1 Corinthians 3:1-15 & John 5:16-30

Judge Jesus

Sev-en. Four. It’s a Ten from Len. You’re fired. It’s a Yes from me. This week’s star baker is… The catch phrases of judgement fill our media and our culture. Whether it’s judges on talent shows or pundits on Match of the Day dissecting the performance of the players and what the manager should have done differently, we have a huge appetite for watching people being judged. And, if the number of people who call in to the voting lines, and the conversations in pubs, workplaces, and hairdressers up and down the country are anything to go by, we quite like joining in the judging as well. It even finds it’s way into church life, from the quality of the preaching, to the choice of songs, we do enjoy having and sharing our opinions about things, don’t we?

What we are far less comfortable with is feeling like we are being judged. That someone else is assessing us. That we are on show, or being tested, or are vulnerable. So, how do we feel about the idea of Jesus judging us? This is the reality that we are going to be exploring this morning. Bits of it are not going to be comfortable, but as I’ve been reflecting on the idea of Jesus as judge, I have also found it profoundly reassuring.

I don’t watch the Apprentice much – but on the odd occasion I see it, when judgement is on the way, the contestants do tend to be very defensive and look to attack each other, whereas on Bake Off or Strictly, they have a bit more humility and generally look to take on the judges comments to improve, and are over the moon when they receive positive feedback. It seems to me that that’s where we need to be heading in our Christian thinking and understanding of judgement.

So let’s look at what the Bible has to say about Jesus as our judge, and let’s begin with John’s account of Jesus’ life and teaching.

Ironically, John begins with the Pharisees judging Jesus, and condemning him for what he was doing and saying. We even have the language of the courtroom in verse 17, “In his defence…” But it turns out to be more than a defence, it turns into a questioning of the setup of the court itself, with Jesus making the claim that it is he, rather than the Pharisees, who has the right to the judge’s seat, because that right has been entrusted to him by the Father. Having asserted that right, Jesus then goes on to describe the process of judgement. In verse 24 he says that those who believe the one who sent Jesus (which is God) will not be judged, but have crossed over from death to life. Though this is, in itself a judgement, and depends on what those people have believed and done.

And this, for me is the first uncomfortable truth of the morning. The Bible is clear that there are those at the end of their earthly life who will enter eternal life, and that there are those who won’t. This reality has two implications. Firstly – what is our own eternal destiny. Secondly – what are we doing to help those around us to enter eternal life?

We really hate the idea of being judged as a person – who we are. We rebel against the idea that anyone has the authority to judge who we are, but that is what the Bible teaches. Jesus judges who we are, and I am so grateful for this, because we are not reliable judges, either way, of who we are. Only Jesus is.

We may look in the mirror and be proud of what we see, well toned and ripped. We might dwell on our successes, and overlook or be blind to our flaws. We may have assurance in our strength, our wealth, our intelligence, our employment record, our children and grandchildren, our many friends. We congratulate ourselves on all kinds of things, some of which might have a basis in reality and some of which are completely inside our own heads. Whatever it is, we are unreliable judges of who we are, our identity and our worth. We lead creation in rebelling against our creator God. We don’t even do what we know we should, never mind all the ways in which we sin and aren’t even aware of it. If we continue in that disobedience then we remain under the sentence of death that Jesus, the judge has passed.

On the other hand, we may look in the mirror and hate what we see. We might despair of our repeated failures. We might believe that we are not good enough, tall enough, strong enough, clever enough, maternal enough, popular enough. We might beat ourselves up with all kinds of things, some of which might have a basis in reality and some of which are completely inside our own heads. Whatever it is, we are unreliable judges of who we are, our identity and our worth. We are part of the creation that God declared good. We are loved by God. We are precious to God. If we are in Christ, then we are counted righteous before God, we are forgiven, we are heirs of the Kingdom, we are children of God. That is who we are in eternal reality and we don’t have depend on our own flakey, mood and hormone affected judgement to be assured of that. This truth is assured by the perfect judgement of Jesus.

However, as Christians, we need to get our head around the fact that whilst we can rest on the judgement of Jesus with regard to who we are – what we do is also subject to judgement.

This is one of the things that Paul is writing to the Christians in Corinth about. Let me say that again, these are Christians that Paul is writing to. These folk have received Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. They are in Christ, but their behaviour and actions are not yet living up to this decision. There is jealousy and quarrelling, there are factions and cliques in the church. People are picking sides and attacking those on the other side.

To put it another way, the foundation is in place, but the building still needs to be done well.

A couple of Sundays ago I visited the creche when I got back from St Catherine’s, and as I walked in one of the youngsters made a beeline for me with a book to be read. Actually there were three books, but only one that is relevant to this morning’s sermon. It was the story of the three little pigs. You’ll be familiar with it, the three piggy brothers who head off to build their houses, one with straw, one with wood and one with brick. Each brother is tracked down by a wolf who wants to eat them, and destroys the houses of the first two by huffing and puffing and blowing their houses down. They all end up in the third house, with a disappointed wolf sat outside unable to blow this house down.

Now, I do not want you thinking that the Jesus is a big bad wolf who will blow your house down. But, I would like you to think about what you are building with.

During our Times and Talents series earlier in the Autumn we looked at the parable of the talents. This parable is a clear example of Jesus judging our actions. However much or little time or money or skills God has given us, we are commanded to use them in God’s service. That doesn’t necessarily mean in church or church activities, but it does mean for the kingdom, and in obedience to God’s word and direction. When we do this, we discover that we are rewarded and entrusted with more. When we don’t do this, we will find negative consequences. Jesus judges our actions, and his judgement is just.

Whilst we were in Uganda, Bishop Stephen came to talk to the delegates one morning. As part of his talk he asked us to imagine that we are before the throne of God at the time of judgement, and that there is a line of people behind us, a line of people that we have brought to faith. He asked us to think about how long our line would be. Now, I know that it’s more complicated than that – in most people’s journey to faith many people play a part, but it did make me think. I look back over my life and ministry and think of people that I have seen come to faith or grow in faith, and those memories delight me. They are so encouraging. If I don’t do anything else in my life, I know that because of work I did, those people got closer to Jesus. And I am assured by these verses that that work has eternal value and will be rewarded. Actually, to be honest, if the only reward is that I get to see them in heaven, and know that I had some small part to play in them being there then that will be reward enough for me.

So, Jesus is the Judge. Jesus is our Judge. For me this is a great encouragement. I know that my eternal destiny is not in my hands, the judge is on my side and has already dealt with the sins that I have committed. I know that his judgement is perfect, that he has told me what is expected of me, and will reward me fairly if I am obedient and faithful. If I am disobedient and unfaithful he will correct me. I can depend on him, and he silences the voice of the accuser with reassurance. As one who is in Christ, I hear the Father saying to me, “You are my child whom I love, with you I am well pleased.” and “well done, good and faithful servant”. That is worth any number of tens from Len.

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