A LEADER OF MINNESOTA GUN RIGHTS said that Jesus wants us all to be armed to protect ourselves from the “perverts” in the Capitol. This comment came during a pro-gun rally in front of the Capitol last week. Let’s take a closer look at this charge.
First, there is no record in the Gospels that Jesus carried a weapon. Certainly, if Jesus would want people to carry weapons he would set an example by packing heat himself.
Second, even though Jesus tells his disciples to “sell their cloak and buy [a sword]” in Luke 22:36, there are no references to a similar telling in the other Gospels. The disciple’s response was “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” Jesus’ response was “It is enough.” One has to ask why Jesus backed off his telling all his disciples to get swords and settling for two swords? Why did not Jesus say, “I told all of you to buy swords!” I submit that Jesus’ response of “It is enough” was one of a test, a disgust and “Don’t you get the message?” Jesus wants to emphasize the truth that “For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me….” (Luke 22:37) and not in weapons. Finally, at worst, Jesus was emphasizing restraint in settling for two swords instead of 12 swords. Therefore, two disciples would be “armed” and 10 would not. What sense is this?
Third, Jesus’ other weapon reference was in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:50, John 18:10-11 and Mark 14:47). In Luke, Jesus shouted “No more of this!” and touched the slave of the high priest whose ear had been cut off and healed him. In John, Jesus told Peter who had cut the ear off the high priest’s slave, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given me?” Jesus was stressing that the ministry of Jesus was to suffer, die and rise for others and NOT to take the life of others. Violence gets in the way of living the Jesus life! And in Mark, Jesus’ response was no response other than to criticize those who came to arrest him with swords and clubs “as though I were a bandit,” to not encourage his disciples to violence, and to submit to arrest. Jesus did not put any emphasis on the cutting off the slaves’ ear, as if to say, “Violence is not what the Jesus’ life is about.”
In all these interpretations by different Gospel writers, written decades after Jesus’ life, accusing Jesus of validating and encouraging his disciples to “man up and arm up” is a dishonest stretch. At best, Jesus minimizes the use of the sword. Furthermore, of the thousands of verses in the Gospels, why are there only these sparse verses that focus on any inkling of Jesus’ support of weapon use by the disciples? Similarly, I have not read of any stories of the disciples using swords in their ministries. Finally, as a Lutheran minister, I have yet to see any colleague packing heat in their ministry callings.
In reference to the “perverts” in the Capitol, it is a dishonest insult to equate an armed Jesus with responsible elected legislators who happen to disagree with an “armed” point of view. Jesus and the legislators are better than that.
Rev. Ron Letnes