All things have been handed over to me by my Father … (Mt 11:27)
In the Old Testament, the LORD, YHWH is described in terms of both Judge and Savior. Psalm 75:7 states, “it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another;” and in Isaiah 2:4, “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples.” In the Old Testament, God commonly pronounces, “woe” upon both the nations and His people (Numbers 21:29, Isaiah 3:9-11, Jeremiah 13:27, Ezekiel 24:6-9) as an exclamation of doom and pity for the great suffering that the people bring upon themselves in judgment. John 5:22-27 tells us that the authority to execute judgment has been entrusted to the Son of man. Taking the role of Judge, in verses 20-24 of Matthew chapter 11, Jesus employs “woes” against the general rejection of His Messiahship within cities and towns where He has demonstrated much grace and mercy. Because the people of Korazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum received and rejected a clear, dramatic and personal revelation of Jesus Christ, there will be a greater accountability and stricter judgment looming on them, than even the worst and most sinful of pagan cities. The principle of Luke 12:47-48, that “to whom much is given, much is required,” is true; the people of God are held to a higher standard than the world, as 1 Peter 4:17 states, “Judgment begins in the house of the Lord.”
The LORD, YHWH is not only described as a Judge, but as a Savior. In Isaiah 43:11, God proclaims, “I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.” Likewise in Hosea 13:4, “you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior.” Like the role of Judge was given to Christ, so is the role of Savior given to Him. Among the masses of people who reject Christ, there are some, chosen by Jesus, who sense their need of Him; it is these who, weary and burdened by their sin, come to Jesus and do not find “woe” but salvation and rest.
As we have seen before and will see again in this Gospel, Matthew reveals Jesus as both Judge and Savior – often side by side. Faithful expository preaching will not neglect either role of the Messiah. Ultimately we preach Christ as Savior, but salvation means little outside of the context of the judgment we all deserve. Faithful exposition of Matthew reveals Christ as Judge of the smug and Savior of the penitent.