Judgment Day – a day of opposites
John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. 24 "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25 I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. 28 "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out-- those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
Eligah Christian had a $100,000 warrant out for his arrest. He was wanted by the Alaskan police for fraud, 15 counts of theft, and 21 counts of issuing bad checks. Understandably, the police wanted to catch Mr. Christian. Also understandably, Mr. Christian didn’t want to get caught.
This past April, an Alaskan State Trooper spotted the 49-year-old Mr. Christian around the town of Wasilla. The officer turned on his lights and siren and began to pursue him. It wasn’t difficult to keep him in sight. And, it certainly wasn’t considered a “high-speed” chase.
I say that because Eligah Christian attempted his getaway in a motor home.
That's right. Mr. Christian was behind the wheel of a big, slow-accelerating, hard-to-wend-through-traffic-and-turns motorhome. It had to be embarrassing. The troopers put down spike strips to blow out the motorhome’s tires. Mr. Christian tried to maneuver around the spikes and brought the chase to an abrupt end when he plowed his motorhome into a couple of highway patrol vehicles.
Doesn’t it seem preposterous to you to think someone would try to escape the police in a motorhome?!
Yet, it is equally preposterous to think that some people believe they can escape the Lord’s judgment on the Last Day.
When we examine Jesus’ words and the events in the Gospel lesson, we see that the Day of Judgment will be a day of opposites. It will be a day that will lead to terror for some. For others it will be finally be a day of realized joy. It will be a day of destruction and eternal condemnation. But it will also be a day of deliverance and life. It will be a day when unbelievers will be bowing before Jesus as their righteous Judge. It will also be a day for those who will be worshiping Jesus as their righteous Savior. Some will be trying to run away from that day. Others will be looking forward to the dawning of that great day.
Earlier in John 5, Jesus had healed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. Jesus had the audacity to conduct this healing on the Sabbath. This infuriated the Pharisees. John explains that “because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him.” Jesus explained Himself saying, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too, am working” (John 5:17).
Jesus’ response, however, was seen by His opponents as anything but an explanation. As far as they were concerned, He was only digging Himself into a deeper hole, for not only had He healed on a Sabbath, “but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18). They considered this blasphemy – claiming to be God. So they plotted to kill Him.
Do you remember in “The Wizard of Oz” how in the end the curtain was pulled back and the intimidating, floating-head Wizard was revealed to be just a scared little man? That’s what the Jews thought of Jesus. Jesus talked big talk; Jesus healed the lame, but in their minds, Jesus was the furthest thing from God. He was just a little man, who broke the Sabbath. He was just a little man trying to pull off a big stunt – all in opposition to God.
Jesus did not disagree with the Jews’ conclusion that He made Himself equal with God. Instead, He drove home the point with His emphatic, “I tell you the truth …”
The truth is that Jesus is so equal with the Father that He saw whatever the Father was doing and acted in perfect harmony. He said, “… the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.”
You know how children imitate their parents. The young son sees his dad mowing the lawn, so the boy gets out his plastic mower and follows behind his daddy. That’s what Jesus is saying here. Jesus is His heavenly Daddy’s little boy. All He does is what He is shown by the Father. He can do nothing else. The Son is in such union with God the Father that all He does and says, the miracles and the message, is from the Father and pleasing to the Father. That’s why Jesus says elsewhere, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
As Jesus continued to explain Himself to His detractors, He pointed out the one-of-a-kind relationship He shares with the Father. He added, “Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.” He stated that He is able to do things that would make the healing at Bethesda relatively insignificant in comparison. He was talking about Judgment Day.
“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.” Jesus was pointing out that the natural state of all people – us included – is that of a corpse. We are all dead in our sinful nature. With our inborn sin, we were born into this world essentially as spiritual stillborns.
But Jesus changes that when He makes us alive spiritually. We hear His life and we are converted from unbeliever to Christian, from death to life.
“Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” These words fill the hearts of living believers with praise, while at the same time filling the hearts of dead unbelievers with loathing. Jesus accepts the praise of those who honor Him with their faith, but He judges those who dishonor Him with their unbelief.
“I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.”
Don’t be fooled by the humble outward packaging, Jesus was saying. This Son of God in the flesh is indeed equal with the Father. He possesses the same life-giving power that the Father has. So eager is God the Father to make it clear that all glory belongs to Jesus, even as the God-Man, the Father gave Jesus the task of judging all people.
For those of us who think of sin but lightly, nor suppose our evil great (CW:127), Jesus points out that He will be our Judge. We will have to account for every act of animosity. We will have to answer for every thoughtless thought rattling around in our heads. We will have to explain every worthless word that has left our lips. We will have to reveal all our worries, doubts, and fears.
Knowing how guilty we are, we will naturally want to be like Eligah Christian and try to flee from our Lord.
Remember, Judgment Day will be a day of opposites. It will be a dreadful day for all the unbelieving sinners facing Jesus’ judgment. But it will be exactly the opposite for those who believe in Jesus as their Savior. That’s because we are no longer wanted criminals. Jesus has set us free. He paid the warrant price. He endured our punishment. He received His Father’s wrath.
Jesus fulfilled everything His Father wanted Him to do. He took on our human flesh. He became “Immanuel” – “God with us.” He became one with our sin. Though He had no sin of His own, He took our sins upon His divine body. He was judged, not by Pontius Pilate, but by His heavenly Father. Jesus was found guilty and judged. During His hours on the cross, He endured the eternity of hell that we deserved. Now, because He was judged, we who believe in Him, won’t face that same judgment.
Instead, Jesus our Savior-Judge will make this public declaration over us: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
Thankfully, it is not necessary for us to get away from the Lord. On the contrary, because of His grace, we eagerly run to Him in thanksgiving and appreciation.
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out.” Cemeteries will be emptied. The seas will give up their dead. The physical components that make up the human body will be restored and resurrected.
Because of this great day of opposites, we won’t be running away from Jesus. Instead, will be looking forward to the dawning of this great day.
In Georgia, a white man is buried in a cemetery that has traditionally been reserved only for black people. The mother of this distinguished man died when he was a small child. The boy’s father who never remarried, and according to custom at that time, employed Mandy, a Christian black woman, to help with the raising of his son.
Without being his mother, Mandy gave the boy a mother’s love. Among his earliest and warmest recollections was Mandy’s tradition of coming up to his room, leaning over, and waking him with a gentle, “Wake up, God’s mornin’ is come.” The boy grew, and as some grown boys do, he went off to college. When he came home for holidays and summers, Mandy still began the day with, “Wake up, God’s mornin’ is come.”
He never outgrew hearing those words; she never outgrew saying them. Later in life, the man got the message “Mandy has died. Can you come to her funeral?” Of course, he would come.
Standing at Mandy’s open grave, he turned to his companions and commented, “If I die before Jesus returns, I want to be buried here beside Mandy. I like to think that on Resurrection Day she’ll say, ‘Wake up, my boy, God’s mornin’ is come!’”
The boy had gotten it. Mandy had gotten it. They knew the connection Jesus had with His Father. They had crossed over from death to life. They knew Christ has risen. They knew death could no longer destroy them.They got it. They were not afraid of death or Judgment Day. Because we know Jesus as our Savior-Judge, we’re not afraid of this day of opposites, either. Let Judgment Day come. Amen.