A couple of nights ago, I got to feeling low. I tried to fight it off. I tried to look at the good side of things. But the situation was just too heavy. The emotions were too big. And, just as I was feeling burdened by that, I got a text about another situation that discouraged me. Deep sigh. It was definitely one of those overwhelming times when I was tired and didn’t feel resiliant. I couldn’t shake the sense of foreboding.
God takes us on journeys, and my journey for the day had started earlier, with a study of Jesus’s statements on judgment in John 5. It’s going to seem like I’m completely changing subjects for awhile, but I’ll bring it back together at the end. Here are the verses I read:
- The Father judges no one, but has assigned all judgment to the Son so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father.
- I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.
- The time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment.
- I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will.
The context of these passages is that Jesus is answering the accusations of Jews that he was making himself equal with God. The first part of his answer, which we discussed in the last blog, is that he has the power of life. So yes, he can claim to be equal to God. The second part of his explanation is that God has designated him as the judge who will determine what happens to people’s souls after death. And that is what we’re discussing here.
It’s super sobering. I don’t think enough about Jesus being the judge. But other passages back this up:
- For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (II Cor. 5:10)
- For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. (Matt 16:17)
- “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” (Rev. 22:12)
As much as Jesus is the face of love and compassion, he’s also the face of accountability. We’re all going to come before him some day.
So it’s important that we look carefully at what Jesus says here. Let’s look at the main points from the passage:
- Jesus has been given all authority to judge.
- He is given this authority so that people will honor him.
- There will be a judgment, and at this judgment we will either be condemned, or have eternal life.
- The judgment will be based on our belief in Jesus, and on our deeds.
- The judgment will be conducted with the goal of pleasing God and doing his will.
What does this mean for us? It means that it doesn’t matter what we think about how we’ve lived. What matters in the end is what Jesus thinks.
This isn’t to ignore grace, or the fact that we can’t be saved through our own efforts. That’s a topic for another time.
But it’s imperative that we endeavor to have the behavior and faith that Jesus is looking for. I’m not talking about being good enough. I’m talking about discipleship. I’m talking about going to Jesus to learn how to follow him. And he wants to teach us. That’s why he came to earth and gave us truths and examples. That’s why why he gave us the indwelling of the Spirit. That’s why he promised that those who seek will find.
Jesus determines the end of our story. But he also wants our story to have a happy ending.
And this ties in with the rest of my journey a couple of days ago. When I was feeling low, I started watching a movie to distract me. I have a free week of Disney+ right now, so I streamed one of their offerings, “Saving Mr. Banks.” The movie was about someone else who was feeling low, PL Travers, who wrote Mary Poppins. Mrs. Travers was battling with the script writers at Disney over how the story of Mary Poppins would be portrayed in their film adaption. But the deeper battle was actually her fight to come to terms with the death of her father, who had many similarities to the character Mr. Banks. Although her father’s life had ended in tragedy, she wanted a better ending for Mr. Banks.
I enjoyed the film much more than I expected. In its touching close (spoiler alert!), the Disney script writers realized that the character Mary Poppins came to the family, not to save the children, but to save Mr. Banks. They changed the conclusion of the Mary Poppins movie to have Mr. Banks finally spend quality time with his family. The result is the scene which has moved the hearts of viewers through the ages. The Banks family goes to the park and sings, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.”
Mrs. Travers couldn’t control her father’s story. But she could write the ending she thought her father wanted. We can’t control all of the elements of our own story. But Jesus can write the ending we want. Just as Mrs. Travers believed the best about her father, Jesus believes the best about us.
So yes, we must be sober, and make every effort to follow Jesus, knowing we will face him and be accountable one day. But he stands ready, every day, to help us. He stands ready to “write” past the areas where we hit a wall.
Let’s put our hand in his each morning and let him guide us. As the lyrics of the song, he will take our paper and strings, and give us wings.
“With tuppence for paper and strings
You can have your own set of wings
With your feet on the ground
You’re a bird in a flight
With your fist holding tight
To the string of your kite.” (From the movie, “Mary Poppins”)