Judging with Right Judgment

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (v. 24).

- John 7:14–24

Six months or so before the brothers of Jesus implored Him to go up to the Feast of Booths and do signs, He escaped a crowd that attempted to force Him into leading a revolution against Rome (John 6:15). That is likely one of the reasons why our Lord did not initially follow His brothers’ wishes but told them that His time to go up for the feast had not yet arrived (7:8). Due to the speculation about His ministry (vv. 10–13), it seems He did not want to cause a stir among those who had false expectations about the Messiah. He would enter the public eye on His terms, not theirs.

That could not have been the only reason Jesus did not go to the feast at first, for Jesus eventually traveled to Jerusalem and taught publicly in the temple (v. 14). Surely, He would not have done this if His concern was solely to avoid encouraging false messianic expectations. The only explanation is that Jesus went up for the Feast of Booths when He did because of His commitment to doing His Father’s will (6:38), and God directed Him when to go up to Jerusalem.

Jesus astonished the audience in the temple with His learning and authority that could not have come from any formal theological training (7:15). In response, Jesus stressed again that His teaching belonged not to Him alone but to the Father and that those who want to do the will of God will recognize the truth of His teaching, stressing also His commitment to the glory of God (vv. 16–18). But the crowd did not want to do God’s will, for they did not want to keep God’s law, and the proof of that was that people wanted to kill Jesus (v. 19).

This surprised the crowd, for they said they were not trying to kill Him. In the main that was likely correct, at least at that time. But a temple crowd would have included Jewish authorities who sought His life (see 5:18). Christ knew that the leaders were angry with Him for healing the paralyzed man on the Sabbath (7:21, 23), and that anger would ultimately crucify Him.

The irony, of course, was that they justified their hatred of Christ by appealing to His supposed breaking of the law when, in fact, they “broke” the law because they performed the work of circumcision on the eighth day even when that day fell on the Sabbath (vv. 22–23). Neither Jesus nor His opponents were actually breaking the law, of course. His point was that if they were willing to do good on the Sabbath, they were rendering false judgment on Him by getting angry when He did good on the Sabbath (v. 24).

Coram Deo

Matthew 7:24 tells us that Jesus’ words, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” cannot mean that all of our judgments are wrong. Instead, Jesus wants us not to make wrong judgments. Let us not apply standards to others that we do not apply to ourselves. The religious authorities were guilty of using such inconsistent standards. By seeking to apply God’s law justly and holding others to the same standard to which we hold ourselves, we can judge with right judgment.

Passages for Further Study

Leviticus 19:15
Matthew 7:1–5

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