Machetes, “Enough” and a Free Gospel

When Jesus sent his disciples out in order to preach “the Kingdom of heaven is at handamong the Jews, he told them to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons;” and then he added,

Freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. (Matt 10:9-10, NASB)

As the English Standard Version of the Bible puts it, Jesus was telling his men, “You received without pay. Give without pay.” The Lord wanted them to proceed on this Gospel mission to Israel entirely supported by Israeli hospitality. This was not only an exercise in dependence upon God’s goodness through their fellow Israelites, it was to prove that the Gospel of the Kingdom is free. [see NLT]

The story did not stop there, obviously. Christ refers to this mission later in the Gospels:

“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, NASB)

Without context, this seems like a contradiction of “freely you received, freely give” let alone an invitation to practice violence (sword). Gladly, we have context. Context is King. Without understanding the context, many terribly wrong interpretations arise (ex. Chuck Baldwin, Larry Pratt, Joseph Farah).

THE CONTEXT:

Only moments before, the Savior talks about servant leadership amid a squabble over ‘who’s the greatest’ (vv. 24-27); “…it was wrong in them to be disputing and quarrelling about superiority, or looking out for and expecting temporal pomp and grandeur, when [ostracism] would be their forlorn, destitute, and afflicted condition” (Gill). The habit of the disciples was to think that the Messiah would bring in his Kingdom then and there in a display of glory, and so, deliver his people from all oppression through military strength. While Christ will one day come in glory, the disciples did not understand the correct chronology for the Father’s plan. The Messiah must first suffer (Luke 17:25, 24:26; Acts 26:23).

Despite their misunderstanding, Jesus does motivate his inner circle of 11 with promises of reward for standing by their Master in his trials (vv. 28-30). However, this motivational promise is followed by a morbid prediction that brings them into a proper but honest view of themselves. Knowing all things regarding his impending trial, Jesus turns to Peter and describes Peter’s denial of his Lord (vv. 31-34). Of course, Peter abruptly rejects this prediction, thinking it not possible of himself or of the others (Matt. 26:35). But, the Shepherd would be struck, and the sheep would be scattered (Matt 26:31); and it is important to note their Lord apparently saw them in their fully restored state (Luke 22:32), not according to their failures.

As if by a complete switch of subject (which is really no switch at all), the Lord Jesus interjects, “WHEN I SENT YOU OUT WITHOUT….” By continuing on in this manner, Jesus ignores Peter’s disbelief and finishes his thoughts. The Master seeks to prepare his disciples mentally and practically for what they (in only moments) are about to experience for the sake of their Lord. Again, contrary to their half-sighted belief, they would soon know ostracism, rejection and persecution.

So, Jesus continues making a comparison and a contrast. Whereas they were accepted before, they soon would have trouble finding any hospitality. Jews would no longer sustain them by hospitality. The disciples would be rejected and outcast for their Lord’s sake. Jesus’ impending arrest and mock trial, would put him in the condemnable public status of “law-breaker” (transgressor), and Jesus wanted his men to be ready for any and all coming hardships. Unfortunately, the disciples did not understand.

The Son of God was saying, ‘be ready for any costs (money and bag) you may have to pay for, and if you don’t have a machete (trans. “sword” from Grk. “machaira“), then buy one at the expense of your unnecessary comforts (coat).’ The command to buy a machete is in keeping with their upcoming need to make a living by doing rugged and/or trade work, just as is the use of a machete today. Contrary to conjecture, to carry a machete was not illegal, nor a symbol of one’s being a transgressor in Jesus’ day, even under Roman occupation. Christ would be indicted as a transgressor, not because he or his disciples carried a machete, but because of the prophecy Jesus cited. Since the machete was a symbol of blue collar work, the 11 disciples should have known what the Lord was saying, and they should have later spread the news to all 150+ disciples that they all would need to support themselves for a while, maybe indefinitely, so long as persecution was imminent. Unfortunately, just like today, the men heard what they wanted to hear, given their view and strong desire for a conquering Messiah.

“It is enough,” Jesus replied to their distracted hearts and minds. They still had their heads fixed on glory instead of hearing the prophecy regarding Christ’s suffering.  Simon Peter apparently thought Christ wanted them to defend themselves and Jesus through violence (Matt. 26:52). But, Christ’s kingdom is not like the kingdoms of men; the true followers of Christ’s kingdom never fight with violence (John 18:36). Later, Christ rebuked Peter for “taking up the sword” instead of yielding to the Father’s plan (Matt. 26:52), and he healed the soldier Peter wounded.

He was simply saying, “Whereas you were accepted and cared for by the Jews earlier, you will need to prepare and take care for yourself in coming days. Be ready for taking care of yourself. Equip yourselves.” Christ knew that it would be at least 40 days, before the Spirit would be sent (Acts 1:3). They’d need to be self-sustaining until Pentecost and even beyond for the Gospel’s sake (1 Cor. 9:14-19).

Despite their misunderstanding, the Lord Jesus was NOT telling his disciples to fight for him, nor was he telling them to arm themselves for self-defense. How can this be concluded? By context:

  • As Gill and Dr.Lightfoot observe, “Christ here uses the common dialect of the nation,” spoken on the feast of dedication of the temple.
    • “These words of Christ are not to be understood literally.”
    • To be sure, the scene was during the Passover feast–a celebration commemorating a speedy but thorough preparation for making a quick exodus–and Christ uses the exact vernacular of the Jews for one’s preparing himself: “if a man had not any thing to eat, but what he had by alms, he must beg, or “sell his garment”, and take oil, and lamps, and light them.”
  • “[By saying, “it is enough,”] He is breaking off the conversation because they don’t understand anyway” (the Politics of Jesus, p. 45 ).
    • John Yoder draws this correct parallel between Christ’s manner and that of Moses in Deut. 3:26, where YHWH tells Moses to change the subject due to the lack of understanding of the hearers.
  • Machetes were designed for hacking, not soldiering and warfare.
  • 2 Machetes would not have been near “enough” for 11 to literally fight the small troop which soon would come to capture Jesus, and they weren’t.
  • Christ apparently meant this symbolic use of the machete to be a new modus operendi for going about Gospel missions–self-sustaining work, commonly referred by modern missiologists as “tent-making,” especially in times of persecution.
    • Christ commanded that each one of them equip himself with a “sword.” In so doing, he was symbolically telling each to get the tools of his trade, because they’d need to go “hack out” a living for a time, whether by fishing (John 21:3) or some other trade.
    • Only 2 swords among 11/12 disciples, going out separately (2×2, as before) would not have been “enough” either. (credit, Love Your Enemies). This symbolic use of “machete” satisfies the sense in Christ’s commanding each man to ‘buy his own machete.’ Christ most certainly was referring to the soon-to-come state of calamity the disciples would face; and he was telling them to be prepared for rugged life (i.e. taking care of themselves). The machete (being such a common tool) was readily produced from among the 11.
    • There was no time for the disciples to sell their coats at that moment, so the Lord was referring to future Gospel ministry–“to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
  • Again, Christ’s kingdom is not like the kingdoms of men; the true followers of Christ’s kingdom never fight with violence (John 18:36). Later, Christ rebuked Peter for “taking up the sword” instead of yielding to the Father’s plan (Matt. 26:52), and he healed the soldier Peter wounded.
  • In John 20:19, we read the disciples were,accordingtoChrist’spredictionandsubsequent command to prepare for ostracism, secluded together in a secret place because they feared the Jews (general populace that counted Jesus as a law-breaker and sentenced him to death — Mark 15:13, Luke 23:21, John 19:15). Evidently, they came together in the following way:
    • When Jesus was taken for trial, they [all disciples, including the 11] scattered (Matt. 26:31). Thus they remained for 3 days, mostly in their separate homes, because they all did not understand the Scriptures about the resurrection (John 20:9-10).
    • Mary Magdalene and other women visit the tomb of Jesus in the dusk hours of that Sunday morning, only to find the tomb empty (John 20:1).
    • Mary runs to find Peter and John, who are apparently rooming together (John 20:2).
    • Mary erroneously reports to Peter and John that “they” (Romans and/or Jews) had taken the Lord’s body away–what would have been an act of utter contempt in Jewish culture, inciting fear in anyone who was in allegiance with Jesus.
    • Peter and John visit the empty tomb only a few moments after Mary’s report–in the hours of that Sunday morning. They see the empty grave clothes. John believes Jesus arose (John 20:8), but Peter apparently does not.
    • Mary waits at the tomb in despair, and she meets her arisen Lord (John 20:11-16)
    • The risen Jesus tells Mary to go find all of the disciples and tell them He is resurrected and will ascend to the Father (John 20:17-18).
    • By the evening of that same day (12-14 hours later), all of the disciples had gathered into one room, for 2 reasons: (John 20:17-19)
      • because they were scared for their lives, seeing the body of Jesus had been reported as “taken away” by Mary and confirmed to be missing by Peter and John.
      • because Mary told them the most recent news she had received from Jesus.

Rather than commanding his disciples to literally fight and rather than contradicting a “freely you received, freely give” missions philosophy, Jesus was telling them, “Hey, it’s gonna get rough for us in a few minutes. Whereas people accepted you before, they will now reject you because of my being ‘counted among the transgressors.’ You’ll need to actually pay for lodging for a time and you’ll need to support yourselves. Be ready, and know it is all part of prophecy.”

And off to the Garden of Gethsemane they went.

Modern-Day Applications:

  1. Like the original error of the disciples, one’s incorrect view of Jesus and His Kingdom can lead to non-biblical involvement in political struggles, the desire to spread the kingdom through human (even forceful means) and/or military pursuits and violence.
  2. Bi-vocational ministry, or tent-making missions, is the proper mode of Gospel ministry, especially in times of persecution and oppression against Christians.
  3. The Gospel is free, and every minister of the Gospel should freely give the Gospel truth and its blessings, as he has freely received them. Though one may expect to live off of the free-will gifts of those to whom he ministers, he should NEVER seek to “get paid.” (1 Corinthians 9).
  4. This passage can NOT be used as a proof text for gun laws, weapons, etc. While some and argue that a machete was used as self-defense against robbers and wild animals in Jesus’ day, no Christian in the New Testament is ever seen fighting back, even when being stoned or crucified or beheaded (ex. Stephen–Acts 7:54ff, Paul–Acts 23:11, Peter–John 21:18). Rather they embrace their death in whatever form it takes; because they follow their Lord (Acts 4:25-31, 8:1-3, 9:1-2, 12:1-5; 2 Cor. 11:25). We see Paul fleeing scenes of persecution in some cases (Acts 9:25), and in other cases God raises him from the dead (Acts 14:19); and yet in other cases, he is certain that God wants him to die (Acts 23:11). Interestingly, the only time we find Paul defending himself or the gospel, it is by words, and it is toward believers under his care (who are being drawn away by false teachers) or else to fellow Jews who would be sympathetic to the doctrine of the Resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6).
  5. Obviously, protecting one’s self against wild animals is far different that defending one’s self against humans who wish to kill you for your testimony of Christ. And, in the case of wild animals, a machete would be very useful indeed.
  6. Yes, it is ethically wrong to not intervene in the case of an abuse or evil when such intervention is possible. “Theologians J. P. Moreland and Norman Geisler say that “to permit murder when one could have prevented it is morally wrong. To allow a rape when one could have hindered it is an evil. To watch an act of cruelty to children without trying to intervene is morally inexcusable. In brief, not resisting evil is an evil of omission, and an evil of omission can be just as evil as an evil of commission. Any man who refuses to protect his wife and children against a violent intruder fails them morally” (Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries). But, to clarify, as even Norman Geisler states, Christians believe in a graded absolutism, not in a carte blanche view of self-defense or violence… or worse, needless rebellion and violence against authorities. [see also, Love Your Enemies] Others like Let Us Reason Ministries admit they don’t see a clear answer, mostly because they don’t recognize graded absolutism and/or they don’t recognize the contexts–ex. Book of Revelation–of the passages that cause them question. These sort should not be followed until they understand both graded absolutism and the biblical contexts that give them trouble.
  7. The absolute morals for those of Christ’s Kingdom are found in Matthew 5 – 7 & Luke 6:27-31

…………………..

OTHER RESOURCES:

Great Evangelical Recession, The by John Dickerson

Jesus Preaches the Gospel of the Kingdom, Even After He is Risen by Christopher Fisher

Kingdom of Heaven and Its Keys

KingdomPreparation.com by James Hollandsworth

Politics of Jesus by John Yoder

Politics of Jesus – Simplified

Scary Word: Give, The

Self-defense and Christianity by John Correia

Spiritual Entrepreneur: A Road Less Traveled, The by Khouse.org

War and (Soldiers’) Peace

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