1. Introduction—How, Then, Shall We Live? (Luke 22:31-38)Related Media
Something historic has been taking place in our nation. Two Supreme Court decisions which have occurred in my lifetime have signaled a significant change, not only in our culture, but in our laws. Roe v. Wade (1973) legalized the killing of the innocent and defenseless unborn. In Obergefell v. Hodges (June 26, 2015) same sex marriage was declared to be legal in every state of the union. People have much to say on the subject, Christians among them. Sadly, a great deal of Christian reaction is sub-par when compared to the Scriptures. This is a time when Christians need to think, act, and speak biblically. This message will commence a series of messages on the Christian mindset and lifestyle which God requires of His people, particularly in times of opposition and persecution. This lesson focuses on our Lord’s words to His disciples shortly before His death, and it could not be more relevant to Christians today. Let us listen well to our Lord and to His inspired and inerrant words, so that we may “gird up the loins of our minds” (1 Peter 1:13, KJV, NKJV) and manifest God’s holiness to a godless world (1 Peter 1:14-16).
Our text for this introductory article is found in Luke 22:31-38, but it is set against the backdrop of our Lord’s commission to His disciples at the outset of His earthly ministry. This earlier commission is found in Luke 9:1-9:
1 After Jesus called the twelve together, he gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
3 He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey– no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, and do not take an extra tunic. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave the area.
5 Wherever they do not receive you, as you leave that town, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 Then they departed and went throughout the villages, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere. 7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about everything that was happening, and he was thoroughly perplexed, because some people were saying that John had been raised from the dead, 8 while others were saying that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had risen. 9 Herod said, “I had John beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?” So Herod wanted to learn about Jesus (Luke 9:1-9).1
Here, Jesus is sending out the 12, who are given authority over all demons, and who also are granted the power to heal diseases. This power is given so that their message will be received as authoritative. Their message, as indicated in Matthew 10:7 is, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The disciples, like John the Baptist, were preparing the way of the Lord (Mark 1:1-3).
When Jesus sends out the twelve, He sends them without the supplies that one would normally take on such a mission. In part, this was to teach the disciples to depend upon the Lord to supply their every need, and thus to develop and strengthen their faith (Luke 22:35). But in this mission, God’s provision would not come through miraculous means (e.g. Matthew 17:27), it would come through the people to whom they ministered. This was a test of sorts, an indication of the acceptance or rejection of the disciples and their ministry by those to whom they came. Did they welcome the Lord’s messengers and their message? Were they looking to Jesus as the One who would bring in the kingdom of God? If so, they would receive the Lord’s messengers into their homes, and provide for their needs. If not, the disciples would simply move on to those who were receptive (Matthew 10:11-15).
It is interesting to note Herod’s response here to Jesus and His ministry (as extended by His disciples). Just as Herod had been fascinated by John the Baptist and his ministry, he was likewise interested in Jesus. Perhaps a guilty conscience led him to wonder if Jesus was John raised from the dead. But at this point in our Lord’s ministry, people were eager to hear more about Jesus, and to be the recipients of His healing power. Herod, too, wanted to meet Jesus. Jesus was a popular personality, and thus He could send out the twelve without provisions.
All of this is essential background for our text in Luke chapter 22, for Jesus will refer to the early days of His ministry, when He sent out the twelve without provisions.
31 “Simon, Simon, pay attention! Satan has demanded to have you all, to sift you like wheat, 32but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 33 But Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death!” 34 Jesus replied, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know me.” 35 Then Jesus said to them, “When I sent you out with no money bag, or traveler’s bag, or sandals, you didn’t lack anything, did you?” They replied, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now, the one who has a money bag must take it, and likewise a traveler’s bag too. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me is being fulfilled.” 38 So they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” Then he told them, “It is enough” (Luke 22:31-38).
To grasp what is taking place here, we need to look back and review the preceding verses in this chapter. Here is a summary of the events leading up to our Lord’s new commission:
The Passover is at hand, and the popularity of Jesus is alarming to the Jewish religious leaders (verse 1). They now believed they had no alternative but to kill Jesus, and quickly. We see this resolve boldly stated a few days earlier, in response to our Lord’s raising Lazarus from the dead:
46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and reported to them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees called the council together and said, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many miraculous signs. 48 If we allow him to go on in this way, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away our sanctuary and our nation.” 49 Then one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is more to your advantage to have one man die for the people than for the whole nation to perish” (John 11:46-50).
The opponents of our Lord faced a daunting problem. Jesus’ popularity was at an all-time high among the people. The crowds would not tolerate the arrest and murder of Jesus; indeed, they may very well riot. That would be a disaster. And so they resolved to arrest and kill Jesus at a time other than Passover, and in a way other than public stoning, away from the crowds:
1 When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he told his disciples, 2”You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”
3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people met together in the palace of the high priest, who was named Caiaphas. 4They planned to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5But they said, “Not during the feast, so that there won’t be a riot among the people” (Matthew 26:1-5).
Judas was the answer to the Jewish leaders’ prayers (so to speak). To carry out their plans they needed the help of someone from among Jesus’ closest followers, who could inform them of Jesus’ activities, and of his whereabouts. Judas, having resolved to betray the Lord Jesus for money (John 12:1-8; Matthew 26:1-16), went to these leaders and offered them a deal they could not refuse: he would give them the opportunity to arrest Jesus at a time and place when it would not be observed by the crowds. It was a bargain made in hell (Satan had entered into Judas’ heart, Luke 22:3).
Our Lord’s plans and previous prophecies required Jesus to be crucified during Passover, as the Passover Lamb. This was the same time that the chief priests and elder did not wish to kill Jesus. Doing so might provoke a riot among the people, something Rome would not like. Jesus took action in such a way as to foil the efforts of Judas (and the religious leaders), and to bring about His death during the feast. First, Jesus kept Judas from knowing where He would observe Passover with His disciples. Even the two sent to make preparations for it did not know until the Lord’s pre-arrangements were made known to them. And when the disciples, including Judas, did gather to celebrate Passover, Jesus caught Judas completely off guard. He told all of His disciples that He was about to be betrayed by one of them (Luke 22:21-22). And then He made it clear to Judas that He knew he was the one who would betray Him.
21 When he had said these things, Jesus was greatly distressed in spirit, and testified, “I tell you the solemn truth, one of you will betray me.” 22The disciples began to look at one another, worried and perplexed to know which of them he was talking about. 23One of his disciples, the one Jesus loved, was at the table to the right of Jesus in a place of honor. 24So Simon Peter gestured to this disciple to ask Jesus who it was he was referring to. 25Then the disciple whom Jesus loved leaned back against Jesus’ chest and asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26Jesus replied, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread after I have dipped it in the dish.” Then he dipped the piece of bread in the dish and gave it to Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son. 27And after Judas took the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28(Now none of those present at the table understood why Jesus said this to Judas. 29Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him to buy whatever they needed for the feast, or to give something to the poor.) 30Judas took the piece of bread and went out immediately. (Now it was night.) (John 13:21-30).
Can you imagine the panic which overcame Judas at this moment?
The wicked person flees when there is no one pursuing,
but the righteous person is as confident as a lion (Proverbs 28:1).
Imagine the thoughts racing through Judas’ head. “Did Peter hear what Jesus just said to me? He’ll kill me if he did.” Jesus told Judas he was the betrayer, in front of the rest of the disciples. He could never return to this intimate circle again. And so he fled, never to return, except to betray Jesus. If Jesus were to be captured and killed, it would not be the way the religious leaders – or Judas – wanted it.
But the disciples were oblivious to the conversation between Judas and Jesus. They were too occupied with their own efforts to discern who the culprit was. Their conversation quickly deteriorated, turning from identifying the betrayer to a debate over which of them was the greatest (Luke 22:23-24).2 (After all, the betrayer could not be the greatest, so the greatest among these men could not be the one Jesus spoke of.) Jesus then reminded them that Christian leadership was about serving, while Gentile leadership was about “lording it over” others (Luke 22:25-27). Gentile leadership is about being in control. Christian leadership is about serving with humility (Philippians 2:5ff.).
Jesus then promised His disciples that they would be rewarded for their faithfulness. When He established His kingdom, they would sit on twelve thrones, judging the tribes of Israel (Luke 22:28-30). How this must have set the disciples’ minds to pondering what their future would look like, a future that they believed to be immanent. Based upon his remembrance of our Lord’s words to him in Matthew 16:17-19, Peter must have been feeling optimistic and confident. Good things were in store for him, and soon.
But our Lord’s response to Peter must have hit him like a slap in the face. What a shock it must have been to hear Jesus warn him of his imminent denial, rather than assure him of good times ahead:
31 “Simon, Simon, pay attention! Satan has demanded to have you all, to sift you like wheat,
32 but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).
Our Lord’s words were shocking. Did Peter (or the others) discern the difference between “betrayal” (Judas) and “denial” (Peter)? Peter was quick to assure Jesus of his devotion, a devotion that would endure even if prison and death were to be the outcome (Luke 22:33-34).
Jesus’ words may sound strange to the reader, just as they did to the apostles. But I think His instruction lies at the heart of the issue, both for Peter, and for Christians today. Peter’s faith in Jesus, and his commitment to follow Him, was based on a mistaken view of what was soon to come. You might even say that Peter and his fellow disciples were following what might be called a “prosperity gospel.” This is not what Jesus taught, but it was what they took away from His words.3 They would soon learn that there would not be an immediate inauguration of the kingdom. Rather than peace and prosperity, suffering and persecution lay ahead for all the disciples. Peter’s first epistle would be dominated by the subject of suffering and persecution.
The disciples had gotten accustomed to being popular and well-received. They saw this as a kind of “first fruits” of what was to come. And they were wrong! Our Lord’s, “But now” in verse 36 introduces a new day that is about to come with our Lord’s arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Because He will be regarded as a criminal, so will His disciples. The “good old days” are soon to be gone, and difficult days lie ahead.
Men’s response to Jesus will likewise determine their response to His messengers (John 15:20-21). But now Jesus’ message and ministry is becoming unpopular, even to the masses. They want a different kind of Messiah, one much more like Barabbas than Jesus. Rather than to daydream of the good things which lie ahead, the disciples must brace up for the difficulties which will surely come their way. They must think and act differently than they have in the past. Instead of expecting a warm welcome they must expect resistance and opposition. Paul’s experience illustrates this:
11 To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed, brutally treated, and without a roof over our heads. 12We do hard work, toiling with our own hands. When we are verbally abused, we respond with a blessing, when persecuted, we endure, 13when people lie about us, we answer in a friendly manner. We are the world’s dirt and scum, even now (1Corinthians 4:11-13).
Rather than to go their way, expecting to be supported, the disciples must now be prepared to meet their own needs (Luke 22:36-37). Beyond this, Jesus says something even more shocking:
36 He said to them, “But now, the one who has a money bag must take it, and likewise a traveler’s bag too. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. 37For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me is being fulfilled” (Luke 22:36-37).
Should we take these words about a sword literally? It is quite evident that the disciples did, at least at first. Our Lord’s response, “It is enough” (verse 38) sounds to me like, “Enough of this for now; you don’t really get it yet.” We know that when Peter employed his sword in an effort to prevent Jesus’ arrest our Lord rebuked him:
52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back in its place! For all who take hold of the sword will die by the sword. 53Or do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and that he would send me more than twelve legions of angels right now? 54How then would the scriptures that say it must happen this way be fulfilled?” (Matthew 26:52-54).
Jesus sheds further light on this matter when He says to Pilate,
36 Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36).
As a rule I don’t think Jesus is speaking literally about getting a sword, but rather He is speaking metaphorically, as He often does.4 The disciples needed to be prepared for the hatred and opposition that was soon to come. Having said this, I would not entirely rule out a more literal interpretation in some extreme cases. There are those in hostile places in this world who may be in charge of an orphanage, or overseeing a hospital. If such a person was informed that hostile forces were approaching with the intent of kidnapping children and killing the rest, he or she might well be inclined to take Jesus’ words more literally, and I would not be eager to find fault with them.
Here is the essence of our Lord’s words to Peter and the others: “You will no longer be welcomed with open arms. This is due to the fact that the world hates Me, and thus it will hate you as well. This will require you to rethink your mission and ministry, so that you can survive (and even thrive) in a hostile environment. I find it most interesting to see that it is Peter who will have so much to say to Christians about persecution and suffering in his first epistle.
Recent events should cause our Lord’s words to Peter and the other disciples to sound very familiar to us. We are in exactly the same place that Peter and the others were. We in the west have enjoyed a “most favored” status in our world. Christian principles were acknowledged, if not obeyed. America was thought of as a Christian nation. No more. We are now entering a new chapter in American history; one that I doubt will be remedied by future elections. What the Supreme Court declared to be the law of the land is what most of the states, and a large number of Americans believe: same sex marriage is to be accepted as the new normal.
Fred Smith, a good friend who is now with the Lord, once said this to a fellow at a dinner party in New York City: “Your problem is that you don’t acknowledge the difference between sin and crime. There are a lot of crimes that aren’t sin, and there are a lot of sins that aren’t crime.” How true! We are now living in a day when what God’s Word calls sin is no longer considered a crime. And if we persist in calling it sin, the world is going to become hostile toward us, and toward the gospel.
We in America have been living in a kind of bubble, while the rest of the world (and the church throughout its history) has experienced the norm: suffering for Christ’s sake. Jesus and His apostles made it clear that suffering and persecution would be the new norm:
20 “Remember what I told you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they obeyed my word, they will obey yours too. 21But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me” (John 15:20-21).
21 After they had proclaimed the good news in that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch. 22They strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “We must enter the kingdom of God through many persecutions” (Acts 14:21-22).
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance, 11as well as the persecutions and sufferings that happened to me in Antioch, in Iconium, and in Lystra. I endured these persecutions and the Lord delivered me from them all. 12Now in fact all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:10-12).
12 Dear friends, do not be astonished that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice in the degree that you have shared in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice and be glad. 14If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, who is the Spirit of God, rests on you (1Peter 4:12-14).
32 But remember the former days when you endured a harsh conflict of suffering after you were enlightened. 33At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and afflictions, and at other times you came to share with others who were treated in that way. 34For in fact you shared the sufferings of those in prison, and you accepted the confiscation of your belongings with joy, because you knew that you certainly had a better and lasting possession (Hebrews 10:32-34).
Jesus tells us that hard times are coming, and the apostles bear witness that hard times have come. We can no longer continue to believe and live out the gospel as we once did – with favor. We must rethink our mission and ministry in the light of Jesus’ words to His disciples. We must think defensively, as well as offensively. As Peter puts it, “We must gird up the loins of our mind, and purpose to be holy in a godless world” (see 1 Peter chapter 1). The lessons which follow in this series will seek to promote a biblical mindset, so that we can live out the gospel and carry out the Great Commission in a hostile world.
1 Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotes will be from the NET Bible.
2 If time permitted, it would be worthwhile to consider how typical this is of Christians. We easily and often are side-tracked by focusing on self-centered matters, rather than on the critical issues at hand.
3 See Acts 1:6.
4 The disciples seemed to have no problem taking Jesus’ words literally, but they had great difficulty taking them metaphorically (see Matthew 16:6-12).