Jesus has been unjustly accused in Judea. Nevertheless, Jesus refuses to let himself be pressured by his relatives into engaging in a premature confrontation. His relatives say in verses three and four, “Leave here and go to Judea so Your disciples can see Your works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he's seeking public recognition. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.”
They have a point. You might recall from chapter six that most of Jesus’ disciples had left him. Now the Feast of Tabernacles is about to take place in Jerusalem. What an opportunity for Jesus to regain his following! Every Jewish male is required to attend. Many of them will bring their families and slaves. The crowd will be even greater than the five thousand Jesus fed about six months earlier.
But Jesus has an even greater concern. He is not as concerned about the size of the crowds as he is that people understand who He is so they will believe on him. They will eventually need to know that He is the perfect, sinless, and unblemished sacrifice, sent by the Father, and given for the sins of those who will believe on Him. Any unanswered accusation against him will detract from their understanding regarding who and what Jesus is professing to be. So Jesus needs to confront those who are accusing Him of sin.
Meanwhile, there are two problems that require careful timing and planning for this confrontation. Those problems are animosity and opportunity. First, the animosity against Jesus is strong. In verse seven Jesus says to his brethren, “The world cannot hate you, but it does hate Me because I testify about it-- that its deeds are evil.” The Jewish leadership is so angry with Jesus they want to kill Him.
Second, in their outrage, the Jewish leadership is sure to seize the opportunity the Feast of Tabernacles provides. The opportunity consists of the visibility of people travelling in large groups. Most people would have travelled as families and neighbors. If Jesus goes down to the feast in the company of His brothers, He will be easy to find and easy to arrest. If the Jewish leaders send scouts to locate Him during the day, it will be easy for them to send soldiers later at night to arrest him, when the soldiers will be unhindered by the crowds who might have protested His arrest during the day.
Knowing all this, Jesus says to His brethren in John 7:8-10:
“Go up to the festival yourselves. I'm not going up to the festival yet, because My time has not yet fully come.” After He had said these things, He stayed in Galilee. After His brothers had gone up to the festival, then He also went up, not openly but secretly.
III. The background of the confrontation.
Having considered the timing of the confrontation, we move on to consider the background of the confrontation. While Jesus is secretly making his way down to Jerusalem, people are quietly expressing their own private judgments about him. In John 7:11-13 we read:
The Jews were looking for Him at the festival and saying, "Where is He?" And there was a lot of discussion about Him among the crowds. Some were saying, "He's a good man." Others were saying, "No, on the contrary, He's deceiving the people." Still, nobody was talking publicly about Him because they feared the Jews.
The common people are afraid of the Jewish leadership. Why? Perhaps some of the people are waiting to see how the leadership will ultimately respond to Jesus. Or it may have already been the case, as it will be by the time we get to John 9:22, that people who confess Jesus are being put out of the temple and their local synagogues. This is a big deal in that Jewish society. When you are put out of the synagogue, this is the end of your social life and your commercial life in the Jewish community.
How did it come to this? How did Jesus come to be so hated by the Jewish authorities that even the common people were afraid to speak openly about Him? I think there were primarily three factors:
1. Things Jesus said about the Jewish leadership.
2. Things Jesus said about Himself.
3. Things Jesus did.
A. Things Jesus said about the Jewish leadership.
Regarding what Jesus said about the Jewish leadership, in Matthew 23:23-36 he called them hypocrites, blind guides, snakes, and vipers, and he compared them to whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones and every impurity.
B. Things Jesus said about Himself.
It is no surprise that the Jewish leadership would be very angry over these accusations. But they are even angrier over what Jesus said about Himself, especially what He said about his relationship to His Father. In John 5:17-18 Jesus said, “. . . My Father is still working, and I am working also. This is why the Jews began trying all the more to kill Him: not only was He breaking the Sabbath [in their mind], but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”
C. Things Jesus did.
So the scribes and Pharisees hate Jesus for what He said about them and for what He said about Himself. But it is the things Jesus did, especially the things Jesus did on the Sabbath Day that will serve as their most lucrative ammunition against him.
In John 5 Jesus healed a man who had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years. We find this in John 5:8-9, where we read:
“Get up,” Jesus told him, “pick up your mat and walk”! Instantly the man got well, picked up his mat, and started to walk. Now that day was the Sabbath.
What a wonderful thing. People don’t just get up and walk after thirty-eight months of paralysis, much less thirty-eight years. What evidence that God was at work among them! What reason for rejoicing!
But there is a problem: the oral tradition of the Pharisees makes it illegal to provide physical assistance to a person on the Sabbath Day unless that person is under life-threatening circumstances. In their view, the paralysis was not life-threatening, and Jesus should have waited until the next day to heal the paralytic.
Notice I said the Oral Tradition was violated. Jesus did not violate any part of the Old Testament requirements that we find in Scripture. He merely violated rules people had invented, rules He was not obligated to keep. Meanwhile, the Pharisees had elevated Oral Tradition to a level of authority equivalent to Scripture. Even today among conservative practicing Jews, when much of the Oral Tradition is written down in the Mishna, the Mishna is given preference over Scripture. As one Rabbi explained, Scripture is like the notes you take in a classroom lecture. Mishna is more like the lecture itself. The Scripture does not make as much sense to you unless you are familiar with the classroom lecture, that is to say, the Mishna.
This contemporary practice is the same practice over which Jesus rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees: they were using tradition to undermine and replace the clear teachings of Scripture. That is the background of this Sabbath controversy. Now, Jesus, having slipped into Jerusalem undetected, does what he has so often done before. He goes into the temple complex and begins to teach. In this way He prepares to confront His accusers and expose their unrighteous hostility.
IV. The confrontation itself.
A. Unrighteous hostility exposed.
Jesus’ teaching is never a non-event. It always leaves people amazed. We see this in John 7:15-19:
Then the Jews were amazed and said, "How does He know the Scriptures, since He hasn't been trained?" Jesus answered them, "My teaching isn't Mine but is from the One who sent Me. If anyone wants to do His will, he will understand whether the teaching is from God or if I am speaking on My own. The one who speaks for himself seeks his own glory. But He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. Didn't Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law! Why do you want to kill Me?"
They are amazed over several things. First they are amazed over His knowledge of the Scriptures. In contrast, when the Pharisees and scribes taught they made constant references to the Oral Tradition and to prior Rabbis who had made names for themselves. The contrast is seen in Matthew 7:29 where we read, “For He was teaching them like one who had authority, and not like their scribes.”
The second thing that amazes the people is the source Jesus claims for His teaching. He says in verse 16, “My teaching isn't Mine but is from the One who sent Me.” Jesus claims to have received his teaching directly from the Father.
The third thing that amazes the people is the responsibility he places upon them for knowing that His teaching is from the Father. From John 7:16-18 we read:
If anyone wants to do His will, he will understand whether the teaching is from God or if I am speaking on My own. The one who speaks for himself seeks his own glory. But He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
As we take a closer look at these verses, we see this responsibility for knowing who Jesus is in several ways:
1. They are responsible to be people who want to do God’s will.
2. They are responsible to see the difference between the humility of Jesus and the self-promoting showmanship of the Pharisees.
3. They are responsible to affirm that they have never seen Jesus sin, not even once.
4. They are responsible to have appropriate humility, due to the fact that in contrast to Jesus they are sinners.
But just in case they missed this, Jesus goes on to say in John 7:19, “Didn't Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law! Why do you want to kill Me?"
Do you see the irony in this passage? What possible justification could the people have for wanting to kill Jesus, unless He had committed a capital offense against the law? Yet they who are themselves law breakers, they who have never seen Jesus violate Scripture in any way, they who have witnessed the obvious evidence that Jesus is God-sent and God-equipped, want to kill Him!
As so many criminals do when their evil intentions are initially exposed, the people both deny their intentions and accuse the accuser, as we find in John 7:20 when the people say to Jesus, “You have a demon!" . . . "Who wants to kill You?"
B. Unrighteousness judgment answered.
Jesus ignores their protests and proceeds to explain why their judgment against him is unrighteous judgment. In John 7:21-24 we read:
"I did one work, and you are all amazed," Jesus answered. "Consider this: Moses has given you circumcision-- not that it comes from Moses but from the fathers-- and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses won't be broken, are you angry at Me because I made a man entirely well on the Sabbath? Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.”
When Jesus says, “I did one work,” He is not saying He did only one work; nor is He suggesting that the scribes and Pharisees found only one of His works to be offensive. No, he is acknowledging that there is one particular work -- the healing of the paralytic on the Sabbath – over which people are now condemning Him as a Sabbath breaker.
Jesus proceeds with his defense in a very logical manner. First He shows the people that some work is permitted on the Sabbath. He does this by reminding the people that circumcision is a work, a work required to be done on the eighth day of a male child’s life, a work that is, indeed, carried out on the eighth day, even if the eighth day falls on the Sabbath. Second, He proceeds to reason from the lesser to the greater, showing that while circumcision makes a male child well in part with respect to covenant obedience, Jesus made a whole man well.
Jesus uses a similar lesser-to-greater argument in Matthew 12:11-12 when he heals a man who has a paralyzed hand, saying, “What man among you, if he had a sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, wouldn’t take hold of it and lift it out? A man is worth far more than a sheep, so it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
The scribes and Pharisees have with their Oral Tradition so confused the people that any kind of work on the Sabbath, even many works of necessity and commons sense, seem wrong and look wrong. So it is that Jesus nails the people regarding the superficial nature of their so-called law-keeping, saying, “Stop judging according to outward appearances.”
How does one judge according to outward appearances? I am reminded of Proverbs 14:12 which says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” In other words, there are things that seem right, look right, and appear to be right to others, but in the end not only are they wrong but they lead to condemnation.” Thus, Jesus tells them to stop judging according to appearance and to start judging according to righteous judgment.
The scribes and Pharisees perfected the art of looking good religiously. Jesus exposes this on several occasions, for example Matthew 6:1, where he says, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”
In contrast to the Pharisees who are so focused on looking good, Jesus does many things that do not look good. He is more concerned with doing what is right than he is about how He looks. Perhaps you remember that comforting passage from Matthew 9:13 where Jesus is misjudged for associating with Matthew’s publican friends, to which Jesus responds, “Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice, for I didn't come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
At this point it should be clear that Jesus was right in healing people on the Sabbath. It did not look good according to the Oral Tradition of the Pharisees, but that is not the standard. Scripture is the standard. Oral Tradition is good when it helps to explain Scripture. But oral tradition is bad when it overrides Scripture or changes the intention of Scripture. A righteous judgment would have vindicated Jesus. Instead, an unjust judgment condemned Him and unjust people sought to kill Him.
V. Righteous judgment explained.
We have seen unrighteous hostility exposed as Jesus explained the unrighteous way in which He was judged when He healed the paralytic on the Sabbath Day. We have also seen how Jesus defended Himself against this unrighteous judgment as He showed people that healing the paralytic was the right thing to do. However, regarding what righteous judgment is, Jesus does not in John 7 go into much detail, except to say that righteous judgment does not judge according to appearance. For further explanation we must now consider other passages of Scripture. For we need to understand the difference between righteous judgment and unrighteous judgment so that we can respond biblically in our own lives when people make comments like, “Who are you to judge?” or “Judge not lest you be judged.”
For our purposes here, we need to distinguish between the judging that takes place with respect to law enforcement and the judging that takes place in our own minds as we form opinions about right and wrong, good and evil, mercy and justice, wisdom and foolishness, and a host of other things. I think most people agree that there is a place for judicial judgment. There is less agreement regarding whether we should ever be critical of another person’s beliefs and actions. Those who object to that kind of judgment often appeal to Matthew 7:1-6. Let us consider that passage in its context:
Do not judge, so that you won't be judged. For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye but don't notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” and look, there's a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. Don't give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.
In interpreting this text, I believe verse six goes with verse five in describing the attitudes and actions of people who exercise unrighteous judgment, that is to say, the hypocrites in verse five are also the dogs and pigs in verse six. You might also remember that the leaders of Israel were previously called dogs in Isaiah 56:10-11, so this characterization is not unprecedented in Scripture.
There are at least three features of unrighteous judgment described in these verses:
1. Unrighteous judgment is hypocritical.
2. Unrighteous judgment tramples what is holy.
3. Unrighteous judgment is mean spirited towards the person being judged.
First, unrighteous judgment is hypocritical. The sins of the judge are worse than the sins of the person he is judging. He lacks the insight and humility called for in James 3:1, where we read, “Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment; for we all stumble in many ways . . .”
Second, unrighteous judgment tramples what is holy. Again we read: “Don't give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet.” What are these holy things – these pearls –if not the Word of God written in Scripture and the Word spoken in person by Jesus Christ? Jesus describes how this Word is trampled when he quotes Isaiah 29:13 in Mark 7:6-13 saying, “Disregarding the commandment of God, you keep the tradition of men.”
Just as the Pharisees neglect the needs of their parents via the manmade doctrine of Corban, the Pharisees also disregard the commandment of God to love neighbors when they forbid Sabbath Day healings.
Third, unrighteous judgment is mean spirited towards the person being judged, as verse six says, “They will turn and tear you to pieces.” That is exactly what the scribes and Pharisees wanted to do to Jesus. How very different is the attitude called for in Galatians 6:1 where we read, “Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted also.”
These are some of attitudes and actions we need to avoid if we are to exercise righteous judgment. Instead we should do the opposite:
1. Rather than judging hypocritically, a person who judges with righteous judgment is fully aware of his own sinfulness.
2. Rather than trampling what is holy, a person who judges with righteous judgment will give Scripture priority over tradition, social norms, and personal preferences.
3. Rather than being mean spirited, a person who judges with righteous judgment will be gentle, kind, and civil in every avenue of communication, including those avenues that provide some protection and anonymity such as web sites and blogs.
VI. Righteous judgment applied.
Please keep those parameters in mind as I proceed to lay out some of the situations in which we are called upon to exercise righteous judgment. That there is such a thing as righteous judgment is clearly set forth in John 7:24. Even the Matthew 7 passage leaves room for righteous judgment when it says that after we have taken the log out of our own eye, then we can see clearly to take the speck out of our brother’s eye, if there is one. Therefore, the command in Matthew 7 is not a command avoid judging but a command to avoid judging in unrighteous ways. Furthermore, I am about to give examples that clearly show that righteous judgment is the responsibility of every believer.
A. Ethical judgments as citizens.
First, as people under federal, state, and local governments, we are called upon to make ethical judgments – moral evaluations – regarding a government’s requirements of us. Sometimes governments either require its citizens to do things that are wrong or seek to prevent its citizens from doing what is right. We see how we are to respond in Acts 5:29 where we read about how Peter and the other Apostles responded when they were arrested for preaching the Gospel. They said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
B. Character judgments as voters.
Second, as voters in federal, state, and local governments, we are obligated to vote for people who are moral and ethical. We see an example of this in Deuteronomy 16:18 where we read,
Appoint judges and officials for your tribes in all your towns the Lord your God is giving you. They are to judge the people with righteous judgment. Do not deny justice or show partiality [to anyone]. Do not accept a bribe, for it blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. Pursue justice and justice alone, so that you will live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.
In this passage, not only are the people told to appoint judges and officials but they are told to make sure those officials will uphold ethical standards. Furthermore, they are told that God’s blessings upon the whole land – meaning everyone in that land – are contingent upon how ethically those leaders serve.
C. Doctrinal judgments as churches.
Third, as recipients of the Holy Scriptures in the context of local churches, we are obligated to uphold church doctrine in a manner consistent with those Scriptures. To help us do that, throughout church history, church councils and local congregations have developed creeds, confessions, and doctrinal statements. It was been well said that everyone has a creed; it’s just that some people bother to write theirs down. For Grace Bible Fellowship that document is the 1689 London Baptist Confession. Never, ever would we put that confession above Scripture the way the Pharisees put their Oral Tradition above Scripture. Nevertheless, we affirm that for the most part the London Confession states in a concise, organized, and easily accessible way what Scripture teaches regarding major doctrines. Having such a document helps us to carry out the righteous judgment called for in 2 Timothy 3:16 where it says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, [and] for training in righteousness.”
D. Accountability judgments as church members.
Fourth, as members of a local church we are obligated to uphold church discipline. Matthew 18:15-17 lays out the pattern we are to follow:
If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you.
When we see obvious evidence that a fellow church member is falling into sin, we are not to turn away as if nothing is happening. Nor should we respond by adding fuel to the fire of local gossip. Rather, we initially should go to the person privately. In this way misunderstandings are quickly resolved, and sinful patterns are stopped before they have established deep roots.
E. Family judgments as parents, guardians, and caretakers.
Fifth, as members of families we are obligated to evaluate behavior and enforce family values according to Biblical standards. In Ephesians 6:1-4 in the Revised Standard Version we read,
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth." Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Children have a variety of ways of resisting Godly parenting. Here are a couple of examples:
· Example 1: Who are you to judge me for smoking pot! You smoked pot when you were my age, right? You are just as hypocritical as those scribes and Pharisees in Matthew. No dear parent, even if you have used illegal drugs in the past, if you have repented and stopped using them you are very different from the Pharisees who never repented. You are not a hypocrite when you correct your children. Furthermore, your children can benefit from seeing how repentance is lived out in the Christian life.
· Example 2: Who are you to point out my sin? Are you not also a sinner? Did not Jesus say in John 8:7 when the woman was caught in adultery that the one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her? Dear parent, people often use this story in conjunction with a naïve application of the “do not judge” command. But since no human has ever avoided sin except for the perfect God-man, such an application would prevent everyone else from exercising the kind of judgment that scripture clearly requires, including judicial judgment. The point of that story in John 8 was to show the Pharisees that they were also sinners who needed to be forgiven. While Jesus does not, in this story, judge the adulteress in the role of a judicial authority who is authorized to punish wrongdoers, He does, nevertheless, judge her to be a sinner, for he says in John 8:11, “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” Now, is this not exactly what you are saying to your child, go and sin no more? Awareness of your own sin should not prevent you from doing that.
Indeed, Jesus calls sin sin even when He is showing mercy. In contrast, we think we are loving people when we ignore their sins. No, this is wrong. Jesus was very direct in confronting the sins of the scribes and Pharisees; yet this was the most loving thing He could say to them. Whatever it took, for the sake of their very souls, it was imperative for them to understand they were sinners. For there is another judgment, a divine judgment, that has already begun. It is a judgment that will result in the eternal punishment of all who refuse Jesus. Consider John 3:16-17:
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
What a wonderful thing, that God did not send Jesus into the world to judge people; Jesus was more interested in saving people than in judging them. And is this not an attitude we should share? But look also at verse eighteen: “Anyone who believes in Him is not judged, but anyone who does not believe is already judged, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.” In other words, if you are rejecting Jesus, you are already on your way to Hell; you just have yet to smell the smoke and feel the flames.
Surely none of us want even our worst enemy to go through that kind of judgment. But how are people to be saved unless they know they are sinners? And how are people to know they are sinners unless they know that some of their actions are sinful? And how are people to know that some of their acts are sinful if we give in to a culture that no longer recognizes the objective morality delineated in Scripture except when they say, “Judge not”?
This is precisely why we must seize the day and judge with righteous judgment. As voters, as citizens, as readers and interpreters of Scripture, as church members, and as parents, we must call sin what it is: sin. Meanwhile, as we seek to exercise righteous judgment, we know to avoid hypocrisy, to avoid misuse of scripture, and to avoid a mean-spirited attitude towards the person being judged.
In conclusion we have seen three things today:
1. We have seen how to avoid exercising unrighteous judgment.
2. We have seen how to exercise righteous judgment.
3. We have seen the perfect righteousness of Jesus upheld in the Sabbath Day healing, further establishing that Jesus never sinned, not even once.
Let us pray: Father, please engrave your Word in our minds. Help us to remember the difference between righteous judgment and unrighteous judgment, and help us to treasure and rejoice in the perfect righteous that we have through our union with Jesus. Amen.