Preached by Jason Abbott
I used to coach high school soccer. And, I remember times before big games when I’d give my players some final instruction—some final word of preparation. Soccer is a unique sport in many ways. One way is that, once a match has begun, coaches are really limited in making changes to their game plans. Their players are on their own for the most part. You don’t get timeouts. You have a limited number of substitutions. And, other than at halftime, the clock doesn’t stop. Consequently, those final instructions are important. Players need them.
We’re looking at just four verses today. But, they constitute the final things Jesus shares with his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion. What does he say? What last lesson does he teach them?
Let’s find out together.
35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”*
So, we’re at the tail-end of the last meal that Jesus shares with his disciples. They are still in the upper-room; they are probably picking at the last few morsels of the supper they’ve just shared together. And, as Benjamin explained last week, Jesus has just given the twelve disciples a corrective on the nature of true greatness in the kingdom of God—not exercising power, but exercising service and sacrifice for the most lowly and vulnerable people. That, Jesus instructs them, is the measure of heavenly greatness.
But here, Luke records a last lesson that Jesus teaches, and it has three parts: (1st) There’s a point about what’s past. (2nd) There’s a point about what’s future. And, (3rd) there’s a point about the plan of God.
1. A point about the past (v. 35)
My best friend’s mom endured a lot during sleepovers and birthday parties. Her son and I were a smidge subversive and stumbled into our fair share of trouble while growing up. She, consequently, has a hefty catalog of dirt on the two of us. So, I’ll likely never list her as a reference for anything.
Nowadays, whenever I’m in Missouri and see her, I know I’m in for trouble when she suddenly decides to reminisce—especially when my children are present. Maybe I’m telling one of my kids to use an inside-voice or that it’s time for bed, when abruptly she’ll say those five terrible words: Jason, do you remember when… Jason, do you remember when you and Shannon were so loud together at school that they stopped putting you in the same class? Jason, do you remember when you and Shannon snuck out all night and never went to bed? (Yep. I do remember now. In fact, everybody does. Thanks.)
You see—in those instances, in those remembrances—she points backwards to teach me something (she thinks) I need to know right now. She points to my past as a child in order (she believes) to prepare me for my future as a parent.
Now, that’s a negative example of what Jesus does positively in today’s text. He uses his disciples’ past experiences in order to prepare them for what’s ahead—for their future as his followers. He doesn’t shame them by bringing up the past. Instead, Jesus encourages them to be prepared and to be realistic about their future. It will not be easy, Jesus explains. (We’ll get to that in a minute.)
I want to stop here, though, and think for a moment how important the past is to our future. I want us to consider how important it is as Christians to remember what God has done for us in the past, so that we can follow Christ with confidence in the future. And, this isn’t something I’m making up but the very thing the Lord commands his people to do over and over again in the Bible.
Consider just a few examples—times when God commands us to remember what he’s accomplished for us in order to strengthen our faith moving forward.
- Jesus and his disciples are observing the Passover feast in today’s passage. This very meal was a memorial meal—enshrined in Israel’s annual rhythms so they’d recall God’s past saving work and anticipate his future work.
- The book of Deuteronomy is a remembrance book—a remembrance sermon. After 40 years wandering about in the wilderness, because of their rebellion against God, the people are about to go into the Promised land. And, Moses prepares them for it by preaching his farewell sermon. How does he do that? By reminding them of their past! By recounting what kept them wandering in the wilderness for 40 years—their sin, their breaking of God’s commands, their faithlessness. It’s a warning from their past to set them up for success in their future.
- And finally, consider the book we’re studying right now—the book of Luke. It’s an orderly historical, investigative account of Jesus’ life and ministry. Why did Luke write it? Well, Luke tells us: “…that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:4). God gave us Luke, so we’d remember the past and, thus, live with gospel certainty in the future. (And, in a sense, that’s true of the entire Bible—This is what God has done, the Bible tells us. So, live now accordingly.)
Before we move along, ask yourself this—How are you reminding yourself of Christ’s provision and grace for you in the past in order to strengthen your faith in his provision and grace for you in the future?
I know a couple of people in this congregation who record answered prayers so that they can—in times of trouble or doubt—return to that list to be encouraged that God cares and that he’s active. Their faith in Jesus is reinforced into the future when they’re reminded of how the Lord provided for them in the past.
I know a graduate school professor who delights to pick pennies off the floor because it reminds him of how God sustained him financially during grad-school and will continue to provide for his needs in the future. (When I was in seminary, some of the other students and I got such a kick at seeing his joy at finding pennies that we began dropping them outside his office door just for fun.)
In what ways are you remembering God’s past love to encourage your faith concerning his future love?
Well after reminding the twelve about their past success, Jesus makes…
2. A point about their future (v. 36, 38)
Let’s reread the first two verses together to see the connection.
And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one (vv. 35-36).
This seems like a strange logic here. What is Jesus teaching these disciples? What’s the connection between God’s past miraculous provision and, an apparent, lack of future provision? What’s Jesus’ point?
Well, as is so often the case, Jesus’ meaning is revealed if we keep this text in its context. Remember—A text without its context is a pretext to misunderstand. We should always allow the meaning, of a particular passage, to blossom naturally out of its contextual soil. So, let’s reexamine this seemingly strange little teaching from Jesus keeping its context in mind. Three things are important here.
(1st) Jesus is the rabbi and the twelve disciples are Jesus’ students. So what? What does that matter? Well, the end goal of the rabbi-student relationship wasn’t, in the ancient Near East, to foster or promote a unique individuality in the student. Rather, it was designed to craft the student or disciple in the image of the teacher. Think back to Jesus’ earlier teaching in Luke: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Okay, we need to keep that in mind here.
(2nd) Jesus has just taught them, through his recrafting of the Passover meal, that his body must be broken and that his blood must be poured out for their sins. Jesus just taught them that he’s the ultimate Passover sacrifice. He just taught them that, in order to be like their rabbi, they must sacrifice for the least and most lowly among them—that greatness is service like his service! Keep that in mind too.
(3rd) The disciples have just had an argument concerning who is the greatest, and they’re not thinking of service and sacrifice. They’re thinking about glory—their own glory! They don’t look much like their rabbi.
So, keeping those three things in mind, consider again what Jesus says here. He points them back to the overwhelming success they had previously experienced through the grace and provision of God. And, of course, they remember that well. They think—We were unstoppable! We healed people! People invited us to dinner! People put us up for the night! Whenever we needed something, it was provided! We were rock stars! That was the life! That’s their current mindset.
But, then Jesus says—Yeah guys, it’s not going to be like that in the future. It’s going to be hard. You’re going to need to be ready for adversity and danger. You’re going to need to be prepared for betrayal and heartache. So, make ready. The world is not going to think you’re rock stars. Or, as Christ Jesus teaches them in the book of John: “Remember the word…I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Friends, this is a call from Jesus to his followers to be prepared for trouble.
Some have wondered why exactly Jesus tells the twelve to arm themselves. Is he promoting violence? But, the last verse of today’s text answers that question with a resounding—No. If Jesus was advocating for the use of force then he was, without question, the worst military strategist of all time. No leader, worth his salt, would ever set out to conquer the world with two swords (v. 38). That’d be crazy. Rather, Jesus is using this list of equipment to teach the disciples about the nature of their future mission—namely, that it will be difficult and dangerous. *I wonder if you think about following Jesus in those terms. If you don’t—you should. When you really follow Jesus, you’ll be called to sacrifice your time; you’ll be called to laydown your desires for him. You’ll be asked to spend money in ways that are sacrificial. You’ll be asked to have hard conversations with those who will possibly mock and revile you. Do you think about following Christ Jesus in those terms? Again, if you don’t, you should. Jesus says, Be prepared!
*Before we move to our last point, let me direct your attention to something that encourages me that the Bible is real history and not a book of made up stories. To see it, just think about the disciples here. Think about how often they are shown as weak and confused. Who’d make their future leaders look like that?
Look, friends, all kinds of Christian legends developed in the early Church, stories of superhuman saints. Take Saint Denis for example—in the 3rd century, Denis was the Bishop of Paris and was apparently an extremely talented preacher of the gospel. When beheaded for his preaching, Denis pulled an Energizer Bunny and kept on going—picking up his head and preaching eloquently for six full miles before finally dying. People like Denis are the stuff of myth—no fear or weakness! And, therefore, no identifiable humanity! He is the kind of leader people make up or invent for themselves.
Friends, that’s not what we see in the Bible. The disciples are fallible, weak, and real people. They aren’t superhuman heroes. They’re like us—not inventions or creative fictions.
Well, let’s move finally to the last part of Jesus’ lesson.
3. A point about the plan of God (v. 37)
Jesus makes another eye-opening statement about himself. He says this:
For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment (v. 37).
I’ve been arguing in my last few sermons that Jesus makes a bunch of claims and does a bunch of things which only God should claim and do. And, I’ve argued this demonstrates that Jesus clearly understood himself to be God in human flesh. Now, while the statement Jesus makes here doesn’t constitute a claim to divinity—it comes awfully close because he goes back to the Old Testament book of Isaiah and says it’s about him. It’s fulfilled in him!
Normal people shouldn’t say such things; but, then again, Jesus isn’t normal. He’s the central figure in the history of the world. It’s all about him.
Here’s the point about the plan of God. Its total fulfillment is in the person and the work of Jesus Christ. And, Jesus’ work was hard work—work that only he could accomplish. Jesus bore the wrath of God against sin. Jesus put death to death on our behalf. He did this at the cross. “He was numbered with the transgressors.” You and me! Jesus “was numbered with the transgressors” so that we wouldn’t be. This is the good news. This is the plan of God.