Q&R with Brad Jersak – “Bring them here & kill them in front of me” (Luke 19:27)
I was thinking of WWJD? (What would Jesus do?) the other day in the context of world events, especially the wars that are raging right now. I’ve run into some strange reactions. Some said, “Jesus would side with ______,” and others said, “No, Jesus would join ______.” As a militant? Not Jesus, surely!
But then a friend posted Luke 19:27: “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.”
I’m stumped. It’s in the New Testament. How do you read this?
Let’s start with the question of God taking “sides.” While I can find all kinds of biblical evidence that seems to show God taking sides, it was frequently not on the side of God’s own people. Whatever we do with that, it’s good to let this story from Joshua 5 lurk in our minds:
- 13 Now, when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
- 14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord, I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
- 15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
The problem is our presumption that God takes my side in any argument or battle. Or that God believes in “sides” as if we are the reference point to whom God rallies rather than God as the One to whom we bow.
Now to Luke 19:27: “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.”
1. Christ has already given us a straightforward command about loving, blessing and praying for our enemies. Matthew 5 is his unwavering instruction to his followers.
2. At his arrest, he confirms his radical command enemy-love: “Put away your sword,” which all Christians prior to the imperialization of the church took as universal and applicable to them.
3. Christ has already shown us exactly what he would do as King. Instead of destroying his enemies, he willingly laid down his life for them, forgiving them, and reconciling them to himself at the Cross.
4. Luke 19 is a parable—a story—and like many of Jesus’ parables, a dire warning of the consequences if they reject his Way of Love. The parable does not describe what Christ will actually do (kill them), but it does warn them of the blowback of violence intrinsic to their terrible choices. The king or master figure in such parables is NOT the image of God. The image of God is Jesus alone, the cruciform king who rejects violence and vengeance as the way to make things right.
5. So, the ultimate punchline of every parable (especially the judgment parables) is not the disaster at the end of such parables, but rather, the Passion of Jesus Christ in bringing the mercy that triumphs over judgment.
6. So, why did Jesus compose these parables? Because their rejection of his Way of peace in favor of a violent uprising truly does lead to death and destruction… every time. By the Roman siege in AD 70. And by every war waged today. We keep trying to defeat death with more death. But Jesus responds to their rejection of him, not like the king in the parable, but like the thorn-crowned king on the Cross.
7. In so doing, Jesus IS King because he conquers the real enemy: hatred, violence and even death itself. But those who persist in rejecting the Jesus Way (including his own people) and cling to the way of the sword keep experiencing the parable over and over. This is not God’s heart for us. This is: just a few moments [verses] after sharing this parable, as he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, Jesus wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42).
Prayer: Lord, open our eyes. Help us see your Way and know what would bring us peace.
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