FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST MUST BE PREPARED FOR SUFFERING AND REJECTION AS THEY ENTER INTO SPIRITUAL WARFARE
On Sunday morning we were challenged to choose the discomfort and suffering of combat boots over the comfort of household slippers. If we want to truly follow Jesus Christ we must deny self and take up our cross daily and follow the path our Master has already traveled. The difficulties will be great … but we can make this choice in faith knowing that this is the path of joy.
What does it look like for each of us to put on our combat boots and follow after Jesus? In my daily Bible reading this morning I came across this passage which helped to flesh out the picture of our spiritual warfare. It is a passage that I cannot remember having heard preached – it really struck me as new and fresh and impactful.
[MacArthur: Perhaps you’ve never even read that passage. I don’t think in my life I’ve ever heard a message on that passage. And yet it is one of the most important ones in the New Testament for reasons that will become apparent to you.]
The motto of the Boy Scouts (I guess that now has been changed to Scouts BSA – ugh) has always been “Be Prepared.” Christ is calling for His followers to enter into spiritual warfare with their eyes wide open – prepared to endure fellowship with Him in suffering and being mocked and rejected.
FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST MUST BE PREPARED FOR SUFFERING AND REJECTION AS THEY ENTER INTO SPIRITUAL WARFARE
Jesus is still in the Upper Room after enjoying the Last Supper and giving final instructions to His followers before He goes to the Mount of Olives, where he will be arrested and brought to trial. He wants them to understand that they are about to face extreme conflict. The attitude of the world will now be one of hostility rather than hospitality. Some areas of the world experience this to a far greater degree than do believers here in the United States.
I. (:35-36) PREPARATION MANDATED: FOLLOWING CHRIST LOOKS DIFFERENT AFTER HIS REJECTION
A. (:35) Before Picture – Followers of Christ Could Expect Welcome Reception and Support
“And He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without purse and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?’ And they said, ‘No nothing.’”
Followers of Christ are the “sent out” ones – called to fulfill the Great Commission; staying in one’s comfort zone is not an option. We are ambassadors for Christ and have a story to proclaim to the nations.
They should have learned great lessons in faith by being obedient in their former mission trips. But those experiences did not entail the same level of danger and suffering that the disciples should anticipate going forward.
MacArthur: They had been generally received very well during the three-year ministry of our Lord in Galilee and in Judea. When they were with the Lord, the Lord was received, welcomed by massive crowds who were thrilled to have Him there as He taught and as He healed and as He cast out demons. They wanted Jesus in their town, they wanted Jesus in their presence. And so they were happy to receive those who were with Him. You might say that they had been welcomed everywhere they went by the world in general. And when I say world, I mean in the broad sense those who are outside the Kingdom of God and therefore are against the purposes of God.
Geldenhuys: During the time when the Saviour, because of His miracles of healing and other charitable work among the needy multitudes, did not yet experience much opposition and enmity, His disciples, when He sent them out (ix. 3; x. 4), were treated with great respect by the people. Although the Lord at that time commanded them to go without purse, scrip and shoes, they were so hospitably received wherever they went, that they suffered no want. Everything was made easy and prosperous for them, and they returned with joy (x. 17).
B. (:36) After Picture – Followers of Christ Should Expect Rejection and Attacks
“And He said to them, ‘But now, let him who has a purse take it along, likewise also a bag, and let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one.’”
MacArthur: here’s the two transition words, “But now….but now….” You’re not going to enjoy that in the future. You’re not going to find a welcoming world of unbelievers. You’re not going to find people in Israel or in the Gentile world throwing open their doors to invite you in to preach Christ to them. The nation has now rejected Me and having rejected Me, they will reject you because you belong to Me. They reject Me, you preach Me, they reject you.
1. Purse – Appropriate to earn and retain money – not called to be beggars
2. Bag – Appropriate to own personal property – not called to relinquish all personal property
3. Sword — more valuable than a robe – Why? Need to defend yourself where appropriate … but look at how Peter used his sword in wrong way
Geldenhuys: But, says the Saviour, the hour has now struck when everything is going to be different. From now on He will no longer be with them in the same way as before and they will no longer be honoured and entertained, as before, because they are the disciples of an honoured and beloved Master. He has already been rejected by the Jewish authorities and ere long He will be killed and looked upon as a hated criminal by practically the whole people. The immediate result will be that they, as the followers of the Crucified One, will likewise be despised, pushed out and persecuted. So they can no longer depend on any generous provision for their needs on the part of the people. Therefore they will henceforth, with all their strength and energy, have to find their own way through a hostile world. They must, the Saviour declares in a striking figure, as His followers in the struggle of life, be just as determined and whole-hearted as a fighting man who gives up everything, even his garment, as long as he only possesses a sword to continue the struggle with.
Constable: Probably Jesus used the purse, bag, and sword metaphorically rather than literally to symbolize the disciples’ personal resources. Apparently Jesus wanted His disciples to arm themselves with personal preparedness including dependence on God and His Word for the impending crisis. He was calling them to be ready for hardship and self-sacrifice.
MacArthur: This is not to say the gospel advances by the sword…like Islam. Our Lord is using this figuratively. You’re going into a hostile world where you’re going to have to understand that you need to support yourself, supply yourself, and protect yourself. . . Swords were used for things other than weapons. They were used for cutting wood, to make a fire. They were used for defending yourself against a wild animal. It could be brandished in the event that you were attacked by a robber for self protection. He says it’s going to be hard from now on. Different attitude in the world. [cf. John 15:18]
II. (:37) PREPARATION MODELED: THE REJECTION OF CHRIST WAS BOTH PROPHECIED AND FULFILLED
A. Necessity of Fulfillment of Scripture
“For I tell you, that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me,”
Christ could not escape suffering and rejection and death via any type of exception clause and His followers will not be able to fare better than their Master. He did not shrink back despite His full knowledge of what lay ahead. He set His face like flint to go to Jerusalem and suffer and die.
Christ is our model of one who was fully prepared to enter into suffering and rejection to the point of death in order to accomplish the kingdom objectives and fight the spiritual warfare His Heavenly Father had ordained.
There is a certainty about the future that Christ is laying out here for His followers.
B. Heart of the Passage = Rejection of Jesus Christ
“And He was classed among criminals;”
What is involved in being viewed and treated as a “criminal”?
Isaiah 53:12 – “numbered with the transgressors” Must understand this OT text
Bob Deffinbaugh: The word in the original text which is found here is not the normal word we would have expected to be used of a criminal, although this meaning may be acceptable. The original (Hebrew) term employed in Isaiah 53:12 is one which refers to a “rebel,” one who defiantly sins against God. This may very well result in criminal acts, but the term “transgressor” is, I think, a better translation. Mark is, of course, correct. The fact that Jesus was crucified between two criminals did fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12, but it did so in a kind of symbolic way, so that it also left room for a broader, more sweeping fulfillment. Jesus was numbered (perhaps, as has been suggested, “allowed Himself to be numbered”) among transgressors, and the two thieves were surely that. But it could also be said that since Jesus was now dealt with as a criminal, His disciples were regarded in the same way. Jesus and His disciples were considered transgressors. . .
There is one thing about this prophecy which characterizes it as a whole, yet which I have never before noticed. The entire prophecy utilizes a kind of literary contrast. The Messiah will be the King of Israel, who will mete out judgment to sinners, and yet He will also be the Suffering Savior who dies for the sins of His people. He is innocent, yet He will bear the guilt of men. He is greatly esteemed by God and is elevated to the pinnacle of position and power, and yet He is regarded by men as a sinner (a criminal, if you would), whose rejection, suffering, and death is viewed as just. He who is God is viewed as justly condemned by God. He who bears the sins of men is viewed by men as bearing the guilt of His own sins. The Messiah is perceived by men in a way precisely opposite that of God. Men look down upon Him as worthy of God’s wrath, yet it is He who alone is worthy (righteous), but who bears the sins of men. . .
Men would reject the Messiah because He would not conform to their expectations of Him and of His kingdom. While God would look upon Messiah as the sinless Son of God, men would view Him as a sinner, condemned by God. Men wanted a kingdom in which they would have riches, freedom, power, and pleasure. Messiah would bring, at least initially, rejection and suffering. And so men would reject Him. . .
The disciples were debating among themselves who was perceived to be the greatest. They were thinking in terms of a “scepter,” but Jesus spoke to them of a “sword.” The disciples were thinking in terms of a crown, but Jesus was headed for a cross. Jesus, in so doing, was fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning Messiah and His kingdom, but the disciples were wholly missing the point of His coming. What the disciples did not understand was precisely what this messianic prophecy was saying, that the glorious kingdom of righteousness was to be brought about by a “king” who was rejected as a sinner. The crown, as it were, was to be preceded by a cross. Indeed, the cross was God’s means of gaining the crown. All of this was revealed through this prophecy of Isaiah. Yet the disciples failed to grasp it, because they were looking at matters through the eyes of their own ambition.
If God’s Messiah was to be regarded and even rejected as a criminal, this also meant that His disciples would be regarded as such. Were the disciples debating who would have the highest position, the most power, the greatest prestige? Then the disciples were wrong. They, by association with Christ, were to be regarded as criminals, not kings. They would thus need to think in terms of swords (not literal ones, however), not scepters. They must be ready to endure men’s rejection and persecution, not men’s honor and praise. In so identifying with Christ and suffering with Him, the disciples would eventually enter into the victories and joys of His future kingdom, as He had just told them (Luke 22:28-30).
Jesus was not a criminal in reality or in character or in deed;
But He was certainly “classed” as a criminal and that had severe consequences for how He was treated.
No life of comfort; no popular acceptance; no crowning by the public as the promised Messiah.
C. Reality of Fulfillment of Scripture
“for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.”
III. (:38) PREPARATION MISUNDERSTOOD: FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST FAIL TO GRASP THE NATURE OF SPIRITUAL WARFARE
A. Missing the Point
“And they said, ‘Lord, look here are two swords.’”
Probably Peter and one other disciple had a sword on them that they could pull out and show Jesus. But they took His words too literally and missed the point about preparation for ongoing spiritual battle.
B. Moving On
“And He said to them, ‘It is enough.’”
Morris: Jesus’ response, It is enough, means not ‘Two will be sufficient’ but rather, ‘Enough of this kind of talk!’ He dismisses a subject in which the disciples were so hopelessly astray.
MacArthur: The disfigured scarred substitute, the sacrificed suffering substitute, the obedient, submissive substitute becomes the exalted sovereign substitute. But what about them? Would they triumph? Go back to Luke 22. Would they triumph? He would through His cross and resurrection and the redemption of sinners, would they? . . .
There’s a certain resignation in Him saying that, like…You guys just never really get it, do you?” Certain exasperation, you might say. Why would He say it is enough? What do You mean it’s enough?
Well the answer is this, that’s all the sword you’re going to need, guys, because your future protection doesn’t depend really on you. Go back to John again, 14, and let me tell you what else Jesus said to them that night. What about us…what about us? We’ve only got two swords. John 14 verse 12, “Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also and greater works than these shall he do because I go to the Father.”
Steven Cole: So Jesus told the disciples to sell their robe and buy a sword. And, when they produced two swords, He said, “It is enough.” What did He mean? In light of Jesus’ command to Peter in the garden to put away his sword, and Christ’s non-resistance to the Jewish guards (22:53), it is obvious that Jesus was speaking symbolically, not literally, when He told them to buy swords. He was referring to the swords as a symbol of preparation for the intense spiritual conflict just ahead. When the disciples took Jesus literally and produced two swords and He replied, “It is enough,” He was dismissing the subject in light of their continuing spiritual dullness. They just didn’t get it.
What did the disciples think when Jesus left them dangling at this point?
To be genuine followers of Jesus, we must allow Him to radically reorient our thinking. Taking up our cross daily and being prepared and willing to submit to rejection and suffering and humiliation requires drawing on all of the resources of God’s grace. We cannot skip the cross. But certain victory and glory lie ahead. For now it is time to put on the combat boots rather than the house slippers.