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Daily Devotional • December 10

David Baumann
High Alert
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 22:31-38

31 “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail, and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 33 And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day until you have denied three times that you know me.”
35 He said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “No, not a thing.” 36 He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless,’ and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.” 38 They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” He replied, “It is enough.”

The passage about the swords is puzzling; there is no consensus among scholars about its meaning. Putting it in context of the imminent betrayal and arrest that Jesus has just predicted, and in the wider context of the rest of the gospel, some lessons become likely. 
Jesus teaches that it is now time for disciples to take moneybags, knapsacks, and even swords; this is in contrast to the time he sent them out without such provisions, in which they had no lack. This surely does not mean that God is not going to provide for them anymore, but that the provision will take another form; they must plan ahead and be prepared for what is to come. 
Up until this moment Jesus has been overwhelmingly popular, but even then there was opposition; however, that opposition was mostly argumentative and manipulative. But things are about to change. The sword is, at the very least, a sign that the disciples are going to be vehemently, even violently, opposed. 
Yet Jesus opposed James and John’s suggestion that Samaritans have fire rained on them for rejecting Jesus, and in a short time Jesus will tell Peter to put up his sword when he attacks the servant of the high priest in the Garden of Gethsemane. So returning violence for violence is not the divine plan. What is it, then? 
In the first part of the lesson, Jesus tells Simon that Satan has demanded to have the disciples and sift them like wheat. In all of this, there is the unnerving forecast that the stakes are about to get much higher than before. Jesus’ answer to Satan’s demand is, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” This is focused and immediate teaching that he has given elsewhere. For example, “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18), and “Whoever endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13). 
We may not wield swords — may not even be permitted to — and yet, it’s high alert. We must be on our guard against the works of darkness.

David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.

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Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Ogoni – The Church of Nigeria
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Waco, Texas
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