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Hear the Judge’s Word for Life

John 5:19-30

Marshal Ferdinand Jean Marie Foch was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies on March 26, 1918. He is credited with stopping the advancing German army from reaching Paris in WWI. On November 11, 1918 he stood and received the German request for armistice. At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, the Commander-in-Chief announced the war was over. But immediately that word needed to get out. Fighting soldiers needed to know they could stop fighting. Battles could end. The killing could stop. It was a word for life.

100 years to the day, we still need a word for life. Not to end all fighting. Not to stop a war from continuing. It isn’t even life for this world. We need someone strong and powerful, someone who can make that kind of word go worldwide. A word to speak into our lives. Because as much as we may not want to deal with it or believe it, this life won’t last forever. So we go to the gospel where Jesus speaks powerful words, strong words about judgment, words that speak into our lives.

Hear the Judge’s Word for life
Worship the Son now
Live in the Son for eternity

Jesus had the ability to look forward into the future and see time spread out before him. Time that would extend from his day to ours. “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.” This couldn’t be talking about raising people from the dead. Jesus hadn’t done that yet. These dead couldn’t be physically dead people. No, the Son of God spoke of the spiritually dead. Jesus sees how spiritually dead people will hear the voice of the Son of God, his voice, and live. That’s not a natural response. Jesus addressed how it was that he could speak, or would speak, and it would produce this amazing reaction in dead people.

No one Jesus spoke with would deny the right of God the Father to judge people. So many people recognized God could give life and ultimately take it away. But Jesus claimed the same right. Not as something the Father bestowed on him or that Jesus earned. “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” The Son does it in exactly the same way as the Father. There’s unity of action. They do the same work in the same way. Identical in power and authority. Equal in status. Unified in essence. When God the Father gives life, the Son also can give life. The Father judges. So that authority to judge is also with the Son. Jesus, the Son, becomes the determining factor between spiritual deadness and spiritual life. Jesus is over all people as an authority to judge. He’s the difference between spiritually dead people living and worshiping or staying spiritually dead and not worshiping.

We fell into the category of spiritually dead. “A time is coming and has now come” is this time we’re living in right now. There are still those who are dead spiritually. Do we recognize it in ourselves? Do we care? At times we’re reckless defiant sinners. We know God should be first but we almost can’t seem to help it when other things become important to us. We’ll go to any lengths to keep a relationship, even if it means sacrificing our morals. We hit the milestones and completely forget to thank God. In our joy, we show pride in accomplishments or evaluate ourselves based on them. At times we’re self-righteous. Without a word we can look down our noses at others, clearly more sinful sinners. We surprise ourselves when our thinking drifts into our actions that seem like they’re enough. We like the credit we receive. We prove over and over just how spiritually dead we are capable of being. Our thinking, will, and actions prove at times how we need a response to our deadness from outside of us.

Jesus as our judge should make us spiritually dead people quiver. But the amazing thing is that the Word of the Judge gives life. “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.” Immediately has crossed over from death to life. The Judge is the Redeemer of the world to make this happen, to make it possible. Jesus came and lived in this world of spiritually dead people. He walked and lived among them. Was crucified by them. Allowing himself to die for spiritually dead people like you and me meant Jesus could announce the judgment. The dead were alive. They had crossed over. His Word would take away sins and forgive them of any condemnation. Spiritual life came from your deadness. A change took place. You were dead and now you’re alive. You heard Christ, the Judge, in his Word. His voice came with power and you live. The gospel broke your recklessness and defiant attitude, broke your self-righteousness, and created a trust in Jesus.

It’s like you were standing on the bank of a very large and wide river, along with all of sinful humanity. Sinful, broken, and spiritually dead before the voice of Jesus, the Judge, came to you. No reason for it, other than God’s love. No ability on your part to jump yourself to the other side of the river where God was waiting. But that voice. With power, it worked into your heart. At once, you were lifted to the other side. Now you stand there, with God, believing in him, trusting in him. You live now, enjoying forgiveness. You’ve passed from death to life. Now you worship the Son who made it all possible. You praise him for his mercy. You give him credit for his power to grant you life. Your relationship with Christ determines the verdict. But you don’t have to wait for some trial in the future. You are not guilty, not condemned, right now in Jesus.

Time extends beyond today of course. How far we don’t know. Jesus knows. “A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” Jesus speaks of a Last Day, a Judgment Day. On that future day, tombs will be opened and graves will empty. All tombs and all graves. Believers and unbelievers too will be raised to life again. The voice of Jesus has that kind of power. He has this right, God made him the Judge. The time for marveling and wondering about this must come to an end though. The time for believing is now to escape the verdict of condemnation.

Living today, it can be hard to think of judgment. Besides it almost sounds like Jesus is judging us based on our works. So the more we concentrate on living a good life today the better off we’ll be when Judgment Day happens. That’s what we convince ourselves. If our works determine our eternity we better start to add up what we’ve got. Count all the doors we’ve held open or people on the side of the highway we’ve stopped for. Add the total given to charities. Consider all the flowers for loved ones and gifts purchased for birthdays. Keep going because it isn’t enough. We could add in how well we’ve worked at our school or job. Maybe throw in driving kids to practices and feeding them. But those are obligations. Wait, have we done enough? Are these good deeds even good enough? We pile up our good deeds and pin our hopes to them. The Judge on Judgment Day will rule. Not good enough. Not even counted. If we’re counting on good works to save us before God we should really be scared.

Everyone will have a life in eternity. Not all will be pleasant. What determines it for you? Why can you know eternal life will be joyful in heaven? You’re already justified. Before you were born Jesus carried the sins you would commit to the cross. He carried your guilt with him. He satisfied God’s demands for you. So your sins have already been judged. Jesus took the guilty verdict and was buried in a tomb. When he rose it was proof those sins, your sins, were all paid for. Since your sins have been judged, you won’t be judged. You’re not condemned. You’re connected to Christ. You believe in him.

Eternal life is yours today, but you’ll receive the full benefits of it in the future. You’ll rise to live. While you live here, now is the time for doing the good Jesus spoke of. Because you can look forward to the day of judgment without fear, there’s no reason to fear today. Without fear, knowing you’re going to be with God in heaven, that eternity is secure already for you, you can live. Good works can flow from you. They flow from your faith in Christ. They’ll naturally come. And when Judgment Day arrives Jesus will have those good things to point to as proof of the faith he worked in your heart.

His title may not be Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies. In fact its something much scarier. Jesus is the Judge. But you hear the Judge’s Word for life. Judgement comes on those who hear his voice. You who were once spiritually dead live now. You believe in Jesus as your Savior. You’re led to trust him. You’re prepared for the Last Judgment. An hour is coming when all people who have died will come alive. Then Jesus will point to your good deeds, not as what earns you eternal life, but what proves you belong in eternal life. Those works of faith are happening already. Worship the Son now and live in the Son for eternity.