A sermon based on John 5:19-30
Sunday, November 8, 2015 – Last Judgment Sunday
The sweat was beading on his forehead. It felt like it was 95 degrees in the room, but he knew it was just his nerves. Then when he heard those two little words, he jumped to his feet. Literally. He knew he'd better… or else. "All rise!" the bailiff cried as the judge enters the room. "The honorable Judge residing." And the defendant grew even more nervous at the intimidating man in his robe that represented his office and his authority. This was the man in charge. There was no jury today. The judge himself would determine the defendant's innocence or guilt. The judge would dole out the punishment if he thought the defendant guilty. The man's fate, his freedom or his pain, would be determined the that single man—The Judge.
And that defendant, is you. It's me. The scene just described will take place for each of us, not in a county court house, but in God's court of law. And the judge is, of course, Jesus himself. He will come to judge the living and the dead and the angels will be his bailiffs. When they sound his appearing, all will rise, quite literally! We will all rise to meet our Judge. Even the dead will all rise and come back to life to be judged. But maybe we're not quite like that defendant in the opening scenario, because we don't need to have sweat bead on our foreheads at that thought. We don't need to be nervous. Because we know that when our Judge comes, we will be acquitted of all charges. We, who believe in Jesus' work for us, will all rise to go be with him in heaven.
Our text for this Last Judgment Sunday is taken from John 15:19-30…
19 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
24 "I tell you the truth, 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. 25 I tell you the truth, 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. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
28 "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
I. All Rise to Face their Judge
Opening verse of our text says, "Jesus gave them this answer…" because the Jews were persecuting him for raising a crippled man to his feet on the Sabbath Day—a day of rest. Jesus answer was that the Father was working every day and so the Son of God would continue to do his work on even the Sabbath. They ignored the miracle that proved his divinity, and tried to kill him for healing a man on a Saturday!
You see, they didn't want to have Jesus as their Savior. He wasn't the kind of Savior they were looking for. They didn't want a Savior from sin. They didn't think they needed that. They wanted a Savior from poverty, from sickness, from boredom. They wanted a Savior from the Romans. And when the realized that Jesus would be all those things and do what they thought he should, they had no need of him. They wanted to rise up to sit in judgment over Jesus. And they considered him guilty—of working on the Sabbath, of blaspheming by making himself equal with God. And the penalty they thought he deserved: Death. "He must die."
But Jesus made it clear that one day soon they would see with their own eyes and know for certain that Jesus had authority over the Sabbath. In fact, he has authority over all things and over all people. He would rise to sit in judgment over them.
"You're angry because I raised a cripple? Well, know that one day I will raise everyone! Even all the dead! You want to sit in judgment over me? Well, know that one day I will rise sit in judgement over you and all who have ever lived or ever will live! You want to put me to death? Well, know that unless you repent, you will rise to face eternal death in hell."
Friends, do we sometimes think we can rise up to sit in judgment over Jesus? Do you get upset with him when he lets a family member get sick? When he allows fights to break out at school or home? When he doesn't give you the government you want to have or the blessings that you feel entitled to? When he won't rescue you from poverty, from sickness, from boredom? Do you ever think, "Savior from sin?! That's not the kind of Savior I want!" Do you consider the Son of God guilty of not running things your way?
Friends, we have all acted at times as if we were judge over God, have raised ourselves over him, and thought our judgments were best. Every time we sin, that's exactly what we do! But you know that that's completely backwards! We know that we too must all face our Judge on the Last Day. He will cry "All rise!" and all will rise—the living and the dead—to face their Judge and give account for what they've done. You know that "those who have done evil will rise to be condemned."
And now a bead of sweat might righty appear on our foreheads. For we know that we have not always honored the Son and in doing so we have not honored the Father. We have rebelled against the very one who will pass eternal judgment on our souls. And we know that his judgment is absolutely just. We know that we deserve to be damned to an eternal death as a fair penalty for our sin. We know we deserve to rise to be condemned; to rise before the Judge only to descend to the pits of hell.
Ah… but you also know that we will not get what we deserve…
II. All Believers Rise to Glory
Jesus certainly did lay into those who were persecuting him and plotting his death because they judged him to be a poor Savior. But he didn't lay into them just to prove he was right or just to get them off his back. I don't think his tone was angry here. But I believe he was earnestly pleading with them that he might raise them up.
Over and over again he told them, "I tell you the truth… I tell you the truth… I tell you the truth…" He was pleading with them to stop listening to satan's lies that they should be the judge, but to listen to the truth. He was pleading with them to listen to him and to believe him because… "I tell you the truth, 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."
And Jesus did go on to prove his divinity to the Jews to remove all doubt. He didn't just raise cripples to their feet, he rose dead Lazarus back to life to prove that he was God just as he said: "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it."
And when he knew that we needed rescuing from our sin and from death, he rose to the occasion and volunteered for the job. He rose the bar of obedience and lived a perfect life for us just as he said: "He can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." We get the credit for all he did.
Then he was raised up on the cross to pay for our sin. And as true God, his death on the cross was enough to pay for the whole sins of all humankind of all time. The death of the God-man raised the other end of the scale—of all our sins—so high that they've been completely removed.
Then he rose again from the dead to give us the proof that all of our sins are forgiven. He sent his Holy Spirit to give us faith in these things so that we believe them to be true. And now we know the verdict the Judge will give us when he comes: "Not guilty. For I have paid for their sin." And so we will all rise to life on Judgment Day.
"I tell you the truth, 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.
You and I already have been raised from the dead. Spiritually we have already crossed over from death to life by the work of the Son. And though we may physically die, we will all rise and come back to life. And on that great and glorious day, when our bodies are raised from the dead, we will all rise to be with him in his heaven.
And right now, because of all that he's done, we will all rise to the occasion whenever an opportunity to serve him presents itself. Like those in the courtroom all rise to show honor to the judge, we will all rise above temptations and above our sinful desires. We will all rise to honor the Judge of all by making sure that others have a better defense than, "I tried my best" when Judgment Day comes as we tell them about how the Judge of all also became the Savior of all as he paid the penalty we all owe that we might all be declared "Not guilty!" Then those who believe the truth that we share with them will join us when we all rise to sing our eternal praise to the honor and glory of our God. In Jesus' name dear friends, amen.