Jesus Told Them to Bring a Sword

We are meditating on the last instructive words of Jesus with His disciples the night before His crucifixion. Christ and His disciples have been reclining at the table together, and now, as the evening draws to a close, He begins to prepare them for His arrest:

35Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. 36He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” 38The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied (Luke 22:35-38).

The Lord reminds His disciples of the time He had sent them out to heal the sick and preach about the coming of the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:1-5). At that time, He had instructed them to take no bread, no staff, no bag or money, and no spare cloak. They would learn by experience that Christ truly can meet their every need as they go out in ministry. Now He instructs them to be prepared for any journey by taking money and a bag, and yes, even to buy a sword to defend themselves (v. 36), because they are about to experience opposition of the highest order, both natural and spiritual. The enemy, Satan and his demons, will throw at them all kinds of things to try and stop their preaching and the forward movement of God’s kingdom on earth. Each one of us as believers must decide within our own hearts how we are to interpret this passage, because previously the Lord had said:

39“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40“If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41“Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two (Matthew 5:39-41).

On this occasion, however, Jesus told the disciples to buy a sword. Was the sword to defend themselves against animals on the way, or to defend themselves against evil people? In saying that we should not resist an evil person, does that mean we should allow our families, or other innocents to be killed in front of us by those whose motive is to destroy us? I personally don’t think so. There may be times when as Christians we should be passive in the hope of stopping violence from escalating, but how far should this go? Should we not resist the “Adolf Hitler’s” of this world by taking action? At the beginning of the Second World War, when Neville Chamberlain came back to Britain with a signed letter of peace by Adolf Hitler, thank God for Winston Churchill who stood up against evil and spoke the truth, leading Britain to defend herself against that evil regime!

We can think of many examples in history when God used brave men and women to stand up against evil. When the disciples found two swords, Jesus said to them, “It is enough.” Some commentators say that the Lord was saying this out of exasperation, that He had heard enough of ideas that were contrary to His teaching. If that was the case, why did He allow Peter to even carry a sword into the Garden of Gethsemane? Jesus knew that they had swords, and we know that Peter tried to defend the disciples by striking the high priest’s servant, and cutting off his ear (Luke 22:50). In my opinion, He was saying two swords would be sufficient for His disciples to defend themselves. Jesus clearly did not want them to pursue violence, and He did heal the high priest’s servant, but it could be that He also wanted the disciples to be able to protect themselves if needed. Otherwise, why would He tell them to sell their cloak in order to buy a sword (v. 36)? Jesus knew they were taking swords into the garden and even encouraged it, although He did not carry one. It was clear that the Lord knew His time had come for Him to be delivered into the hands of evil men in order to fulfill His Father’s ultimate plan of redemption.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 60, Jesus at Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-53). Keith Thomas

Who Had the Place of Honor at the Last Supper?

We are continuing our meditation of the last Passover meal that Jesus and His disciples had the night before He was crucified (Scroll down for yesterday’s thoughts). As they were all reclining around the table, the Lord spoke about the one who would betray Him:

21But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him.” 23They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this (Luke 22:14-23).

It is John who gives us more information on this part of the conversation:

21After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” 22His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” 25Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon (John 13:21-26).

Each of them were bewildered as to who it was. None of them were suspicious of Judas until Jesus revealed it to John at the table. We are told that John was reclining at Jesus’ right, with his head leaning against Jesus’ chest (John 13:25). This was not the place of highest honor; the person to the left of Jesus was granted that seat, he toward whom Jesus had His back turned. It is doubtful that Peter was in the place of honor since Peter could only whisper to John to ask Jesus who the betrayer was (John 13:24). We can’t be certain, but it is likely that Judas was seated in the place of highest honor at the table to the left and back of Christ. It would have been difficult for Christ to reach any other part of the table if He was reclining on His left elbow and side. With His left elbow on the mattress, Jesus reached onto the table and dipped His bread into the dish and gave it to Judas. This explains why Judas, out of earshot of the others, could say to Christ, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered “Yes, it is you” (Matthew 26:25). Judas had managed to seat himself at the position of honor to the left of Christ. I wonder how Peter felt about Judas being in the place of honor to the left of Jesus.

God will often put His servants through the test of Promotion. If you have ever wanted to be used of God in a way that brings life to others, you will be tested by others getting promoted over you. They will be noticed and thrust forward, seemingly leaving you behind. How you respond to this test reveals a lot about your character. Can you trust God when others are being promoted ahead of you? Do you promote and push yourself forward? Promotion comes from the Lord. “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men” (Proverbs 18:16). This test is one of the most difficult to experience for one whose passionate desire is to be used of God. The servant of God is often left on the shelf as a test of his character. The arrow that God wants to use in ministry runs straighter when it is left longest in the quiver:

He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away (Isaiah 49:2-3).

Are you still in the quiver waiting for God to use you? The wood of the arrow must go through many straightening and hardening tests before it can be used effectively by the Heavenly Archer. I pray that you would come through the character tests and serve Him faithfully.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 59. The Last Supper (Luke 22:7-34). Keith Thomas

The New Covenant Signed in Blood

We are continuing to meditate on the drama of the Passover meal (scroll down for earlier meditations) that Jesus ate with His disciples the night before His crucifixion, and the giving of His life as an atonement for sin:

 14When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” 17After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:14-20).

Jesus said that He eagerly desired to eat this Passover with His friends and loved ones. Companionship is one of the greatest gifts of God when one is about to go through something painful. The Lord knew that, within a few hours, He would be crucified and the disciples would all fall away due to the pressure of the moment. This evening meal would be an opportunity to teach the disciples some of the things close to His heart that they should understand. A small group is the church in microcosm. Never underestimate the power of being in relationship with others when hard times come. We need one another. God never designed for us to live apart from friends and family. He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). It is part of our DNA to have others around us and to be in true relationship to share our burdens and trials.

When He broke the bread, He told them that His body was given to them. He did not say that it was broken for them because the bones of the Passover lamb were not to be broken (Exodus 12:46; Psalm 34:20). The other two that were crucified with Christ had their bones broken to hasten death before evening, but the bones of Jesus were not broken on the cross. Then, He talked about His blood being the blood of the New Covenant that would deliver them from the bondage of Satan and deliver them from the curse of sin and the world system. Solemn covenants were sealed by blood. With the New Covenant, it would not be the blood of a substitute animal, but the blood of God made flesh.

In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you (Luke 22:20).

For more than five hundred years, the Israelites had waited for what the prophet Jeremiah had spoken concerning a new covenant that God would initiate with His people:

31“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

A covenant is a formal agreement of legal validity solemnly binding on the parties that enter into agreement with one another. The Old Covenant between God and the Israelites was made at the foot of Mount Sinai, and it was not made without blood (Exodus 24:6-8). This covenant that we enter into with God promises that the Lord will walk with us and that His presence will “Passover” us. When we say “yes” to Jesus Christ, we are entering a formal covenant with Him. Our part of the covenant is to walk in faithful obedience to Him. God’s part is to walk with us and to always be our God. He has given many conditional promises that go along with this covenant. We are just to ask Him. Have you entered into the New Covenant yet? Isn’t it time?

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 59. The Last Supper (Luke 22:7-34). Keith Thomas

Why Did Judas Betray Christ?

24Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” 25Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. 27As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him (John 13:24-27).

There has been much speculation as to the motive of Judas in betraying Jesus, prompting questions, such as “If Satan was the instigator, was Judas really at fault?” Another question is, “If all that happened was meant to be and Jesus knew that Judas would betray him, then did Judas have a choice in the matter?” Furthermore, “Did Judas truly repent and receive forgiveness for what he did?”

Although we may not be certain of these answers, we will examine some of the possibilities. First, we are told in Luke 22:3 that “Satan entered Judas, one of the twelve.” Does that mean his actions were totally controlled by the enemy, and if so, was Judas culpable (at blame) for his actions? Even the most demonized person in the Bible, the man of Gadara in whom the evil demon called itself Legion, was still able to run toward Jesus as soon as he saw Christ (Mark 5). If the demon was in full control, he would have run away from the Lord. No, all of us are responsible for the wrong actions and motives we undertake. None of us will be able to say in the Day of Judgment that Satan made us sin. As to Judas’ repenting, Jesus said, “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24).

Judas could not hide his treachery from the Lord. He was very good at looking like a believer, doing the same things, attending the same meetings, dishing out bread to the hungry, but at the core of his heart, there had been no change wrought in that inner place at the center of his life. Jesus made it clear about the need for an inner change, saying, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Judas had been with Christ for more than three years. In that time, he had seen much evidence of Who Jesus was, yet his heart had grown darker as he hardened his heart to the Spirit’s promptings. In fact, in one place Jesus calls Judas the embodiment of the devil: “Then Jesus replied, ‘Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!’” (John 6:70). The Lord knew early on in His ministry just where Judas’ heart was:

“Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him (John 6:64).

Can I ask you, dear reader, do you really believe—are you trusting Christ with your life? Or is it all a sham in front of others? Only you and the Lord know the true answer to that question. You need a change in your inner person—you must be born-again or born from above (John 3:3).

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 58. (Luke 22:1-6). The Betrayal of Jesus. Keith Thomas