That Judgment Thing 4… Putting Justice on Trial

"Woman Holding a Balance" by Johannes Vermeer
“Woman Holding a Balance” by Johannes Vermeer

“I came that they may have life…” John 10:10

Matt. 15: 21-28

There was a Canaanite woman who came to Jesus once for help. Jesus replied that his ministry was to Israel, not to outsiders.


He turned her away accordingly.


She might have just walked away sad like a certain ruler (Luke 18: 18-29), but the woman responded that “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”


Jesus, delighted, remarked at this and disregarding the law, helped her according to her request.


With his miracles, Jesus undoes the physical handicaps of God’s wrath. And without condition. But if he came just to do that, he could have waved his arms for the whole world at once.

But that’s not what he came to do. He came that we might “have life” (John 10:10).  And this “life” means to “know him” (John 17:3).

And to know him demands personal engagement.


That Judgment Thing 3… Proof of God

"Woman Holding a Balance" by Johannes Vermeer
“Woman Holding a Balance” by Johannes Vermeer

“…lest you be judged.” Matt. 7: 1-2

If someone judges me but I don’t hear them, it has no bearing on me at all. If someone judges me and I hear them but don’t care, it still has no bearing on me. But if someone judges me, I hear them and take it to heart, it will affect me every time it comes to mind.

If I cast the judgment, I’ve already accepted it as true for myself. But if judgments are cast upon me, they must be received as true to have an effect. So while I may judge others and people may judge me, I really can only judge myself.

Sticks and stones…

Jesus brought up judgment at the end of a speech that kicked off his ministry. We call the speech the Sermon on the Mount*, and it sums up all Jesus would do and say the next three years. Very much the opening statement in a trial, he walked his listeners back through time to the beginning–from their present condition under the law, through sin and its consequences to this judgment statement. Contrasting the world with heaven throughout, Jesus would close with two trees and the fruit they bear. It’s a narrow portal to enter the kingdom of heaven, he said. It was also a narrow portal to enter this kingdom of the world. One tree in the middle of a vast garden.

Small things can cause much grief.

One reason I have come to like this Vermeer painting so much. It shows a woman with a scale caught between two worlds. In front of her are worldly values that she would weigh. Behind her, a painting of the last judgment – the final weighing of value. But the woman’s scale is empty. And it’s such a delicate thing.

The point of decision.

Like the tiny scale in the woman’s hand, while its consequences are great, judgment is such a small thing that we hardly notice. But point it out (“Don’t eat from the tree,” God said), and we’ll begin to see its impact.

Better not do it, we’ll think as a result.  A noble experiment.

Go ahead and try.

But Jesus didn’t simply point out the dilemma. He would carry this court case of judgment to the finish.  And take on its consequences.

All the while saying, “follow me, believe me, trust me…know me.”

Because we can’t give up judgment by simply not judging. We can only give it up by forsaking it and turning to something else entirely.

“But judgment is for both good and evil. That would leave me empty, and with only faith to continue!” I protest.

Precisely his point.


*For more discussion on the Sermon on the Mount, go here.