Saturday, January 12, 2008

Buying a Sword, 2

Continued from "Buying a Sword"

At this point, everyone agrees (don't you?) that when Jesus told his disciples, "he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one," He meant for them to arm themselves. Therefore, we may now address the question of why He said this. I see three possible interpretations here.
  1. He wanted the disciples to defend Him against capture and crucifixion;
  2. He wanted the disciples to go on a mission of conquest to convert the heathen at the point of the sword;
  3. He wanted the disciples to use weapons defensively against attack.
The first option is absolutely excluded by Jesus' reaction when Peter used his sword at the scene of Jesus' arrest. The Lord rebuked him, told him to put up his sword, and then He restored the ear which the overzealous disciple had sliced from the head of Malchus. Jesus obviously did not want His disciples to defend Him or in any way keep Him from the death that would accomplish their redemption.

The second option, bringing the world into Christ's fold through violent conquest, may suit the religion of Mohamed, but it is not the strategy which Jesus gave to His disciples. The Gospel of Matthew, which culminates in the Great Commission, is replete with strategy and tactics. We may summarize the program of Christ in this manner: 1) Gospel words and 2) Gospel deeds. There is not hint of approval for methods involving violence or intimidation.

This leaves the third option: that Jesus was warning the disciples of possible violence. As they proceeded on their mission of peace, there would be robbers and perhaps even assassins who might attack them. Although their overall strategy was one of peaceful words and deeds, He gave them permission to meet violent attack with righteous force.

This interpretation is the obvious one in the context of the exhortation to carry a purse and scrip on their mission. It also is the only option I can think of that holds up to the greater context of Jesus' life and mission. As a commentator, Albert Barnes was not one to overlook the obvious. Concerning Luke 22:36-38, he concluded:

All, therefore, that the passage justifies is:
  1. That it is proper for people to provide beforehand for their wants, and for ministers and missionaries as well as any others.
  2. That self-defense is lawful.
Men encompassed with danger may lawfully “defend” their lives. It does not prove that it is lawful to make “offensive” war on a nation or an individual.

If you are a Christian Martialist, you should settle in your mind exactly what Jesus was saying, and you should also decide exactly how you will apply this passage to your own life.

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