And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And he who sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has bidden me.” (John 12:44-50; highlighted is 12:46-47)
As I was talking to a friend about my mother-in-law, Jane Wend, who died on Saturday, my friend asked, with the best intentions in the world, “Was she a believer?” I was taken aback a bit; I never quite know how to answer this question. On the one hand, knowing someone is a believer is a great comfort; Jesus came to save the world, and his followers are promised eternal life, and the the entry requirement is to believe in Jesus, all of which our passage states. On the other, Jesus himself says he does not judge the world; what right do we have to make such judgments? Especially when, in other places, we are told to “judge not.”
When my own mother died over a decade ago, I remember giving thanks to God for God’s giving her the ability to choose; for God’s essential fairness and graceful attitude towards us in our frailty.
It’s a great relief to be able to let go of a need to judge others’ essential, eternal state–especially, I must say, to let go of judging one’s own family! Jesus says that the word he speaks will be the judge on the last day. I don’t think I understand exactly what that means. But Jesus came as light into the world, and I believe that everyone will either be drawn to, or shrink from, that light.
(The title is a list of the “four last things” which traditionally are subjects appropriate for advent sermons).