12 May 2016
An often disliked image of Jesus is “Jesus as Judge.” We’ll take Jesus as “the Lamb,” as our “Friend,” as “Prince of Peace,” but not as “Judge.” Of course, our experiences of judges tend to be like what Saint Paul experienced.
He was brought before the judgment seat of the Sanhedrin—made up of the Sadducees (the old-school priestly Israelites, the “conservatives” of their day, who focused on Temple worship) and the Pharisees (the more “progressive” lay thinkers, who focused on preaching in the synagogues). Either way, Paul wasn’t going to get an unbiased hearing. He wasn’t going to be shown mercy (unless it benefitted one of the judges).
But Jesus as “Judge” is entirely different from the Sanhedrin. He’s not partisan in what he sees; instead, he sees and judges only as God knows things to be. Jesus is simple honest in his judgment when he says, “Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and [the ones you have given me] know that you sent me.” He doesn’t judge someone’s worth as a person; he simply sees and says what is true.
And that’s a very great blessing. Jesus is a “Judge” like a parent is a teacher. If a parent sees a child doing something good or bad, the parent will simply tell that to the kid—to steer the little one on the right path. We need our parents, our mentors, our friends to tell us what we perhaps don’t see about ourselves. We need those kinds of “judges” in our life—to teach us; especially to show us what’s true.
The “trick” is to be open to hearing and accepting that judgment. You know, Jesus knows very well that each of us is a sinner; he knows that we do things and say things which go against charity. But he doesn’t hold that against us—that’s what a typical “judge” would do: our sins would be held against us. But Jesus the Just Judge doesn’t do that. Instead, he just kind of whispers his judgments into our heart.
Something like: “My brother, my sister: I know you have it in you to be more patient, so why not calm down and listen to this neighbor you disagree with? You’re being kind of close-minded right now; I’ll help you.” Jesus says things like that to us through our conscience. The “trick” is to hear it and accept it—not in a spirit of defeat, but in a spirit of thanks to God.
God is loving and merciful in being our Judge. And so we pray: “Jesus, be our Judge. Show us “the path to life;” the path to you.