Making judgments in different circumstances is as common as breathing. We may see just a snippet of conflict between a couple and immediately decide whose fault it was and why they acted as they did.
But of all judgments, I think I’ve ever seen or even heard of the judgment of Jesus by the religious leaders of his day reaches the greatest heights of absurdity. Jesus was going about doing all kinds of good things. When a group of four friends brought a man who was extremely handicapped, lying on his cot to try to get him to Jesus so he could be healed, the crowd around the door was so great they couldn’t get the man into where Jesus was. In their determination, they took him up on the roof of the house, dug away a section of the roof and let the man down right in front of Jesus. Jesus was so impressed with their faith that he turned to the man and said, “Your sins are forgiven.” Immediately some of the religious leaders began to complain and declare that Jesus was blaspheming since no one but God could forgive sins. He realized their thoughts and said, “Which is easier to say, ‘your sins are forgiven’ or to say, ‘rise, take up your mat and walk’ but that you may know the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins, I say, ‘Rise, take up your mat and walk.” Immediately the man was healed and got up to pick up his mat and go home.
It is easy to see the hypocrisy of these religious leaders, but what would you have said if you had been there? That is a tough question since they didn’t recognize Jesus as God in the flesh it was a rather normal judgment to make.
But it became much more severe. When Jesus met people who had been afflicted with all kinds of diseases and problems brought on by demon possession he cast out the demons and the result was deaf were able to hear, mute could speak, a lady who hadn’t been able to straighten up for a long time was able to stand up straight, blind could see, lepers were cleansed and even those whose whole minds had been tormented to the degree they became either dangerous to themselves or others. People generally were amazed and declared they had never seen anything like this before, not even in Israel. But the religious leaders had a very different reaction. Instead of being touched by the many hurting people being healed, they needed some way to make it look bad for Jesus. Their answer was to tell everyone who would listen that Jesus was casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul the prince of demons. Of all the absurd answers anyone could come up with for how Jesus could cast out demons and heal people of all kinds of illnesses, this seems to be out of this world. One of the main excuses they offered was that he often healed people or cast out the demons on the Sabbath Day and that was working and violating the Sabbath. He explained he was Lord of the Sabbath and that the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath, but it didn’t get through their build up of prejudice.
As with most such crazy accusations, Jesus’ answers made the whole notion seem as foolish as it really was. He pointed to the reality that a house divided against itself cannot stand. If Satan is casting out his own demons, then how will his kingdom stand? He went on to point out the grave danger they were in by making such ridiculous judgments. He said that all manner of sin and blasphemy would be forgiven by God but if one blasphemes the Holy Spirit, through whom Jesus was casting out the demons, would not be forgiven, not in this age or the one to come. While all sins are bad, some are much worse than others and some can so harden our hearts that any opportunity for change or forgiveness is life behind.
But, here is the point I want to think about. What is it about us that would lead to our making the very worst judgments imaginable about people or events instead of looking at whatever it is with a more generous spirit? I don’t think these religious leaders were bad people. They had devoted their lives to God and were regarded as the most righteous people of their day. Yet, Jesus and his actions just didn’t fit into their belief system. He wasn’t at all what they had expected and prayed for as the Messiah who would deliver Israel. They had built into their thinking a complete mindset of what the Messiah would be like. He would be a mighty military leader who would lead Israel in the battle against Rome and deliver them from bondage.
Instead, Jesus came as one that grows up in the home of a poor carpenter in Nazareth and when he began his ministry it was by choosing ordinary men as his apostles. He associated with sinners, the weak and hurting and his lessons actually taught more about heart and character and loving God and neighbor as the greatest commands. He served, fed the hungry and would even wash the feet of his own disciples. He was ready to both forgive and accept as disciples those who had lived very immoral lives and even those who were Samaritans or Gentiles. He upset their whole apple cart. Let’s face it when our minds are set that we are right and anything or anyone that differs from us is automatically wrong, we will go to strange links to defy every good thing they do. The ultimate result was they would reject and lead the way in the crucifixion of the Son of God.
We all make judgments. It is part of human nature. But every judgment should be looked at through the life, the heart and the compassion of Jesus and it will deeply affect the way we judge both our own actions and those of others. By the way, never forget we are judged, both by God and other people based on the way we judge others.