Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Responding God’s Way (John 18:10-11; Luke 22:49-53)

“Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”” (John 18:10–11, ESV)

“And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”” (Luke 22:49–53, ESV)

Jesus’ response to those who came to arrest Him spoke very loudly to me as I have been thinking about recent events. He said, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” For so long in this country evil was done behind closed doors or subversively so that it would not be noticed by the masses. This was so because the masses had a standard of truth by which they lived. They had a moral light founded in the Word of God that set the path for society, and diverging from it came with consequences.

But gradually over time this moral standard has been eroded and the light that guided our founders so many years ago to establish the laws and standards of right and wrong which have guided this country, have been dimmed such that our government and many people at large no longer see or recognize that light. Voices have been silenced for other voices, and those other voices operate in darkness and their own sense of what they believe is right for man. It as if this country has suffered from the syndrome of the proverbial frog in the pot of water who did not recognize the gradual, but constant, turning up of the heat until it was too late and the frog was served up on a plate.

This is the power of darkness. When there is no light on the path people stumble. And when that light is purposely closed out man feels more emboldened to do just as he pleases. In the book of Judges, which was a time period after the death of their patriarchal leaders, man was left to his own means to seek after God. Joshua before His death challenged the people to follow after God, and they assured Him that they would. But surely enough after he had died, man chased after his own desires, regularly got into trouble, was periodically rescued by God and the deepening cycle continued until we read as the last verse in the book, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25, NASB95)

It is an interesting statement, there was no king in Israel.” There was no one to set a course for them and to frame in their actions. As we read in Scripture there was soon to be a time where there were kings in Israel and most of those kings were no better than the people left to their own means. This is so because those kings refused as well to follow after God and observe His statutes. Even today we have a leadership in which some are elected by popular or representative votes and others who are appointed by those who are elected. Between the two, we have powers in place who represent the views of those who put them there who may not even be in the majority, but at least felt compelled enough to take action when many in the majority kept silent.

The growth of evil results when man does not follow after God and it is compounded when those who do keep silent. It is exasperated when those who know God don’t know His word and even endorse that which God does not approve. This is the way it was with Israel and it surely seems to be the way it is with the countries of this world including our own.

So what are we to do? Peter had an answer to this. He stood up and struck back on his own. And in striking out He went directly for the high priest’s servant Malchus, cutting off his ear (probably expecting to do more damage). It is interesting that John mentioned the name of the servant. We don’t know if it was because Malchus was well-known and powerful in aggression toward the followers of Christ or possibly because Malchus later trusted in Christ and became known to them as a brother in Christ. What we do know is that Jesus knew why He had come, and He even knew the heart of Malchus. He knew that He had to be taken captive, and He knew that it was His task to preserve even those who were given to Him such that none of them were lost. Had Peter’s act been left to stand there is every likelihood that Peter would have also been arrested, but this was not what God intended. Luke tells us (probably to protect Peter but also not to hinder His arrest), “But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.” (Luke 22:51, ESV) It was then that Jesus focused the attention of His accusers on the reason for which they came and their choosing to come after Him in darkness unseen when they had ample opportunity to do so in the light and in the presence of others.

Peter’s answer was to act rashly on his own without consulted Jesus in advance, and even today as we observe the attack on God’s truth, our knee jerk reactions might be to lash out as well. Jesus responded to Peter’s lashing out, “No more of this.” Jesus came to be the light of the world, and because of Him coming we have been given new life and made His ambassadors of light. Panicking and attacking was not the way of Jesus, and it is not to be our way either. With bold assurance we are to trust God and speak His truth with grace as ambassadors of light remembering that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. The world around us has suppressed the light in their lives and we have been given the opportunity to be vessels of that light to reintroduce them to that which they so desperately need to see. But we are not to take things into our own hands. We are to trust God to work in and through us as we go to Him, hide His Word in our hearts, and allow Him to direct out steps.

Jesus sent His disciples out to speak to the Jews, and in sending them He gave them both instructions concerning what to do and about how to respond when they are rejected. As we read the end of this passage we see that this particular instruction even applies to the Jews in the end times and provides direction for us in-between. ““Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:16–22, ESV)

His followers were not to go out wisely and rightly. They were not to act rashly or incite warranted attack because of those actions. Sure, they would be attacked, they would be turned over to the courts, but even in this there were to bear witness before their accusers and those who observed them. Jesus told them not to be anxious, but to rely on the Spirit to direct their response. Even when families are divided over these things, still they are to respond in trust. Even in the midst of hate and harsh attacks, still there are to respond in peace knowing that it is Christ who they serve. No matter how bad it gets or how long the struggle might last, salvation is the certain hope for those who trust in God. It was true for them and it is true for us today.

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