The paradoxical nature of judgment in the Gospel of Matthew

The paradoxical nature of judgment in the Gospel of Matthew

Peter J. Leithart, PhD., President of Theopolis Institute in Birmingham, Alabama, recently spoke about Jesus’ judgment of the world, elaborating on a passage from his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, in a recent episode of Church of the Redeemer’s biweekly podcast, Redeemer Talk.

In his commentary, Jesus as Israel: The Gospel of Matthew Through New Eyes, Volume Two, published by Athanasius Press, Leithart writes that Christians need to enrich our understanding of what it means for Jesus to judge the world:

“He judges by rewarding the faithful and condemning the unfaithful. There is a final judgment to come. But the Son of Man’s judgment takes a more paradoxical form as well. The judgment rendered by the Son of Man looks like the judgment of the Son of Man.

“When Jesus is on the cross, it looks as if He is the one condemned, but the reality is that the world has condemned itself by putting Him there. That is how we participate in Jesus’ judgment of the world.

“We often think that we participate in Jesus’ judgment of the world when we take mastery, when we are elevated and when we can stomp on those who have stomped on us. Retribution is real, and good. God is a God of justice. But we should not think that is the beginning of our sharing in Jesus’ judgment….

“So when you go back to the foot of the mountain, expect to participate in Jesus’ paradoxical judgment of the world. That oppressive boss, who is just looking out for an opportunity to screw you, he is the world to you; and if you suffer his injustices with patience and faithfulness, doing good in return to evil, you are judging the world by hanging with Jesus on the cross. That overbearing husband or nagging wife, who has grown to hate the sight of you, he or she is the world to you; if you turn the other cheek and return good for evil, you are judging the world by hanging with Jesus on the cross.

“Whatever faults Constantine had, he had at least this insight: the cross is a sign of Christ’s victory not a sign of His defeat. We are witnesses, martyrs, when we suffer faithfully with Jesus.”

~ Peter J. Leithart, Jesus as Israel: The Gospel of Matthew Through New Eyes, Volume Two (West Monroe, Louisiana: Athanasius Press), page 86.

You can find Volume One of Leithart’s commentary on the Gospel of Matthew here.

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