8/10/2020 10:33:47 AM
What God Did: Returns to Judge
Pastor Eric Schroeder - The Tenth Sunday After Pentecost - Sunday, August 9, 2020
We don’t get to decide whether or not we’ll be judged. It’s just a part of life. It could be a piano festival or a theatre audition. It might be a diving competition or a basketball tryout. It may be a college entrance essay or a job interview. In these and so many other situations, we find ourselves being judged, where our evaluation and possibly even our future rests in someone else’s hands. Sometimes we have more than one attempt to earn their favor, so we can shake a bad one off and try again. In other instances, the pressure is really on. It’s now or never, a once-in-a-lifetime, make-it-or-break-it situation that will affect the rest of our life. That pressure might energize you and motivate you…or it might overwhelm you. But either way, being judged is a part of life.
But of course, there is still the one big judgment to come, when we stand before God for judgment in the announcement that determines our eternity. Our statement in the Apostles’ Creed leaves no room for doubt, and no one left out: He will come to judge the living and the dead. That’s everyone. That’s me, even if I don’t know which category I will fall into on that day. That’s you, too.
Here in Luke 18, Jesus told his disciples a parable, and it wasn’t specifically about Judgment Day at all. Luke tells us in the opening line that … Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. So that will be the main thing we want to take away here, because that was Jesus’ intent in this lesson. But as we apply his words to our lives, we’ll see if we can find a connection that helps us appreciate how our Lord and Savior will also be our Judge.
He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ The opening words introduce two people: a judge and a widow. We don’t have any idea what the case is all about, and it doesn’t really matter, or Jesus would have included that. We are, however, given insight into the character of the judge. He neither feared God nor cared about men. In other words, he only cares about himself. Is that the kind of person you would want in charge of your future? Don’t answer that just yet. We’ll come back to that question.
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ ”
We still might have questions, but we don’t want to lose the main point. We might wonder how long this all took for the widow to sway the judge. We might wonder how many times she showed up, and what she said to change his mind, but again, that’s not the point either. It wasn’t that she found a better tactic or a better argument; she simply kept at it, refusing to give up and refusing to give in; she wouldn’t be ignored. And in the end, through her persistence and perseverance, she got what she wanted. She got justice. That’s how Jesus wants us to pray. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. You won’t be ignored. Here’s how we know…
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
As Jesus wraps up the parable, he pulls it all together. What we don’t want to think is that God must be like this unjust judge; the whole idea here is that Jesus is using what is called an argument from the lesser to the greater. To rephrase it might sound like this: If even this slimy judge gets around to doing the right thing, even for the wrong reason, is there any possibility that a just and Holy God would fail to do what is just and right? The obvious answer is, “No. I guess not, when you put it that way. A Judge who always does what is right will always do what is right.”
Now, here’s the question again. What kind of judge would you rather have? I suppose how you understand yourself and your case plays into it. For sure, an innocent person with a good case will always want a judge who will uphold the law. But what about a guilty person? Wouldn’t it actually be more appealing to have a judge who might take a bribe, or who can be threatened or manipulated, one who can be worn down over time if you put enough effort? Isn’t that a temptation sometimes, to look at God as if he might be influenced by our behavior? To think that if I do enough good things, he’ll forget about the bad? To think that if I am kind and generous enough with my time and efforts and offerings, he might be inclined to return the favor now and then? To think that God owes me something because I try harder, act better, go to church more than most, or at least I avoid the kinds of things that the worst kinds of people fall into?
We’d all like to think we have more positive influence over the process of our judgment than we actually do. In reality, we don’t get to pick our judge, and no bribe, tactic, or trick is going to influence his justice. On our own, that leaves us in a hopeless state, because the last thing we want is justice, to be treated fairly, with divine retribution according to what we deserve. But here’s the beautiful thing. Look again at the way Jesus words the question here: will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? His chosen ones! That’s what Jesus calls us: God’s chosen ones. This is the relationship upon which God carries out his judgments now, and it is a preview of the Judgment to come.
And the whole reason is Christ. Here’s the way Paul spelled it out to Timothy: Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners… (1 Tim. 1:15). Just a bit later he wrote this: For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men…(1 Tim. 2:5-6). So many other ways and so many other places in Scripture, we are assured that the one who will stand on the earth to judge the living and the dead is already on our side, not because we won him over, but because he sought us out and found us and lived and bled and died to satisfy the just wrath of a Holy God in our place. For all who trust in him, only innocence and righteousness remain as the final verdict, and God took care of giving us that faith, too.
That’s where Jesus closes the parable. Again, if it depended on us, we’d be in eternal trouble. when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? The answer is yes. He will find faith, because as we’ll focus beginning next week, Jesus promised to send the Spirit to build and maintain a church that would last until he comes again and into eternity. He speaks through his Word to draw people ever closer to himself; He cleanses us in baptism; He feeds us in his Supper, precisely so that whether we are living or dead, we are connected to him and his forgiveness through the faith that he has given us.
What kind of a judge do we have? The kind who IS God and cares an awful lot about mankind; in fact, he loved us enough to die for us. One who was punished for our sins. One who rose from death and guarantees the same for us. By God’s grace we believe in him, we rest in his love and his promises, we know he hears our prayers, and we trust that he will come again soon. Come Lord, Jesus. AMEN.