Friday, January 25, 2013

The Apostle Peter - Gunslinger?

OK - so I wanted to be sort of Biblically relevant with what's going on in our world. And right now, there's so much attention on guns and the right to have them, it made me wonder, how was it like when Jesus walked the earth, as far as personal weapons are concerned? Did the disciples carry personal weapons?

No doubt, it was a dangerous world back then. The Apostle Paul knew that well. Listen to his experiences........."Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure." (2 Corinthians 11:24-27).

Certainly, it was a dangerous world. But not much has changed. It's a dangerous world today too. It makes you wonder though - what was it like to walk with Jesus and his disciples from town to town? Did they worry about robbers, muggers and thieves? Were they in dangerous places, around dangerous people? After all, the Bible does talk about Jesus being around sinners, tax-collectors, and such.

Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) ” (Mark 2:15-17)

The more Jesus began to be known, the more His life was threatened. "After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him." (John 7:1)

Things seemed to get more dangerous for Jesus and the disciples as time went on. "Then Jesus asked them, 'When I sent you out to preach the Good News and you did not have money, a traveler’s bag, or an extra pair of sandals, did you need anything?' 'No,' they replied. 'But now,' He said, 'take your money and a traveler’s bag. And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one! 'Look, Lord,' they replied, 'we have two swords among us.' 'That’s enough,' He said." (Luke 22:35,36,38).

Of course, no one could ever kill Jesus even if they wanted to, until it was the proper time - after His teachings were complete, after the disciples were trained, and after all prophecy was fulfilled. "So they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come." (John 7:30)

It seems in the later years, the Apostles were armed. Remember the famous incident when Jesus was arrested? The following is what happened when Judas the betrayer came with a group of Roman soldiers, looking for Jesus.

“'I am He,' Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed Him, was standing with them.) As Jesus said 'I am He,' they all drew back and fell to the ground!'” (John 18:5-6)

I love the way Jesus momentarily demonstrated His power - He basically knocked them all to the ground by some supernatural power, just to show that He could never be taken by force. He could only be taken if He allowed it. (He died willfully on the cross for our sins). He could have wiped them all out if He wanted to.

The story of Jesus' arrest continues, and involves Peter drawing and using his sword! OK, it wasn't a gun - so Peter wasn't a gunslinger after all. However, Peter was a swordslinger!..........."When the other disciples saw what was about to happen, they exclaimed, “Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!” (Luke 22:49) "Then Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave." (John 18:10) "But Jesus answered, 'No more of this!' And He touched the man’s ear and healed him." (Luke 22:51)

You see, at that point, the time was right for Jesus to allow Himself to be arrested without a fight. After they took Him to Pilate, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36)

It's important to note that the nature of Apostles' fighting changed after Jesus died, resurrected, ascended, and the church began. The Apostles were later empowered to fight, and would fight relentlessly, but no longer with physical swords. Instead, they would fight with spiritual ones.

The Apostle Paul said, "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

So, what can we learn from all this? First, the Apostles were brave men. They were real men, not a bunch of wimps. They were courageous. They were Christ's disciples, but they were also His bodyguards and defenders. They were ready to fight for Jesus, if need be. They were men who were sold out, committed, devoted to Christ, and would lay down their lives for the cause.

Secondly, we need to stand strong in our own faith. "Fight the good fight of faith." (1 Timothy 6:12). "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong." (1 Corinthians 16:13). "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." (1 Peter 3:15).

One more thing - how does all this relate to our right to bear arms? I suppose it supports the basic right to be able to defend oneself. I'm not for taking away that right. If someone broke in my house trying to attack me or my family, I like the idea of having a gun available.

On the other side of the story, there should be a line drawn somewhere on what type of weapon a person should be allowed to have. Certainly, there's no need to keep a bazooka around the house. Or a nuclear bomb stored in the closet. We need to be reasonable. Does one really need a machine gun with a thousand rounds of ammo?

Better yet, it would be worthwhile to analyze the root cause of all these shootings. It's certainly not guns. I can't help but look at the TV shows and the movies that our culture thrives on. Just last week, I saw a commercial for the new upcoming Sylvester Stallone movie called, "Bullet To The Head." And have you seen how real the video games look today? And so many of them are filled with blood, killing and shooting. 

Yes, our culture seems to thrive on violence for entertainment. Sad. Seems like our society is going down hill fast and following the course of the Romans. My brother, Tony, senses that. He sells bumper stickers that say, "We're Doomed." Our preacher, Mark, often mimics the words of the Apostle John in the book of Revelation, "Lord come quickly!"

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