Wednesday, April 24, 2013

He Was Counted Among the Outlaws

From Luke 22 (HCSB):
36 Then He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money-bag should take it, and also a traveling bag. And whoever doesn’t have a sword should sell his robe and buy one. 37 For I tell you, what is written must be fulfilled in Me: And He was counted among the outlaws. Yes, what is written about Me is coming to its fulfillment.”
Jesus did not tell his disciples to carry swords to cause him to be numbered with the transgressors. It's the other way around. He told them to carry swords (and other provisions) because he would be numbered with the transgressors.

Else, carrying those other provisions (money-bags and suitcases) is also part of what makes Jesus a rebel.

Jesus was contrasting the two sendings: the first time, he told them not to take provisions. This time, he tells them to take provisions, because he will be counted among the outlaws.

There's an ancient Hebraic practice of interpreting scripture called remez. This method uses an allusion to a deeper meaning than what is plainly said, found in the context of what's being quoted. For example, when Jesus has a meal with sinners, and the Pharisees challenge him on that, he says, "Go and find out what this means - '
I desire mercy and not sacrifice.'" (Matt 9:9ff). In doing this, he's using the technique of remez to allude to the entire context around that quotation from Hosea 6:6. He expects the Pharisees to know the text well enough to know that he's telling the Pharisees that they are the ones Hosea is talking about, they they are the sinners, and that the people with whom Jesus is eating are the ones being healed. His message is not in his own words, but in the words surrounding the quote which he is citing. This is remez.

I believe that's what he's doing in Luke 22:37; he's using remez to allude to something deeper from the prophecy he cites about being counted among the outlaws. To see what that is, we need to look at the prophetic text. It's from Isa 53:12.

This is the chapter in which the Messiah is despised, rejected, carries our sicknesses and pains, is struck down by God, pierced for our transgressions, heals us by his wounds, is oppressed and afflicted, led like a silent lamb to slaughter, cut off from the land of the living, crushed for YHWH's pleasure, to make a restitution offering, submits to death, counted among the rebels, yet intercedes for the rebels.

The passage is NOT saying that Jesus will be considered a rebel because he's hanging around people who are considered rebels because they're carrying swords. It's saying that Jesus will be treated as just another rebel, suitable for execution. Jesus is not telling the disciples to get a sword so that he can be considered a rebel because of his association with them while they're armed. He's telling them that as the disciples of "a rebel", they will themselves be considered rebels against the government, and thus will now be on the fringes of society, no longer able to expect the Pax Romana, the Peace of Rome, to apply to them. They will henceforth be on their own, no longer protected by a government with whom they will be at odds, no longer able to run to the police for protection (Acts 18:17 testifies to this, where Sosthenes is beaten without trial in full view of the legal system).

The context of Luke 22:35-37 is that previously Jesus sent the disciples out on a mission trip without provisions, and they lacked nothing, but now he's telling them to take provisions, because they, like their leader, will be considered rebels. Those provisions include money-bags, suitcases, and self-defense weapons. They need these provisions because they will have to go "underground", no longer relying on the protections afforded by the legal societal system.

Someone might object that Jesus couldn't possibly be telling his disciples to prep themselves for violent self-defense, because just a few hours later he tells Peter to put away his sword, and that they who live by the sword will die by the sword.

But notice that Jesus told Peter to put his sword back in its place (on the sword-bearer's person), not surrender it to the authorities (Matt 26:52) -- he told Peter to keep his sword.

The reason he gives for not using the sword in this case is two-fold:

1) a readiness to live by the sword is deadly (Matt 26:52)


2) arrest & execution must occur, according to the prophecies, so stop resisting it (Matt 26:53-54). John (18:11 HCSB) makes this point even more clear:
At that, Jesus said to Peter, “Sheathe your sword! Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given Me?”
He then tells when swords and clubs are to be used --> against criminals (Matt 26:55).

Shortly thereafter Jesus says that if his issues were of this world, he would approve of his followers fighting; it's just that his concerns are not of this world. (John 18:35-38). In other words, he's saying that physical fighting has its place, just not in this situation.

Simply put, Jesus told his disciples to arm themselves, to carry a weapon, but to use it with discretion, and not to thwart his intention to get arrested. He's not telling his disciples to carry swords to force the fulfillment of prophecy that he would be considered an outlaw. He's saying that he (and his followers, by association) will be considered outlaws, as prophecy foretells, so they need to prepare to take care of themselves, and that having a self-defense weapon takes priority over even having a jacket to keep them warm on cool nights.

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