Read John 7:19-24 (ESV)
“Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
What does it mean to “judge with right judgment”?
“Don’t judge me!” Chances are, you’ve heard someone say that. People love to quote Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1 when He said, “Judge not, that you be not judged '' to prove that people shouldn’t make moral judgments. Yet, people often judge Christians as too judgmental for making moral judgements that they disagree with. You see, people make judgments all the time. It’s impossible to never judge. In fact, in many cases, it’s downright foolish and sometimes even dangerous not to judge.
As a parent, it is wise for me to make judgments in order to keep my family safe. No, they can’t watch that movie because of its explicit content. Yes, they can hang out at that friend’s house because I know and trust his parents. I don’t always make the right judgment calls but I do seek to judge rightly because there can be serious consequences when I make the wrong call. When we read Scripture in context, we see that is what Jesus was getting at. He urged His listeners to judge correctly.
In today’s verses, Jesus was continuing to address the Jewish leaders at the temple. Yesterday, we’d read that they had questioned His authority to teach and Jesus said that His authority came straight from the Father. But Jesus knew that they still hated Him. He knew their hearts and He knew they wanted to kill Him. Jesus essentially said to them, since you guys love the law so much, why are you trying to kill me? Isn’t murder against Moses’ law? In response to this, they falsely accused Him of being demon-possessed.
So Jesus gave them another example of their hypocrisy. Remember when Jesus’ healed the paralytic in John 5:1-15? The Jewish leaders took issue with Jesus because He healed a man on Sabbath. But Jesus pointed out that they circumcise baby boys on the Sabbath all the time. The law said baby boys should be circumcised on the eighth day. But if a baby was eight days old on the Sabbath, what should they do, break the Sabbath law or break the circumcision law? The Jews judged that they should break the Sabbath for something as important as obeying God’s command to circumcise on the eighth day. And yet, when Jesus did something as important as healing a man who had been paralyzed for years and restoring him to wholeness, they were so mad at Him that they wanted to kill Him! Couldn’t they see their own hypocrisy?
That is why Jesus appealed to them to judge rightly rather than superficially and hypocritically. They were wrong about whether or not Jesus should have healed a suffering man on the Sabbath. But even more consequential than that, they were wrong about Jesus Himself. They had misjudged Him and there are serious consequences for making the wrong call when it comes to identifying the Messiah. Jesus wasn’t admonishing the Jewish leaders for making moral judgments. He was rebuking because they weren’t judging rightly.
So what is the right way to judge? Jesus urged them to judge without hypocrisy and to use discernment. In other words, judge by the spirit of the law rather than the letter. Use spiritual discernment. He also said in verse 24, “Do not judge by appearances”. So don’t make superficial judgments without looking into the issue deeper. Friends, it is dangerous to never make judgments. If we don’t judge, how could we ever identify false teaching vs true teaching or good vs evil? We must make judgments. But we must judge rightly.
Lord, I ask for wisdom. Help me to learn to judge rightly. Show me the plank in my own eye before I attempt to remove the speck from my brother’s eye (Matthew 7:1-5). But I also pray that you would give me spiritual discernment so that I can determine what is true and good vs. what is false and evil. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
If you found value in this post, please share your comments, questions, and prayers with us!