And He said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.” And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And He was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.”. They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.” [Luke 22:35-38]
So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Therefore He again asked them, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus the Nazarene.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me, let these go their way,” to fulfill the word which He spoke, “Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one.” Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus. So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” [John 18:4-11]
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Have you ever tried to change someone’s mind?
Have you ever tried to change someone’s heart?
How, precisely, do we DO that?
How does change even happen in such things? Let me put this another way… how do we change our OWN minds and hearts? I could go into a discourse on this as long as a book, but I won’t.
If you follow this blog much, you know that I’ve learned it seems that all change of heart, all transformation, comes through the grace and power of God alone. I am utterly defeated when I try to change or transform myself. But, when I recognize a need for change, when I surrender in my own impotence to the will of God on that, when I contribute what diligence and attention I can to learning His will on the matter and meditating on the Truth of the matter, and then when I RELEASE it… and allow Him Alone to move in grace, to light up the dark or shadowy corners of my heart… BOOM! There it is! Change! Transformation! (See Romans 12:1-2). This is all I’ve ever found, in more than 60 years, that works with a mind, heart, and spirit as stubborn and headstrong as my own. But it does work!
And not for me alone. My ministry makes for strange bedfellows. I have been known to serve some severely “unlovely” sheep… including wife-beaters, child-beaters, child-molesters, thieves, arsonists, and even murderers. Their victims and survivors as well! The ONLY thing I’ve ever discovered that truly ushers change… is the assertive grace and love of God through the immediate and intimate presence of Jesus Christ. (No apologies for that view, Gentle Reader. It’s just the bald statement of my experience. Take it or leave it.)
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Which is what brings us to the point here, Gentle Reader and Fellow Traveller.
Everyone who loves Christ longs for change. I don’t know a single reader of this post who does not “hunger and thirst after righteousness”. My words just don’t appeal to others.
So we love. We pray. We teach. We write. We care. We embrace the broken and hurting souls around us and we weep… longing to see CHANGE! We want to relieve their hurts, pains, and emptiness. We long to “agent” for Christ, to “promote” Christ, or to “protect” Christ. We want to see hearts, minds, and souls change and transform… and we are willing to do or say almost anything to bring about such life!
And… truth be told… when we try our hardest… we fail dismally. It almost seems like the harder we try, the quicker and more dramatically we fail. The more intense and assertive we become, the further and faster we will see the object of our attentions flee from the presence of God and Christ.
Why? Why can’t the passion of our desire to do good, and the intensity of our efforts, succeed in bringing about change in the hearts and minds of others we want to help?
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Take another look at the passages opening this post.
Have you ever looked at these really closely? Have you ever had the Lord stop you in your study and ask… “Why? WHY? Why in the world would I say such a thing here to the Disciples? At such a time? At such a strange time? Why would I tell them to find and take swords to the Garden, and then berate them for using a sword? Does that make any kind of sense?”
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Well, look at one other passage and see if the parallel lights up…
When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village. [Luke 9:51-56]
Now bear in mind that this chapter of Luke opens with the foundation of our Swords teaching…
And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city. And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them. Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. [Luke 9:1-5]
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So, here in this post is this HUGE “Introduction”… which is about to come to a crashing conclusion. It may even seem anti-climactic.
There is a simple pattern here. Jesus is about to execute the most massive “change” in all of history, redeeming Creation Itself. He is about to execute the most incredible “conquest” of all time, conquering darkness, evil, and even death itself. He is about to rescue, to express the ultimate action of Love, towards all who are or shall ever be…
Jesus will hold all authority and power as He does that. He will proclaim that should He ask, the Father would send Legions of Angels to His protection. Even His mockers will cry out, “You… Son of God… Come down from the Cross!” And He COULD HAVE!!! But He DID NOT!
It’s all this same lesson. It’s all this same truth. It’s all this same realization and teaching that He shared with His Disciples, and with all of us.
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“Unconditional love, delivered in the submissive meekness of Christ, transforms and generates change by His very power and authority.” (And nothing else does.)
“Meekness is not Weakness. Weakness is to lack the means or resources to defend oneself or to force someone to act against their will. Meekness is to HAVE those means, but to exercise the restraint and self-control to refrain from using them.”
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How does all this tie together?
Jesus empowered the Disciples with the authority to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, and yes… even to rain down fire and brimstone on an inhospitable village for rejecting Jesus’ presence. When the affronted Disciples, James and John, pondered exercising their authority in this way, Jesus castigated them for the thought. He turned and rebuked them, declaring they didn’t know His spirit yet. They didn’t understand how He worked, what His mission was, yet. They had to know they HAD the power to destroy, but REFRAIN from its exercise. Only this restraint, this expression of unconditional love and acceptance, could ultimately communicate Christ and bring about true change.
Jesus told the Disciples to arm themselves just as He prepared to enter the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew exactly what was coming… His betrayal, arrest, abuse, trial, and execution. How strange, no? They all entered the Garden, Jesus was assaulted, Peter tried to defend Him and severed Machus’ ear. Jesus HEALED Malchus and REBUKED Peter! Why? Why all of this? Jesus needed for the Disciples to know that they HAD the weapons, the power to destroy and injure, but to REFRAIN from its exercise. Only this restraint, this expression of unconditional love and acceptance, could ultimately communicate Christ and bring about true change.
The Cross itself was coming. Jesus had the power and authority to save Himself and fulfill the desires He expressed that “this cup pass” from Him. He could have done all that. But He Himself laid down His life, none took it from Him, He submitted to death in order to conquer it. Jesus on the Cross is the ultimate expression that only this restraint, this expression of unconditional love and acceptance, ultimately communicates Love and brings about true change.
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What am I to leave by the wayside on this Journey through Lent?
My right to “draw my sword” to effect change. I am to understand that “those who live by it, die by it”. To use aggression, assertiveness, adrenalin, “stuff” that imposes upon the will or dignity of another… only results in their defensive response, aggressive riposte, or snapping up of defensive shields. Worst of all, it may result in their being wounded or even maimed. At that point, the Lord Himself has to heal them, perhaps in a moment when He was trying to focus on far more important issues.
Are we to go “armed” through our Kingdom journeys? Yes. Yes absolutely. We are not to be seen as weak, powerless, or irrelevant. But, astonishingly, we are ever to constrain that “implied threat” by the power of our self-control, our understanding of our spirit and our mission, and by the power of our love and willingness to suffer.
We do not generate change and healing by our force of will upon another. We generate change and healing by our force of will in submission and surrender to love and suffering.
It is the force of that Love Himself that radiates outwards like the heat of the sun, and generates change… transforming that which is NOT like itself… INTO itself.