HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: –John 5:22
Not Future Judgment but Present
When we hear the word judgment on the lips of Christ we are prone to cast our thoughts into the future. Almost instinctively there rises in us some foreboding of the day of judgment. So powerfully has that last dread scene wrought on the imagination of mankind, that always when we light on the word judgment we seem to catch in the word a whisper of it; until often, as it seems to me, we lose the primary meaning of the Scripture and blind ourselves by a judgment that is future to one that is past or actually present. Now I want you to note the wording of our text. It is not the future tense that is employed here. It is not “The Father will commit”; it is “The Father hath [now] committed.” That means that in the very hour He spake, Christ was invested with a judging power.
In the Presence of Jesus People Felt Self-Reproach
Now the great impression made by the life of Christ is not an impression of judgment but of love. Here, we say, is a Man of such compassion as never was witnessed on the earth before. There is a depth of tenderness about Him that is infinitely attractive and endearing. There is a wealth of the most helpful sympathy–a passionate desire to be a friend. There is a tenderness that is unparalleled, a sensibility to all distress, a love so deep and strong and true that life was not sufficient to disclose it.
Yet in the heart of that appealing tenderness, we soon awaken to another element. We come to see that wherever Jesus was, there was the element of judgment. He moved along these ways of Galilee, men and women knew that they were loved. With a like instinct, too deep for understanding, they knew continually that they were judged. The moment they stepped into that lowly presence the moment they looked into His face and heard Him speak, they felt they were standing at a judgment bar. It was not that they felt that they were known. We may feel that we are known and not be judged. We may be perfectly conscious that someone knows our motives, and yet it may never cause the slightest self-reproach. But there was always self-reproach where Jesus was. Men were ashamed of themselves, they knew not why. His life was an unceasing act of love, and yet it was an unceasing act of judgment.
Sometimes it was His words that carried judgment and carried it in quite a casual way. That is one office of the casual word, to reach the conscience and stir it unawares. None of us likes to be directly judged. We are apt to resent the word of condemnation. To charge a man with such and such a fault is very often the way to steal his heart. But we all know how the casual word, said in our presence but never aimed at us, has a strange way of getting at the conscience. Have not you occasionally felt uneasy when the conversation took a certain turn? It was not meant for you, and yet it reached you; it found you out and made you feel your guilt. And what I say is that the talk of Christ had that strange power, in an unequalled measure, of making men feel mysteriously guilty. Sometimes He hurled an open condemnation. Sometimes He cried “Woe unto you, Pharisees.” But such words were not the sorest condemnation of His lips. It was rather the words which He was always speaking, and which were never meant to wither and condemn, and yet which had that strange and awful power of waking the agony of self-reproach.
Judgment through His Deeds
Sometimes it was His deeds that carried judgment, and here again, in general, indirectly. Directly, He judged a barren fig tree once, but it was not thus that His acts judged men and women. He did them not to judge men but to save them. They flowed from a heart that was the home of love. And yet when they fell upon the human conscience, they had a strange power of wakening self-reproach. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” You remember how Simon Peter once cried that? And what had happened to make him cry that cry? Had Christ condemned him with a tongue of fire? It was not that which caused the bitter cry. It was the net that was so full of fishes. It was an act so wonderful and kindly that Peter saw, and seeing loathed himself. Have we not all experienced that judgment–the silent judgment of some noble act? Nothing was said, but something fine was done and seeing it so done, we were ashamed. And I say again that in the acts of Jesus, all of the acts of love and acts of grace, there lay the power, in an unequalled measure, of touching men with a strange self-reproach.
Judgment through His looks
Sometimes it was His looks that carried judgment, and looks are often powerful to do that. There are looks that are the cause of keener pain than any scolding of an angry lip. It does not take deeds to make us feel ashamed. It does not take words to make us feel ashamed. A look will do it and will waken remorse and make us hate ourselves for being vile. And if in human eyes where sin has lodged there be this power of waking self-reproach, how awful must it have been in eyes like Christ’s. I do not wonder that the rich young ruler was sorrowful when I read that Christ had looked on him and loved him. I do not wonder that the crowd was stricken when Jesus looked round about on them with anger. I do not wonder that when Jesus turned and looked on Simon Peter in the hall, the heart of Peter was broken with the look, and he went out into the night and wept. Will anyone say that was a look of anger? It was a look of love. And the past was in it, and all its tender memories, and the dear days that were beyond recall. And it saved Peter when the night was past to think that the Lord had turned and looked at him, but first down to the very depths it judged him. No wild rebuke would ever have done that. It would have hardened him and made him reprobate. No word of Sinai, given in flame and thunder, would ever have carried conviction to that heart. One look of Christ did more than all the Decalogue. One look of Christ outmatched a thousand threatening. One look of Christ showed in what height and depth the Father had given all judgment to the Son.
Judgment by Being What He Was
But even that is not all the truth. There was something more than word and deed and look. It was not only by what He did that Jesus judged; it was more by what He was than what He did. Is there anyone of us who has not known how a character can judge? Is there not somebody you know and love who silently condemns you when you think of him? It is not that he is wanting to condemn you; nothing may be farther from his thoughts–and yet when you meet him and when you see what bets, you are ashamed of all that you have been. That, I take it, is what the Gospel means when it tells us that the saints shall judge the world. There is not a saint and not an earnest soul but unconsciously is judging every day. And men may mock at him and scorn him and call him an idle dreamer or a visionary, and yet who knows what self-reproach is stirring before that character of love and beauty? Now from all such earthly characters lift your thought to the character of Christ. Think how complete it was, how beautiful, how perfect in its finest and its strongest. Then tell me if you have ever realized how men must have felt, and felt as in a flash when on the highway or in the summer field they found themselves in the presence of the Lord? They were ashamed and knew not what it meant. They were convicted, yet not a word was spoken. Away deep down new thoughts began to burn off what their life might be and ought to be. It was the unconscious influence of character; the only perfect life the world had known. It was the witness, although they knew it not, that the Father had given all judgment to the Son.
The Qualities of Christ’s Judgment: Unerring
Now I pass on to a second thought: what were some of the qualities of this judgment? I shall touch on three, and the first is that it was unerring. It is notable that when men judged Christ, their judgment was very generally wrong. He was Elias, they said, or Jeremiahs or He was the friend of Beelzebub, or He was mad. But if their judgment upon Him was often wrong, His judgment upon them was always right. There are men whose judgment is wonderfully sure so long as it moves within a certain area. A born teacher can always judge a boy, and a born detective can always judge a criminal. But the wonderful thing about our Savior’s judgment is that it was a universal judgment–the Father committed all judgment to the Son. Born in a village, He met the men of cities; cradled in poverty, He met the rich. Unlearned, the men of learning moved around Him; a Man of peace, there came to Him centurions. And yet in all that many-coloured throng which filed forever past His judgment bar, I never find that Jesus was deceived. “Thou art a rock,” He said to Simon once, and Simon, when he spoke, was like the sand. And I can picture how the hearers smiled, and said, “It is evident He does not know him.” And then the years went by and with resistless hand dragged to the light all that was deepest in him, till at the end of the day Jesus was proven right. Did you ever think of timid Nicodemus stealing to Him under the cloak of the night? Was not that just the man to be distrusted–the last man in the world to tell a secret too? Yet Christ unlocked to him His richest treasury, detecting in an instant what he was–and Nicodemus embalmed Him when He died. Never forget that the judgment of Christ is an unerring judgment. You may be wrong in what you think of Him. He is never wrong in what He thinks of you. Might it not be well, then, that you should take that life of yours, of which you are so ignorant, and quietly yield it up unto the gaze of Him whose eyes are as a flame of fire?
A Surprising Judgment
In the second place, it was a surprising judgment. It was full of the element of unexpectedness. It ran completely opposite in a hundred cases to the accepted judgment of the world. One has described the writer Amiel as the master of the unexpected. But the master of the unexpected is not Amiel; the master of the unexpected is Christ. He was always surprising men by what He did. He was always surprising them by what He would not do. But above all else, I think that He surprised them just by the kind of judgments that He passed. Think of the judgment He passed upon the lilies–“not even Solomon in all his glory.” Have you any conception how the Jews were startled who first heard such audacity as that? Think of His judgment upon the little children, whom even His disciples would have kept from Him: “Except ye become as little children”–and they were beneath the notice of the Pharisee. He wanted an army that might win the world, and He judged that fishermen would be the men to form it. He wanted a woman who would kneel and worship, and He judged that a harlot might be the right material. My brother and sister, if you have ever studied Scripture, and tried to get into living touch with Christ, you must have been thrilled, as I have so often been, with the arresting presence of surprise. Now, remember that on the day of judgment that element is to have a conspicuous place. “Lord, when saw we thee naked or in prison?”–we are to be amazed that we are welcomed. And I mention this that you may learn that when the great white throne is set, and Christ is there, He will be the very same in action as when He walked upon the ways of Galilee.
An Unceasing Judgment
Then in the third place, it was an unceasing judgment. It was in action every hour He lived. The judgment of character is always that, just because the character is always a character. Our legal judges are not always judges. They have their seasons when they sit in judgment. And then they lay aside their robes of office, and they go back to private life again. But in Christ, the robe of office was Himself never to be laid aside in life or death, and that means His judgment is unceasing. You feel it when He wrought and when He spoke. You feel it when He went alone to pray. Men were convicted when they knew He prayed, and they came and cried to Him, “Teach us to pray.” Right from the baptism on to the cross of Calvary; right from that hour on to this hour, Christ has been judging men and judging women, and judging everything man’s hands have wrought. You say you do not believe in the last judgment. But have you ever thought what that word last implies? It is not a spectacle, that day of judgment, suddenly breaking on an astonished crowd. It is the last, and if you want the first, go back to Galilee and look at history. As a reasonable man you cannot deny the first; is it quite reasonable to deny the last? The last page of a book is meaningless save through the pages that have gone before. The last note in a piece of music is nothing save through the music that precedes. And even the last judgment would be meaningless if it were isolated and apart; it is the close of what has gone before. Born in an age like this, when everybody seems to be judging Christ, will you remember there is the other side? Will you remember He is judging you? Meditate on that. Think what must His judgment be. You will then say, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”