Have you seen this Internet trope that’s gone around about what Jesus is “anti” and what he never said anything about? Like somehow, Jesus is anti-capitalist, pro-never praying in public, and on and on so that, basically, Jesus is just like the ideal embodiment of progressive culture. That meme makes me laugh. I wonder if, whoever said this or wrote it first, the author stopped for even a second to think, “Wow. Jesus sounds just like me!”
Jesus is sort of mold-able like that. He’s a real person in history (people who refuse to acknowledge that are as historically attuned as the folks who are afraid they’ll drive their car over the edge of the world) but because he’s in history, he cannot exactly stand up and defend himself or make clarifications. So he’s this historical person with real historical ramifications, but history itself buries him in time and distance so many, many people feel comfortable throwing some duct tape over his mouth and telling you what they’re pretty sure Jesus would say about… everything. And SURPRISE! Jesus never disagrees with them. Weird how that happens.
The thing that’s important to remember about Jesus of Nazareth is that the man was executed like a criminal. He didn’t seem to commit any overtly political crimes but he was snuffed out like a traitor. People, some significant group of people, really didn’t like him. And, yes, I know that people love to say, “It’s the religious and powerful that hate him!” Which is sort of true. But he seems to have been generally annoying to almost everyone in the country at the time. Multiple times, it seems that the common folk wanted to grab him and make him king and he Heisman’d them and left the scene. Then he’d get in their face later and say they were just in it for the free miracle-bread but they really should be more worried about feasting on his flesh and drinking his blood (which is really weird and gross). Those “Make him king!” folks walked away and very quickly became “Dude is weird” folks. When Jesus was popular with the common people, he’d say unpopular things and they’d walk away. When the religious and powerful would sidle up, he’d whip out these words that would lash them and drive them away or make them furious. Even Jesus’ followers, his disciples, seem to be mostly confused about who he is and what he’s doing. When he’s hanging there like a traitor, bloody and broken and dead, they’re devastated. They’re not saying, “Death to the Man! The Man killed Jesus!” or “Yes. Awesome. This is exactly what we wanted to happen.” They’re shattered. They think they’ve backed the wrong horse.
Jesus is disorienting to everyone. No one seems entirely happy with Jesus for his entire life up to the Cross. None except the special few, the lowly, the humble, the broken, who just want Jesus on Jesus’ terms. Those people love Jesus to death. Even to HIS death.
That’s what Jesus does. He makes you figure out what you want. Do you want acceptance, happiness, love, security or do you want… Jesus?
Do you want all the goods or do you want… Jesus?
Jesus is super judgmental that way.
Yeah, yeah. The “don’t judge” verses. They’re there and they’re for real. But listen closely to what they’re saying and you’ll see that Jesus is saying, “What I want is to give you life. I didn’t come to wipe everyone out. But.”
There’s something hanging out there. Some clarification of that unreservedly sunny message.
“But you have to take me on my terms.”
“For judgment I came into this world…” (John 9:39)
Shhhh, Jesus. We don’t like it when you say stuff like that. Here here here. Here’s some duct tape. Shhhhhh.
Jesus came with judgment on his mind. He came spouting judgment. His very life was judgment. Jesus himself is judgment. Jesus, it turns out, is the dividing line. His is a polarizing existence that demands you move to either love him on his terms or you recognize that you oppose him. He doesn’t carve out some neutral space for you to be a generically good person. You’re either with him or against him. With him or against him.
You are judged by his very existence. The existence of that infuriating, captivating, annoying, mesmerizing Nazarene. That’s your judgment. What do you do with him?
Of course, the good news is that that’s the only kind of judgment which you will be scrutinized. Are you rich and popular, poor and popular, rich and unpopular, poor and unpopular, despise, loved, friendless, anonymous, loved, hated? It doesn’t matter. Jesus isn’t judging you on those things. He’s judging you on your response to him.Sordid past? Disgraceful present? What Jesus is judging you on is your response to him.
And the thing is, you actually want a judging Jesus. I mean, sure, we think today that judgment is the worst thing you could imagine in connection with God. But just spend a few seconds and imagine the most heinous crimes you’ve ever seen or experienced and tell me, do you want those things judged? I do. I really, really do. ISIS? Child molesters? Racial hatred? Yes yes yes. I want those things judged. I want a judge to destroy those things with wrath. I hate them. They’re wrong.
But what if I carry the seeds of those things in me? What if those things are only removed from me by an order of magnitude and not of kind? What if that stuff is lurking in my blood? And what if Jesus is an expert who can incisively diagnose my “minor flaws” as being a more insidious presentation of the same disease that infects the very worst of the dregs of society?
Jesus the Judge, then, is trying to heal me. He’s not trying to giddily throw me in the fire. He’s trying to save me from the fire that’s licking at my bones from the inside. Jesus the Judge is trying to save me from the judgment I’m bathing myself in while calling it “freedom.” Jesus the Judge will judge me not based on how filthy I find myself or good I think I am or how much better I am than a terrorist.
He’s going to peer through me like a super X-Ray and judge to see whether that contaminant is floating around. Whether my blood is still infected. Or whether I have received a transplant, a transfusion.
Jesus is judging to see whether I’m attached to him and to new life.
Jesus the Judge isn’t angry Jesus who sits high above with a list of rules and a keen desire to punish me. Jesus the Judge has tears of love in his eyes, begging me to let him heal me. Rejecting him will result in my death as surely as death is already eating me from the inside out. Embracing him is embracing the life I was made for.
For judgment Jesus came into the world. Because judgment is the way to healing. Jesus is the judge and he is the measuring rod of judgment. Do you want a Jesus that looks exactly like you want him to? Do you want a Jesus who gives cuddles to all and sundry and wouldn’t judge anyone that you wouldn’t? Or do you want a Jesus who is obstinately and only himself, totally unlike anyone you’ve ever met and, most importantly, very unlike you?
I want that Jesus. People like me have messed up the world. I want that messiness judged and destroyed. I’m tired of a Jesus who does exactly what I want. What I want messes stuff up. Jesus is better. Jesus is better than me. He’s better than my vision of what life should be like. Jesus is better than anyone and anything. He should be the dividing line. He should be the judge.
No one else is as good as him. And no one else can heal like him.