URC Daily Devotion 11 December 2023

Monday, 11 December 2023

St John 5:19-24

Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.  Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomsoever he wishes.  The Father judges no one but has given all judgement to the Son,  so that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Anyone who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him.  Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life.


Today we’ll consider the role of judgement in the everyday decisions we make by learning from what Jesus teaches in the Gospel According to John. This Gospel was probably the last of the four Gospels to be written. It was probably composed long after all the Apostle Paul’s letters were written. This might explain why the theology in the John’s Gospel seems to have undergone a distinctive development. For example, in Paul’s early letters and in Mark’s Gospel there is an expectation that Jesus’s second coming in glory to signal the Last Judgement is imminent. By contrast, in John’s Gospel the expectation that the Last Judgement is imminent seems to have receded, and judgement has a more contemporary meaning.

“Whoever heeds what I say and trusts in God who sent me has eternal life; such a person does not come to judgement but has already passed from death to life.” (5:24) Heeding what Jesus says and trusting God in the here-and-now are indications that a transition has occurred: a new birth by the Spirit to eternal life. Eternal life is the life by which God himself lives. Jesus as Light of the world offers eternal life to those who believe in him. However, Jesus as Light prompts two contrasting reactions from people: they either come into the Light and experience salvation or hide from it and experience condemnation. 

Judgements or assessments of what is better or worse, or what is wise or foolish, are necessary in daily life. If we never made judgements, we would be passive or apathetic. I think the ‘Don’t judge me!’ reactions to the judgements of others often mean: ‘Don’t condemn me!’ Condemnation has a finality about it. But if Jesus is God’s gift who was sent not to condemn the world but to save it, then the judgements we make about others ought to be provisional. Jesus’s teaching that ‘the first shall be last and the last shall be first’ suggests we may be surprised!


O God our Father, 
who sent your Son Jesus
not to condemn but to save,
give us grace in our judgements
so that we become more aligned 
with your great purpose of salvation,
and more open to your surprises.


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