Summary: A look at a challenging passage that indicates that when we refuse Jesus as Savior He will become our Adversary at judgment.
- These verses seem out of place. Why would Jesus end what He was saying here with talk about going to court? It doesn’t really seem to have much to do with the points He’s just made.
- When that happens (and it happens at multiple places in the gospels), the temptation is to either presume that the writer made a mistake or to just skip past it and keep going. In fact, that’s usually a good place to camp out and ask the difficult questions. Often, there are particularly rewarding insights there for the person who is willing to dig a little.
- It actually fits perfectly with the earlier points. It echoes ideas that Jesus started the sermon with, providing a nice coda. To see that, though, we need to unpack a couple things.
THE STRAIGHTFORWARD POINT: When you’re heading before a judge, reconcile if you can because your case may not be as strong as you think.
- In Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus talks about personal relationships. First, He tells people to watch out in letting their anger get the best of them. Second, He tells them that they should leave their gift at the altar if they remember that someone has something against them. Finally, He shares the same truth we see in Luke 12 – settle matters quickly with your adversary on the way to court or you might not get out until you have paid the last penny. In that context, it’s clearly a straightforward point: settle matters quickly on your way to court.
- This needs to be said because our tendency is to overestimate the righteousness of our case. We presume that all the evidence in our favor is weighty and everything that throws shade on us is easily dismissed. Karen sees this all the time in her job in magistrate court. People come in every day acting as though they’ve done nothing wrong when the evidence is heavily stacked against them. People are shocked and offended when the magistrate rules against them. Why? In part because it’s difficult to remove your self-interest from the case, dispassionately examine the evidence, and accurately assess your situation. We all like to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt.
- This is not something that we’re particularly good at obeying.
- As we move our attention back to Luke 12, we find Jesus saying pretty much the same words as Matthew 5, but the context is different. In Matthew 5, the context is interpersonal relationships; in Luke 12, the context is Final Judgment.
- This is key to understanding it correctly. It’s also key to finding that the statement fits perfectly with the rest of the chapter and makes a fitting conclusion.
A STARTLING QUESTION: Is Jesus the adversary?
- Luke 12:58.
- This is challenging to see, so let’s set the table by going back through Luke 12.
- We read in verses 2-3 that everything we do will be public at judgment. We read in verses 4-5 that God is the one to fear because He can send us to hell. We read in verses 8-9 that disowning God before people leads to God disowning us at Final Judgment. We read in verses 13-21 about being rich toward God when our soul meets God. We read in verses 35-48 about living ready to meet Jesus at any moment. We read in verses 54-56 about reading the signs of the times. The chapter is repeatedly and clearly about meeting Jesus face to face and being ready for Final Judgment.
- Now we come to the final two verses and we are confused because it seems like Jesus randomly inserts some teaching about interpersonal relationships in a way that doesn’t fit. Even though the teaching is similar to Matthew 5, the context is completely different – this time it’s Final Judgment.
- So what do these words have to do with Final Judgment?
- Well, let’s look at the verses in that context.
- We will one day all stand before the Judge in Final Judgment. To use Jesus’ term, we will all stand before the magistrate. We can say that is God the Father.
- How can we say Jesus is our adversary? I thought He was our Savior.
- Yes, He is our Savior, but only for those who reconcile with Him before Final Judgment, which is exactly what the analogy says.
- It’s a stark truth, but the One who now offers to be our Savior at Final Judgment will become our adversary at Final Judgment if we’ve rejected Him and His offer of salvation. It doesn’t mean that He hates us or wants to see us condemned. It does mean that what He did for us – showing the love of God through His sacrificial death – becomes a detriment to us if we refuse to accept “so great salvation.”