Author: Ron Graham
Judgments of Jesus
—In the gospel of John
People are always making judgments. You do it, I do it, we all do it. Good judgment is one of the qualities of successful people. Jesus warned against making false or hypocritical judgments. He encouraged people to "judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24).
Jesus himself was being judged by people, and needless to say their judgments were varied. In the Gospel of John you can find several judgments of Jesus. It was even said, “He has a demon”! In this lesson we consider this and other judgments of Jesus.
1 “I find no guilt in him”
Possibly the most famous judgment of Jesus is the one made by Pilate when Jesus was brought before him. Christ's enemies brought Jesus before Pilate because killing him directly presented political and legal problems (Matthew 26:3-5, John 18:31). Pilate examined Jesus as a judge under the Roman judicial system. There was no acceptable evidence presented to Pilate. Pilate's own examination of Jesus produced no grounds for condemnation. Pilate's judgement was, "I find no guilt in him" (John 18:38)
Pilate did not follow through with his judgment. If Jesus was innocent, Pilate should have set Jesus free. Instead, Pilate had him whipped and passed him over to the mob to be crucified. The fact remains that Pilate's judgment testifies that Jesus had done no wrong.
Those of us whose judgment of Jesus comes to the point of faith, believe that Jesus was a totally faultless person who had never done anything sinful at all. This is Pilate's judgment raised to the nth degree. It is God's judgment of Jesus. "He committed no sin..." (1Peter 2:22 ). This made Christ's death a perfect sacrifice accepted by God as "the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but the whole world's also" (1John 2:2).
2 “He has a demon and is mad”
Leaving pilate's judgment, we now turn to the judgment of Jesus by his enemies. What did they say of him? "He has a demon and is mad" (John 10:20). Perhaps we should regard this more as an insult than a judgment. It was certainly no considered opinion. I suppose Jesus did some things that, by some standards, might make him seem eccentric . He once went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days. He remained sound asleep in a boat while a fierce storm was raging. He expected certain people to give up their incomes and give away their assets and follow him. Some might think such things strange, but to judge him as demon-possessed or insane is insupportable.
3 “He is a good man”
Let us turn then to the general public's opinion of Jesus. It was somewhat divided. Some thought Jesus was leading people astray. However in the eyes of others in the multitudes, Jesus met with approval. "He is a good man" (John 7:12). I suppose this is not much more than an unofficial version of Pilate's judgment. Jesus is a good man, he's not doing any harm. We can hardly criticise this approval of Jesus. It does, however, fall short of faith. Plenty of people who are not Christians would recognise Jesus as a good man, even perhaps as one of the great lights among men. So while we must agree with the assessment that Jesus was a good man, our faith must go much further than that.
Jesus once responded to someone who addressed him as "Good teacher" by asking him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone" (Mark 10:17-18). Jesus was trying to get this man to go beyond the popular judgment that Jesus was, more or less, a good man, and to become a believer that Jesus was “good” to the point of divine perfection. Jesus was saying, if we might paraphrase him, "The only one who can truly be judged good is God, so if your judgment of me as good is going to mean anything worthwhile, you will have to believe that I am God."
4 “You have the words of eternal life”
So now let us turn to the judgments of those who were believers. The disciple Peter judged Jesus to be the only source of eternal life. When Jesus asked the twelve disciples if they were going to desert him like other disciples were doing, Peter said,"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). This was the same judgment of Jesus that Jesus made of himself: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
5 “My Lord and My God!”
One disciple who was not going to believe anything without proof was Thomas. But when the evidence was presented to him, he came up with this judgment of Jesus: "[You are] my Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). This indeed is a judgment, like Peter's, that qualifies as faith in Christ. Nothing less will do.
Your Judgment of Jesus
I hope you have found these various judgments of Jesus interesting and instructive. If you are willing, let's make a conclusion to the lesson now, that puts the reponsibility for judging Jesus squarely on your shoulders. One day Jesus is going to "judge the living and the dead at his appearing" (2Timothy 4:1). This includes you and me, doesn't it? Now here's what it comes down to: How Jesus will judge you on that day depends on how you have judged him beforehand.
Unless your judgment of him amounts to a true faith, his judgment of you will be adverse. However, if your judgment of Jesus amounts to faith, his judgment of you will be entirely favourable. John sums it up at the end of his first letter: "And we know that the Son of God has come, and given us an understanding, that we may know him who is true, and we are in him who is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life" (1John 5:20).