Here is the sermon for this past Sunday of our series Who is Jesus? You can also watch the sermon at the bottom of this page
Jesus as Savior and Judge The Rev. Megan Collins April 3, 2022
This is going to be a hard word for us today, church. Today we are going to talk about judging other people.We’ve all felt judged by someone else, right? Think back for a second to the first time you felt someone judge you. Maybe you went on to the playground in grade school, and someone sized you up because of what you looked like or who your friends were. Maybe it was in middle school when you did something stupid or wore the wrong thing or just made eye contact with someone and people talked about you behind your back. (It gets real judge-y in middle school).
At first you thought, "That hurts. It’s so mean. I don’t like being judged." But then you found a way to get rid of that feeling. You could judge somebody else. You learned that judging other people makes you feel better than them, which makes you feel better about yourself too. Then a few years go by and here we are, a bunch of judgmental adults. This isn’t totally your fault. It started when you were a kid. You were learning how to survive. But like a lot of bad behaviors that we picked up as kids, this one really sticks around for us as adults. If anything we get better at it.
Then we come here, to church. We know, you and I, as Christians that we aren’t supposed to judge other people. But if you talk to people outside of the church the word hypocrite comes up an awful lot. Christians have a bad rap for being some of the most judgemental people out there, for talking a lot about the sin of other people but ignoring our own. But we’re good people, right?
We don’t judge people who sin. We judge people who sin differently than we do.
It’s dangerous because you might not even realize you are doing it. You aren’t being judgemental. We are just concerned Christians. We look at what someone else is doing and we are just “concerned” for them, not judgemental. We pick a Scripture that we think we understand, we apply it to their behavior (sometimes completely incorrectly) and express our worry for them that they are going against what God teaches. We say things like “bless her heart.” Because their specific sin is not something we struggle with, we can assure ourselves we are righteous by comparison. This might all be fine if that’s who Jesus was, or who Jesus has asked us to be. We are going to continue our study in the gospel of John this morning. We’re going to ask again this week our question “Who is Jesus?” Let’s look at John chapter 8:
John 8:2 Early in the morning he (that’s Jesus) came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him.
Scribes and Pharisees were super religious leaders in the town. They knew the law better than anyone. They really didn’t like Jesus, partly because it seemed like he was always breaking the rules. They bring in a woman they caught in adultery. It’s worth noting here that adultery is a two person sin. It takes two for this one, but they’ve only brought her in. They think they have Jesus trapped. They demand he make a decision. If he offers her mercy, he is going against the laws of Moses. But if he says to stone her, it will contradict all of his teaching about forgiveness of sin.
Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
What did he write on the ground? The short answer is we don’t know, the story doesn’t tell us. But there has been a lot of speculation based on the response of the religious leaders in the story. One theory is that the first time he bends down, he starts writing down the laws. This wouldn’t have phased the religious leaders (they knew the law better than anyone) so they keep questioning him. But the second time, he starts writing their names. Maybe he writes their names next to specific laws that they have broken. Imagine if someone bent down in front of you and wrote “Do not covet your neighbor's husband or wife.” That probably wouldn’t bother you. But then they added a comma, and wrote your name. “Do not covet your neighbor's wife, John.“ Feels different, doesn’t it? When you combine whatever he wrote with the invitation for “anyone among you who is without sin” to throw the first stone, the situation shifts.
9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
The religious folks, realizing none of them were without sin, leave, one by one. Jesus, left with the woman, does two things: He offers her grace, saying neither do I condemn you, and he sends her out to live differently saying from now on do not sin again.
The Pharisees are in no position to judge her. But Jesus is. Jesus would have every right to throw a stone. He was perfect. But he doesn’t condemn the woman. He sees it for what it is. Adultery is sin, no question. He doesn’t condone it, but he doesn’t condemn her either. He sees the sin, offers her grace, then challenges her to live her life differently. This is the repentance Jesus offers: Seeing the sin, receiving God’s grace, and trying to go in a different direction. So we ask this story from John, who is Jesus?
Jesus is both our judge and our savior.
Only Jesus, who is the perfect Son of God, who could have thrown the first stone, can judge our sin. Only Jesus, who takes all of our sin to the cross, can forgive us and offer us another chance. Jesus is both Judge and Savior. And . . . You are neither.
Jesus is the only judge and savior. You are neither. James 4:12 says “There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?” You are not the judge. In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus says:
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite,"
You are not the judge because you are not Jesus. You are not perfect. You have your own sin to deal with, and if you are so busy looking for the way other people are sinning, you won’t be able to see the sin in your own life. It’s much more fun to think about other people’s problems than deal with my own. It makes us feel so much better. But you are not the judge, Jesus is. Jesus wants you to see the plank in your own eye. Jesus doesn’t go looking for your sin to feel better about himself. Jesus isn’t the Pharisee, trying to catch you messing up. Jesus judges your sin because he wants you to be free from it. Only Jesus is both judge and savior. Only Jesus can see the sin in your life and set you free from it.
But there is one more verse in this passage from Matthew:
first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye
Now, wait. Taking the speck out of your neighbor’s eye? That sounds a lot like judging them. Maybe we are supposed to have that righteous concern for what other people are doing? But we don’t want to be judgey hypocrites. Who cares what someone else does. Mind your own business. What are we supposed to do? We aren’t the judge - only Jesus is. So we aren’t supposed to judge what other people say or do. We also aren’t the Savior - only Jesus is. So we can’t save people from their sin. But you are called to do one thing. You are called to love. Jesus doesn’t show you your sin and then save you from it just so you can sit at home, happy and righteous and free until you go to heaven someday. You are sent out to love other people. That’s what this last verse in Matthew is about. How do we know the difference between judgment and love?
There has been some log of sin in your life. There has been some sin that really gets a hold of you. Some of you might be thinking that hasn’t happened to you, but that probably means it’s a problem right now. Maybe you’re walking around with a big plank in your eye but everything is fine as long as you cover it and just look out of one of them, like a pirate. We’ve all had a plank in our eye.
There has been some sin in your life. If you have asked God to, God has worked on you about it. You aren’t perfect, but maybe God has taught you some things along the way. Maybe you’re feeling a little more free from it than you were at first, or you are at least aware of it. Then one day you see someone in your life who you care about, and you notice a speck in their eye. It’s a tiny speck but you had that speck once too and it grew into a giant plank. So what is the difference between judging them and loving them? It’s a delicate balance, but three principles to help guide us:
Remember what the Bible says about love.
Love is patient, and kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
If you are loving someone, it looks like all of this. But if you compare them to yourself and you win every time, that’s boasting. If you feel better because of what they are doing, you are self-seeking. If you say things like “they did this same thing last week” that’s a record of wrongs. And if you get a little giddy talking about someone else’s sin, that is delighting in evil.