Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” John 7: 19
“Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” John 7: 22 – 23
Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” John 7: 51
I could not help but notice that Jesus had to defend Himself against unfair judgments. He was accused time and time again of breaking the law. Yet, the same people who judged Him, were the ones who were breaking the law and failed to notice it. Jesus asks them why are you trying to kill me when you are the ones breaking the law? He asks them again why are you so mad at me for apparently breaking the Sabbath by healing a man, when you also perform circumcisions on the Sabbath to keep the law of Moses? If I am breaking the Sabbath, then you are too. Jesus challenges their hypocritical legalistic attitudes towards the law.
Clearly the people have little insight into their own actions and can only see what they perceive Jesus is doing wrong. On that basis, as Nicodemus points out they have judged Him without even asking Him what He is doing. It is classic speck versus plank eye syndrome. (Matthew 7: 3-5). They do not realize that they have failed to judge Jesus’ actions in the context of His testimony and their own failings and if they had, they may have judged a little less harshly. “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 7:2)
It’s easy for me to stand back, judge someone and then feel better about myself because I did not break God’s law. It’s satisfying that I can go away and exalt myself for not doing what they did. I cannot count how many times I have judged someone from a distance without getting to know or ask them what they were doing or why and trying to put myself in their shoes. Furthermore, how many times have I criticized someone, only to find myself committing the same act a few days later? It all happens far too often.
It’s important to challenge ourselves daily about the snap judgments we make. It is equally important to be careful about the accusatory remarks or thoughts we have, without having enquired directly or tried to understand another person. We should try to listen to people with an understanding of our own failings as humans. When Jesus pointed out the people’s hypocrisy He said “do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). He was referring to the fact that they had failed to look at the full picture, which included their ‘law breaking actions’ too. Legalistic hypocritical judgments have no place in God’s law. Just as Jesus said that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2;27), “the Law was made for man, not man for the Law”.
I am realizing that I am continually seeing planks in my own eyes. The more planks I see and remove from my own eyes, the more spiritual insight I have. The more spiritual insight I have into my own failings, the more grace and love I can extend towards others.
You are worthy to be praised and we thank You for Your Grace, Love and Mercy. My prayer today is that we all look deeply into ourselves before we even begin to look at others. The process of removing planks from our eyes is endless but necessary. Help us not to judge others by appearance. We do not know what others are going through and even if we do, help us to be supportive. Even if we try to step into their shoes, we can never fully experience their pain or understand their decisions, so help us not to judge hypocritically or legalistically. Help us to judge righteously by seeing others through our own failings and in doing so, to extend love, grace and care towards them.
In Jesus’ Name