Was Jesus a Judge? (Not Yet But Hoping To Be)

Those famous lines of “judge not, lest you be judged” often make us think that Jesus never judged or passed judgment on anyone.

But flipping through the Bible, you will see images of Jesus as a judge.

Was Jesus a judge?

Jesus never had the official job as a judge, but he did make judgments. He also anticipated a time when he would sit among judges as the lead judge.

Short answer: Jesus was not a judge in Galilee. But there are times when people ask him to be a judge.

There are also times when he made judgements, both positive and negative, regarding people he met.

At times he tells stories about judges, courts and judging.  

All while thinking of a time when he would be a judge. Not a judge of a small court in Galilee but the court of the world. Telling his most devoted followers that they would one day be judges with him.

Yes, it’s worth giving some time to think about Jesus as a judge.

Jesus making Judgements.

Despite advising against judging, Jesus did judge those around him.

One time, a centurion shows a great level of faith in asking Jesus to heal his servants but explains that Jesus need not even come to his place because he could heal the man from where he was. Jesus judges that he has “not found such great faith even in Israel.” (Lk.7:1-10). That is an amazing judgement about the centurion.

Later, Jesus is visiting a Pharisee, and a “sinful woman” anoints and washes his feet with her tears and hair.  Jesus tells a parable to the shocked host and then comments that the man had judged correctly about the story correctly. Then he turns the conversation to the women and the situation at hand (Lk.7:36-50). Judging that what the women had done better than his host in welcoming him.

One sabbath day, Jesus was visiting a synagogue, and there was a man with a shrivelled hand there also. Sensing the thoughts of those around him. He asks what their judgement if it “is lawful to heal on the sabbath?” (Matt.12:9-14, Mk.3:1-6, Lk.6:6-11)

In Mark, Jesus becomes angry and distressed by their “stubborn hearts.” Clearly judging them for their attitudes.

When Jesus was accused of performing exorcisms by the power of Beelzebul. Jesus asks a riddle and ends it, commenting that the demons will be their judges (Matt.12:22-28, Lk.11:14-28).

Judging

That being said, Jesus claimed in John 8:12-20 not to judge anyone.

But earlier in John 5:30, he proclaims that he did judge, and his judgment was just.

Context explains more but does leave you wondering about Jesus’ judging.

Further on in John 12:47, Jesus claims he did not come to judge but to save.

As a whole, Jesus did judge others in his life, but John makes much bigger philosophical or theological claims about Jesus’ judging and words.

Jesus Not Wanting to be a Judge

In Luke 12:13-15 a man calls out for Jesus to make a judgement about his inheritance shared with his brothers.

Dividing Inheritance

Jesus retorts back, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”

Clearly, Jesus didn’t want to play judge in that situation.

But he did imagine a future when he would be judged.

Jesus Anticipating a Future Role as a Judge

During his life, Jesus never had an official job as a judge.

But there are a few times when he anticipates that one day he will be a judge.

The clearest is when he speaks of the “Son of Man” in the future, judging the actions of others (Matt.25:31-46). Going as far as speaking of him sitting on a throne while judging the nations.

In a similar vein, he promises the Twelve that one day they will be judges of Israel along with him (Matt.19:28, Lk.22:30).

Again, in John (5:22-23) Jesus claims that “the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.” Placing Jesus in the role of judging and being a judge.

A theme that is picked up by Christians later.

In 1 and 2 Corinthians, 1 Timothy and Revelation also speak of Jesus being a judge in the future.

Jesus Teaching about Judging

Jesus was not silent about judging others. Telling parables about judges while giving advice about judging others.

The most famous is “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matt. 7:1-2 similar in Lk.6:37).

But that was not Jesus’ only statement on judging.

In John 7:24, he says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”

Good advice for a judge or anyone for that matter.

In Luke 19 he tells a story about a man being judged by his own words. Like his warning in Matthew 7:2 that we will be judged by our own measure.

He also advises that you should try your best to make amends with someone before going to court before a judge (Matt.5:25). Being fearful that a judge will rule against you and things will only get worse with such judgement.

Resolve Before Going to a Judge

A very similar parable. I guess even Jesus rescued his examples sometimes. It’s the same story about fixing things on your way to the judge before you get there. But in Luke 12:54-59 Jesus places the thought in the context of the end of the world. Asking you to judge for yourself.

Would it be wiser to fix things up before you get to the judge or when you are in front of him?

Lastly, Jesus tells a story about a judge who just doesn’t care. But because of a widow constantly begging him for justice, he finally acts. Then throws out that we should pray the same (Matt.18:1-8).  

Conclusion about Jesus Being a Judge

You may have heard, “Judge not, lest you be judged.” Or whatever translation or loose paraphrase someone shot out.

But Jesus did make judgements about people and their actions. Judging what was right and what was not. Making judgements without being a judge.

Not having an official job as a judge. In fact, he pushed back when people tried to pull him into a judge role. But he did anticipate that sometime in the future, he would sit among judges. Sifting through the actions of others, determining if they were good or not. Separating the “sheep from the goats”.

Jesus wasn’t a judge when he lived, but he hoped one day to be one.

Ryan Nickel

Two loves of my life beyond my wife and 4 children are history and the person of Jesus. From childhood, I was captivated by history and still love reading and learning about the past. One life in particular that intrigues me in history is the person of Jesus. It's fascinating to think about how the course of human history was changed by a carpenter turned preacher. Both in our times and also in his. I attempt to process all I am learning about him through conversations, writing and shooting videos about the life and teachings of Jesus. With each word drawing me closer into his life. Ryan Nickel has been part of range of churches, including Baptist, Evangelical Free and Church of Christ. In 1999 I graduated from Peace River Bible Institute with a Bachelor of Religious Studies.

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