Thursday, August 25, 2011

Luke 22: It Is Enough

Some portions of Scripture are confusing. I am incredibly thankful that the gospel message itself is abundantly clear. This passage ranks among the most confusing to me. Perhaps a kind theology professor reading this some day can offer a good explanation:
And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”
(Luke 22:35-38 ESV)
While I appreciate study Bible notes, I didn't feel particularly helped by the ESV Study Bible's Notes (apologies to Justin Taylor: it's nothing personal).
Luke 22:35–36 Earlier in his ministry, Jesus sent his disciples out with no moneybag (see 9:3; 10:4).moneybag … knapsack. Now, however, they will need extra provisions and supplies. let the one who has no sword … buy one. Many interpreters take this to be a metaphorical statement commanding the disciples to be armed spiritually to fight spiritual foes (cf. Eph. 6:10–17). In favor of this view: (1) In Luke 22:38 the disciples misunderstand Jesus' command and produce literal swords (v. 38); on this view, Jesus' response that “It is enough” is a rebuke, saying essentially, “Enough of this talk about swords.” (2) Just a few minutes later Jesus will again prohibit the use of a literal sword (vv. 49–51; cf. Matt. 26:51–52John 18:10–11). Others take this as a command to have a literal sword for self-defense and protection from robbers. In support of this view: (a) The moneybag and knapsack and cloak in this same verse are literal, and so the sword must be taken literally as well. (b) Jesus' response that “It is enough” (Luke 22:38) actually approves the swords the disciples have as being enough, and Jesus' later rebuke in vv. 49–51 only prohibits them from blocking his arrest and suffering (cf. John 18:11), that is, from seeking to advance the kingdom of God by force. (c) The very fact that the disciples possess swords (Luke 22:38) suggests that Jesus has not prohibited them from carrying swords up to this point (cf. John 18:10–11), and Jesus never prohibited self-defense (see note on Matt. 5:39). Both views have some merit. See note on Luke 22:49–51.
I don't think this passage has anything to do with self-defense, whether Jesus' words are to be taken literally or metaphorically. In my opinion, Jesus is not spiritualizing these swords [point (2c) is a good refutation of view (1) in the ESVSB notes] or offering doctrine on the use of weapons--that idea is very disconnected from the flow of the narrative.

I do not pretend to have the answer, but I would like to point out a few things that I see as I read this passage. I think the entire paragraph hinges on Jesus saying, "For what is written about me has its fulfillment." Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17), and starting with the Triumphal Entry, event after event is a Christological fulfillment of various prophesies.

It would seem that the swords represent part of the fulfillment Jesus speaks, but what that fulfillment precisely is difficult to understand.

Jesus is the Suffering Servant

I believe one purpose may have been Jesus' final pre-resurrection demonstration of his earthly ministry. The Gospel of Mark has a heavy focus on this theme. Throughout Jesus' ministry, the disciples kept misunderstanding what the Messiah would accomplish. They thought he would be a revolutionary that would free Israel from political bondage. Many times the disciples tried to encourage Jesus to take the kingdom by force, but Jesus kept reminding them that he came to suffer and die (and free his people in a far superior way). They did not understand this until after the resurrection.

This theme of the Messiah as Suffering Servant is well known from Isaiah 53. Indeed, the quote that Jesus explicitly references (Luke 22:37) as being fulfilled is from Isaiah 53:12. So, it seems possible that Jesus is turning his disciples eyes from Conquering King (which he is) to Suffering Servant. It can't be seen just yet, but he drives the point home later on the Mount of Olives when he commands Peter to stop the violence (Luke 22:50-51, John 18:10-11).

Jesus is the Mountain of the Lord

This may be slightly more controversial, but perhaps this episode is a (partial) fulfillment of Isaiah 2. So many of Isaiah's prophesies were fulfilled in the prophet's day, but they also pointed to something or someone greater, and we have seen how many were fulfilled more completely in Christ.
It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.
 (Isaiah 2:2-4 ESV)
I believe this passage will be completely and ultimately fulfilled with Christ's return, but some part of it was fulfilled with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. There is still war and not all peoples go up to the mountain of the Lord, so it is a prophecy that is not yet fulfilled.

However, when Jesus says, "It is enough," it could be a signal that swords shall be beat into plowshares. In one sense it might mean that we have the common grace of our Father (Gen 8:16, Matt 5:45). But more importantly, "he may teach us his ways" because he was "lifted up above the hills" and "established as the highest of the mountains." Today we may go to the house of the Lord and know him personally, and our access is through the Messiah.

So this prophecy sounds like an "already, not yet" fulfillment of Isaiah, and Jesus' focus on the swords may have been to point us to that understanding.

Jesus Orchestrates His Destiny

One final (quick) thought is that Jesus may have been organizing events to fulfill his destiny. He knew that Peter would use the sword against Malchus, and this may have been the necessary infraction to cause Jesus' arrest so that he might be "numbered with the transgressors." This is extra-biblical speculation however, so I would not be inclined to settle on this explanation. There is too much focus on Isaiah's prophesy in the context, but it's possible that Jesus was moving history along at his pace to fulfill his ministry (as when he told his disciples to fetch the donkey and prepare the room for the Last Supper).

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