Why did Jesus have to die? (Matthew 26:47-56)

How did Jesus’ death “fulfill the prophetic Scriptures?” Here’s the explanation he gave in Gethsemane.

Fight or flight? Many kings have faced that choice. In a field just outside his capital, the true king rejected both options. Neither would bring peace to a divided world.

If you don’t flee and you don’t fight, you could die. Not very attractive, but it is an option: stay and die.

Instead of taking flight, Jesus stayed in Gethsemane, consulting his Father, the architect of human history. He triple-checked for any other alternatives (26:36-46). When the crowd with swords and clubs arrived to take him, he rejected the fight option too.

Matthew doesn’t name Peter as the disciple who unsheathed a dagger. It’s too late for flight. He sees no option but to fight for his king. He swings his sword. The high priest’s servant sees it coming and drops his head to one side. The blow aimed at his neck slices off his ear.

The king orders him, Put your sword back in its place! All who take the sword will destroy themselves with the sword.

What astounding insight! Jesus wasn’t merely saying that those who rely on weapons for survival probably won’t. He said the very act of choosing weapons to kill humans destroys our own humanity (ἀπολοῦνται = future indicative middle).

Ask returning soldiers who’ve seen killing whether Jesus is right. Ask them how many friends they’ve lost to the spectrum from shellshock to suicide. War destroys more than the enemy.

But what sort of option is stay and die? Is that what the Scriptures required of him? It’s not what previous kings had chosen.

Continue reading “Why did Jesus have to die? (Matthew 26:47-56)”

Jesus on war: pacifism, or just war?

Jesus was not speaking as a prophet when he said, “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars.” Anyone with a basic understanding of history or politics knows that. Jesus had a point to make: how we respond to news of war.

What response did Jesus expect from his disciples? Christian responses to war have been polarized, as if Jesus said one of these: Continue reading “Jesus on war: pacifism, or just war?”

Should Christians go to war? (Romans 13:1-7)

Open Romans 13:1-7.

We discussed what this passage says about the authority of the state. Now we turn to the question of whether God authorizes governments to conduct wars, and whether it authorizes Christians to kill enemies in war.

Romans 13:4 is the crucial verse, and I’m going to argue these points:

  • carrying the sword refers to punishing wrongdoers, not prosecuting war;
  • the New Testament does not instruct the state about war;
  • followers of Jesus must not go to war, because our King forbids it.

Here’s the context:

Continue reading “Should Christians go to war? (Romans 13:1-7)”

Who is our enemy? (Matthew 5:43)

It makes a difference who we label as “enemy.”

Turkish people are fascinating. The merchants of Turkey engage you in conversation, showing an interest in you as a human being before they try to sell you something. There’s one conversation I’ll never forget.

He had camels for hire. I mean, the camels were rather obvious. He walked with us for a bit. Learning we were Australians, he asked, “You’re visiting Gallipoli?” Gallipoli is the stuff of legend. The ANZAC troops landed there in World War I to capture the strategically important Dardanelles for the British. They held out bravely, though thousands lost their lives. 100 years later, Australians still remember the ANZACs with a public holiday each April. Continue reading “Who is our enemy? (Matthew 5:43)”

His kingdom in a violent world (Matthew 5:43-48)

Should Christians go to war?

Open Matthew 5:43-48.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus paints a picture of the earth restored under God’s government. Earthly governments have always relied on violence to conquer each other and build kingdoms. (See Why war?) Israel’s prophets envisaged a day when the Messiah would sort out their enemies and restore peace under God’s reign. Their useless swords would be repurposed as tines for the plough (Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3). It’s a wonderful vision. What a difference it would make to repurpose the world’s military spending — US $1.6 trillion dollars— to growing food instead of preparations to kill people!

So should the nations just demilitarize now? And if their enemies refuse, should God’s people unilaterally demilitarize? What would happen if we didn’t fight back? Continue reading “His kingdom in a violent world (Matthew 5:43-48)”

Discovering God’s army (Genesis 32:1-12)

Jacob was petrified of facing Esau, until he found he had a bigger fight on his hands.

I hope that reading the Bible as the story of the God’s kingdom is helping unfold its core message to you. It really does make a huge difference. Even those who write commentaries on the Bible have difficulty making sense of the text if they miss this perspective. Continue reading “Discovering God’s army (Genesis 32:1-12)”