Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Little More From Sunday

This past week I offered a sermon taken from Luke 22:36-38 in which Jesus talks to the disciples about purchasing swords.  It is a difficult passage because it seems to not be in keeping with Jesus' other teachings and actions.  Does Jesus advocate violence in this passage?

No he doesn't.  As I pointed out in the sermon, Jesus' words at the end of the passage, "It is enough," are to be understood as saying, "Enough!  Enough talk about swords!" The words are not an affirmation but a dismissal that points to the disciples not understanding his point.

So when Jesus dismisses the idea of the two swords, he is also stating that he does not want to advocate violence on his behalf.  That comes out clearly just a few verses later when the arresting party comes for Jesus, the disciples ask, "Lord, shall we strike with the sword?"  And then one of them will strike and cut off the right ear of the servant of the high priest.  Jesus will respond by saying "No more of this!"

Jesus, in 22:36-38 is telling the disciples that they are about to be on their own and he is concerned for their well being.  He has also, in the larger chapter setting, been trying to tell them that the power of evil has tremendous influence upon us.  We must stand up against it.  But fighting against evil does not necessarily mean to take up arms.  One need only look at Martin Luther King, Gandhi, or more to the point, Jesus.  When the forces of darkness take up arms against Jesus, he does not and he rebukes the disciples for doing so.

However, Jesus is also telling his disciples that they may have to defend themselves.  Defense is acceptable if there is no other alternative, but violence on behalf of Jesus?  Unacceptable.  That's Jesus' point.  He isn't there to foster a bloody revolution.  His message and his mission are in stark contrast to the violent policies of the Roman Empire.  Yet understanding that the setting in which they live is full of potential violence, Jesus' words in 22:36-38 are to tell the disciples to be prepared for adversity - from clothing to swords.  The swords, though, are not to be used in the service of Christ.

A fine line, to be sure, but a clear one.  Jesus does not advocate violence.  He does want his disciples to be careful and prepared, but preparedness does not mean to act with force in his name as the later Christian movement would do in actions such as the Crusades.

This is a difficult passage, especially when taken out of context.  So I encourage you to study the scriptures carefully.  I try to do that when presenting a sermon, especially one from such a passage as this.  But it is something we also try to do when we study together on Wednesday nights.  Come and join us as we delve into the sacred texts together.  Who knows what else there is to find!

- Pastor Charles

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