Buckle Up

Buckle up, its going to be a bumpy ride. How many of you ran out to your car and buckled up? We know this is a saying. It is meant to warn of coming unpleasant bumpiness. Sometimes when we want to warn people that things are about to get dangerous, we may use language that is not at all meant to be literal. Hold on to your hats! And what if you don’t have a hat? Are those poor hatless slobs more likely to succumb to danger because they don’t have a hat to hold onto? Hunker down! This one can be used literally but it doesn’t have to be. If you are on a cliff and a sudden storm surrounds you, you are going to want to literally hunker down. But it can also be a figure of speech. Life is hard; hunker down. Endure. How do we know if it is literal or a figure of speech? Good question.

Twice before, Jesus sent people (the twelve and then the seventy) out on a mission and told them to not take supplies with them. Was this permanent mission trip instructions? I don’t think so. It was a building trust in God exercise. I don’t want to minimize that at all. But I don’t think we look at Luke 9:1-6 and 10:1-4 and discover a manual for missions. But now things are different; things are dangerous. Jesus’ instructions in 22:35-38 are a warning. But he begins by asking them about when they were sent out with nothing. Did they lack for anything? God provided through the hands of people. They affirm the lesson and tell Jesus that they had lacked for nothing.

Jesus then tells them to take their money belts and their bags. Why are things different? And then he tells them that if they don’t have a sword they should sell their coat and buy one. What? Is Jesus advocating violence? A sword was considered standard travel gear. Augustine had made the roads safer, but he did not, could not, eradicate the danger. A sword was a reminder that the road was dangerous. And still we must ask the question, “Is Jesus saying that it is okay to use violence to protect yourself?” I’m not sure Jesus’ words address the question. I think it is possible that all of his instructions are like saying, “Buckle up, its going to be a bumpy ride!” or “Hold on to your hats!” or “Hunker down boys!” Life is about to get dangerous.

Then he quotes from Isaiah 53:12 and applies it to himself: “And he was numbered with transgressors.” This is fulfilled in Jesus. There are all manner of suggestions of what Jesus meant here. Is he referring to being crucified with thieves? Is he saying that the disciples will be considered lawbreakers because they have swords? Uhm what? For what it is worth, I think that both the prophesy in Isaiah and Jesus’ use of it mean that he himself will be numbered as a lawbreaker. The word “numbered” means calculate. They will tally Jesus up and put him on a spread sheet along with other reprobates. The cross was reserved for the worst of offenders. Roman citizens, no matter what their crime, could not be crucified. And since he will be executed as a lawbreaker, the life of the disciples will be dangerous because of association.

The disciples proudly hold up two swords and say, “Look Lord, we have two swords.” Jesus replies with “it is enough.” Again suggestion abound concerning Jesus’ meaning here. Is he saying, “Two swords will just about cover it boys”? Or “Enough of you not understanding what I mean”? Or “Enough of this whole conversation. It is time to go.” I think Jesus is saying that they are not understanding what he was saying. They don’t get the warning. They cannot grasp how dangerous their lives are about to become. They ran out to the car and buckled up instead of mentally preparing for a bumpy ride. I am not saying that it is wrong to protect yourself. I am just not sure that is Jesus’ point here.

Following Jesus can be dangerous. Buckle up! Hold onto your proverbial hats! Hunker down! And the message here tastes different than what many preach today. Follow Jesus and your life will be smooth. Dangerous? Oh p’faw! Dangerous smangerous. No, of course not. Follow Jesus and your pains will poof away; money will magically appear in your bank account; relationships will never be rocky. And yet, doesn’t history tell us that there are places and times when Christians ought to buckle up. If a person decides to follow Christ in Afghanistan, they should know up front that danger leaps down the street. It is not safe in China either. Buckle up then. Notice that Jesus doesn’t advise his disciples to distance themselves from him. Nope. He advises them to buckle themselves up. The ride was about to get bumpy.