... When Jesus makes judgements, he does so as a vulnerable one, as one exposed to the deathly powers of others. Rather than being prepared to destroy to assert his own power, Jesus is prepared to be destroyed, to give everything away in the cause of love and life. Jesus’ judgement has a very different quality from the judgement of John. Relinquishing the power to destroy others the judgement of Jesus is not concerned with death. When his judgement comes, it comes on the other side of death, death which he has overcome, and it carries the power of life in all its fullness. His judgement is to encourage us to become more fully human by improving our behaviour towards the least of the children of the world.
What relevance has this to the way we live today? Well, I suggest that the Judgment of John is all around us. Violent retribution is the order of the day. Fire rains down on the people of Syria, on the people of Iraq, on the people of Palestine, in a world of eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth militarised politics. We have judged a people to be violent; so we will destroy them with fire. We have judged a people to be dangerous; so we will close our borders to them. We have judged the poor to be feckless, we have judged the refugees to be opportunistic scroungers, so we refuse to help them. Even at a domestic level, our popular entertainment is fixated on judgmentalism. Saturday night TV - on one channel, dancers, on another channel, singers, are judged by panels of powerful people and, at the push of a button by the general public, are rejected, ejected, sent into an outer darkness where no TV studio light shines. Just like John, vindictive judgmentalism is in our blood.
But those who embrace Jesus the human one, the son of man, have no need to fear Judgement, or to embrace judgmentalism. Our life in Jesus is a process of working towards full humanity, of being slowly and graciously formed into the image of the God who made us in love and forms us in forgiveness. ‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,’ writes Paul (Romans 8.1); even when he succumbed to using apocalyptic language Paul still said effectively the same thing: ’[You will be] blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (1 Corinthians 1.18). Embracing the life of the son of man releases us from the death sentence. No longer motivated by a fear of death, it is a love of life which motivates those who place themselves alongside Jesus. ...
- from my talk today, The judgement of Jesus and the Judgement of John (2015)