Sunday, April 6, 2014

Last Words Before Crucifixion (Luke 22.35-38, Isaiah 53)

Sermons by: Robert Austell - April 6, 2014
Text: Luke 22:35-38; Isaiah 53

:: Sermon Audio (link) - scroll down for written draft  
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:: Some Music Used
Gathering Music: "Meditation on Passion Chorale" (Fred Bock)
Song of Praise: "My Soul Finds Rest (Psalm 62)" (Townend, Keyes)
The Word in Music: "The Lonesome Valley" (Price/Besig)
Offering of Music: "His Eye is on the Sparrow" (Charles Gabriel)
Invitation to Communion: "Behold the Lamb (vv. 1-3)" (Getty/Townend)
Song of Thanksgiving: "Behold the Lamb (v. 4)" (Getty/Townend)
Hymn of Sending: "And Can it Be" (vv. 3-4) (SAGINA)
Postlude: "A Mighty Fortress" (Wilbur Held)

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf)  
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.
35 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.” 36 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. 37 “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.” 38 They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:35-38)

5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. … 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? … 11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:5,7-8,11-12)

This short text from Luke 22 is another one of those places where Jesus quotes from Old Testament scripture and shows it to be fulfilled in himself. In doing so he gives some unusual instructions – countermanding something he said earlier – and sets those instructions in the context of the suffering of God’s Messiah. Interestingly, this text falls right after the Last Supper and an argument among the disciples about which one was “regarded to be greatest.” (v. 24) Jesus has also just spoken of Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. In fact, this text comes in the verse right after “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know me.” (v. 34) It is a somber, serious, intense moment.

Expecting Conflict


First, a bit of mystery. Earlier in ministry, Jesus had told his followers to “take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money.” They traveled and shared the good news of the Kingdom and depended on the hospitality of strangers. And Jesus references that earlier instruction in v. 35 with them agreeing that they had not lacked for necessities. But now things are changing. Now, says Jesus, take your money belt and bag. And most perplexing, if you don’t already have a sword, sell your coat to get one.

It’s clear that times are changing for Jesus and his followers. Remember what has been happening: the opposition has been growing along with the public attention. It is Thursday night of Holy Week. Jesus has been confronted daily in the Temple by the religious leaders, clearly seeking to trip him up so that they might arrest him. And already this Thursday night, Jesus has revealed a traitor in their midst. Fair enough. If I were a disciple, I’d take the hint, which is exactly what they do. There in verse 38, the disciples produce two swords on the spot. And he replies, “It is enough.”

So, before we move on to focus on verse 37, I’ve got a few questions and hope you do, too. Swords? Do we ever associate Jesus with swords? Clearly, things are different and dangerous. We know tension has been building and if we read ahead, it is only eight more verses before Judas betrays Jesus in the garden (v. 47) and they are surrounded by a crowd armed with swords and clubs (v. 52). But still, don’t you have some questions? Isn’t Jesus supposed to be peaceful? What does the “It is enough” in v. 38 mean? Are the two swords enough for their purposes that night? And what is that purpose? Is it self-defense only or are they supposed to fight for Jesus?

Well, for one, this is not a general “take your money, bag, and sword from now on wherever you go”; this is “but now… take it along.” They are going to a very specific place this night: to the garden to pray and then Jesus’ arrest will follow. And we get an answer to whether the swords are for attack or defense in vv. 49-52 when they are surrounded by an armed crowd and do ask about attacking; one disciple jumps ahead of Jesus’ reply and attacks, but Jesus calls him off and heals the one attacked. So at most, it seems like they are for self-defense and for the specific events of that night. Perhaps they are even meant to show that Jesus could fight but chooses not to.

To be sure, Jesus was saying more than “make sure you have your gear with you” because his instructions didn’t end in v. 36. He went on to quote from scripture and that part of what he said needs to be weighed as well.

A Deeper (Spiritual) Conflict?


Jesus’ quote in v. 37 is actually given as the reason for bringing money, bag, and sword. After telling them to bring those things, Jesus says, “For I tell you….” In other words, “Here’s why!” It is “that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me.” So, this scripture quote is the key part of understanding why they are going out armed and with their belongings. It is from Isaiah 53: “And He was numbered with transgressors.” And he says it a second time: “for that which refers to me has its fulfillment.”

So, here is something Jesus doesn’t want them to miss (though apparently they did). He says it twice as the reason for them getting up and leaving, armed and ready. If we only look at that short sentence we get plenty of explanation right there. If Jesus is going to be “numbered with the transgressors” it is pretty clear that he is saying, “we are about to face trouble; they think we are criminals!” And that is indeed what happens shortly.

But if we look at the rest of Isaiah 53, there is so much more also happening on top of that literal short-term fulfillment. I’ll remind you that Isaiah 53 is the chapter about the “suffering servant” and is understood to be a prophetic description of the Messiah (though generally overlooked in his day in favor of more victorious and triumphal passages). Nonetheless, as we have noted before, passages like these were so well-known that Jesus could quote one line and the whole thing would come to mind. We’ve been using Isaiah 53 for weeks now for our call to worship and prayer of confession, so that I hope you will recognize a number of the verses as well. As a side note, so much of Jesus’ suffering and obedience is packed into Luke 22, it would be a very meaningful pairing to read Isaiah 53 and Luke 22 side by side in personal study or devotion.

Especially bearing in mind the confrontation, arrest, and crucifixion that will all happen in the next 12 hours or so after Jesus and the disciples leave the Upper Room, listen to some of Isaiah 53. In fact, let’s pause and have our prayer of confession now, noting that all these words come from the passage Jesus quoted as he spoke to the disciples:
Leader:  1 Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
ALL: 3 He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Leader: 4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.
ALL: 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him and by His scourging we are healed.
Leader: 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way;
ALL: But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
That’s just the first six verses. Listen to this next part as you picture Jesus in the garden, telling Peter to put away the swords he asked them to bring and healing Malchus, whom Peter struck with the sword.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?” (Isaiah 53:7-8)
And then picturing his crucifixion, listen to these verses near the end:
11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, [God] will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, my Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:11-12)
Doesn’t that open up a huge world of context!? The suffering servant will “bear the sin of many and intercede for the transgressors.” That’s his work on the cross! And because of that great sacrifice and service, God will declare and make him great and strong – there’s the victory, there’s the Promised Messiah! And did you hear and do you see the part Jesus quoted? All of that is “because He poured out Himself to death and was numbered with the transgressors.” (v. 12)

Jesus became one of us – the transgressors, the sinful, the rebellious – and poured out himself to death for our sake, that we would be numbered with the righteous. That’s the Good News! For none of us is righteous, not even one. Only Jesus was; and that’s the great exchange that we celebrate every time we come to this [Communion] Table: his righteousness for our transgression, his healing for our sickness, his life for our death.

He was numbered with the transgressors is shorthand for all that he accomplished on the cross and is a reminder that because of him and through him all who trust in him are counted as right with God.

Scripture Has Its Fulfillment


So, Jesus told the disciples right before they headed into the darkest and thickest part of crucifixion night and morning: “Bring your things because God’s Word will be fulfilled this night.” Really, the swords are one minor detail in a much larger fulfillment. My best guess is that they are part of the “sheep that is silent before its shearers.” Most criminals… most men… would have resisted arrest and death; but Jesus called them off that he might walk that path of obedience to the cross, to be numbered among the transgressors that we might be counted among the righteous. Don’t miss the greater story, the greater narrative!

The question for us from this text then is not “What will you bring?” or “What will you do?” but “Do you understand what Jesus has done?” That night Peter would both rush ahead of him and deny knowing him, while all along the very promises and Word of God were being fulfilled perfectly before him.

Can you see it? Do you understand it? Through Jesus, God has made the great exchange – you for him and him for you. It’s what we acknowledge and give thanks for at the Table. And through Jesus all are invited!




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