Praise the Lord & Pass the Ammunition ~ May 27, 2018 ~ Luke 22:35-38
OK, we’re in Luke chapter 22, but let me set the scene for a second. This took place at the Last Supper. Remember the Last Supper, where Jesus’ followers were gathered up in the Upper Room? He has the Seder meal, the Passover meal. Now, in the Bible it only mentions the guys, the twelve guys that were there, but I’m not so sure that’s completely representative because women were following Jesus as well. There’s absolutely no reason or biblical support to think Jesus excluded women from anything, so it’s very highly likely that in that Passover meal, or in that room, the ladies were also there as well. Nonetheless, they’re in the Upper Room, they’re having the Last Supper. (They don’t call it the Last Supper, obviously. Jesus didn’t get all these guys together and say, “Hey! Let’s have a Last Supper!” They were having the Seder meal).
We know that at some point during the meal, Jesus got up, wrapped a towel around his waist and did something very uncharacteristic for a leader, for a king: He washed all the disciples’ feet in an act of humility. He said, “I am an example, you go and do the same.” We know that at one point he told Judas, “Go and do what you have to do,” and he left. Then there’s this point where Jesus says to Simon that “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Isn’t that interesting? “When you have repented…” Repented of what? Jesus knew what was coming. Peter says, “But Lord! I’m ready to go to prison for you, if need be, and even to die with you!” And Jesus says, “Wow, Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny not once, not twice, but three times that you even know me.”
Why? Why would Peter deny that he knows Jesus? It’s the same reason Ryan discovered so many people from his high school years were Christians but he never knew it! Jesus knew how hard things were going to get for those who follow him. I mean, think about the guys sitting around that table, just as an example. James, son of Alpheus, was sitting at that table. James had his feet washed. James would eventually be thrown down from the top of the temple by the scribes and the Pharisees. He would be stoned, and when they didn’t have enough stones to kill him, they walked up to him and dashed his brains out with clubs. That was James’ future. James, son of Zebedee, would be beheaded by Herod the first shortly before the Passover in AD 44, so only 11 years after breaking bread with Jesus at the first communion, he gets beheaded. Peter – the one who denied him three times – he would eventually be crucified under persecution by Nero, and he would be crucified upside down at his request, because he believed he was not even worthy to die in the same manner as Jesus because of his thrice denial.
Matthew died a martyr in Ethiopia preaching the gospel. Thomas was speared to death in India. Andrew was crucified and hung on an olive tree in Greece. Jude, or Thaddeus, was martyred in Persia and buried in Kara Kalisa, what is modern day Iran. Bartholomew and Philip, they too were crucified upside down; Bartholomew in Armenia, Philip in what is modern day Turkey. None of the apostles had a happy ending, with the exception of John. John did die of old age, exiled on the island of Patmos, but he was also tortured. He was boiled in oil and they tried to kill him but he survived, perhaps because he was the one Jesus gave responsibility on the cross to care for his mother. I don’t suppose the apostles, the rest of them, were shocked at their fate, nor should we be. Matthew 10:22 clearly tells us:
“All nations will hate you because you are my followers.”
Jesus says again, in Mark 13:13:
“And everyone will hate you because you are my followers.”
And again in Luke 6:22:
“What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man.”
Just because you do the right thing! And let me ask you – I’ll bet, I’ll bet – have you ever found yourself in a situation where your friends were mad at you for doing the right thing? For doing the RIGHT thing they mock you, and exclude you, and tease you, and ridicule you. Now, most of you know that I had originally planned on being a surgeon when I was growing up. When I was in high school I took every math and science course Triton Regional High School had to offer. I took Latin in Junior High. I was preparing myself for Medical School. Then in my senior year, or right before my senior year, I discovered the drums, and it all went to hell in a handbasket. I discovered music and I was going to be a world famous rock and roll drummer. I tried to travel the Eastern seaboard for fifteen years and, you know, be the next Bon Jovi! We all know how that turned out, but the interesting thing is, during that time, please make no mistake, there was no halo above this head. I was no angel, I was no choir boy. One thing I didn’t do, was I didn’t participate in the alcohol and the drugs. And they were everywhere in the music business. We got paid once in a bag of joints. That was the pay for the gig! The rest of the band was like, “Oh my God, this is so wonderful!” Adam’s going, “What?” The other guys used to pick on me, used to ridicule me, used to mock me. One of our guitarists at the time, Mark Warner, he made me a bet. He says, “I’ll bet you twenty bucks you won’t even make it to age 25 without toking on a joint!” Mark owes me some money.
Not because I was walking with the Lord, because I was definitely not walking with the Lord, but I found it interesting how they were mad at me for doing the right thing! My lead singer Dave one time was sleeping over my house after playing in the band for a number of years. We’re in our sleeping bags on the floor in the living room, and he says, “Adam?” I said, “Yeah?” He said, “I just want to apologize.” I said, “For what? What’d you do?” He said, “I want to apologize for pressuring you, and getting on you, and making fun of you because you wouldn’t participate. I really respect that.” “Wow! That’s great! If you only knew all of the other things I did!”
But anyway, it’s weird that even your friends – these guys, I traveled with these guys, I slept in rooms this big with these guys, we all smelled together – and yet, I would get mocked and ridiculed for doing the right thing. And I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one who can give that testimony.
Well, these apostles, these followers of Christ, were trying to do the right thing and were getting ridiculed, were getting mocked. That’s why Jesus says in Luke 22, beginning in verse 35:
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 extra clothing, 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!”
Sell your clothing that will keep you warm and buy a sword…
“For the time has come for this prophecy about me to be fulfilled: ‘He was counted among the rebels.’”
So you’re going to be considered a rebel…
“Yes, everything written about me by the prophets will come true.” “Look, Lord,” they replied, “we have two swords among us.” “That’s enough,” he said.
Jesus asked them to buy swords? Yup. There is absolutely no biblical prohibition on defending oneself. Sometimes it is necessary to take up the sword and defend what is right and just. Just in the story of Abraham’s nephew Lot. In Genesis 14:
When Abraham heard that his nephew Lot had been captured, he mobilized the 318 trained men who had been born in his household. Then he pursued Kedorlaomer’s army until he caught up with them at Dan. There he divided his men and attacked during the night. Kedorlaomer’s army fled, but Abram chased them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. Abram recovered all the goods that had been taken, and he brought back his nephew Lot with his possessions and all the women and other captives.
So, sometimes the sword is necessary. Remember Joshua; the walls of Jericho? All those walls came tumbling down so they could invade the city of Jericho. What about Gideon and his 300 warriors that had to go out with their swords and face 135,000 Midianites?
What about David verses Goliath? Now, at first he just used a sling, right? But after the rock went into Goliath’s head, David took Goliath’s sword and decapitated him. In 1 Samuel 15, God tells King Saul to go to war against the Amalekites. The Amalekites had been attacking, and murdering, and warring against the Israelites from the very beginning, and God has finally had enough. He was going to exact justice on the Amalekites, and he was going to use King Saul to fulfill his plan. “Wipe them out,” he says.
As Jesus says in John chapter 10, this is a broken world ruled by Satan, whose only goal is to steal, kill, and destroy. So, why would we be surprised if sometimes it is necessary to take up the sword? Adolph Hitler?
Somebody had to take up the sword. Communists in Korea, Vietnam? Osama bin Laden? The Taliban? Isis? Bashar Al-Assad – today in Syria we have this murderous thug, Bashar Al-Assad ruling in Syria. I really don’t know what to do (like I have anything to say about it). He’s so evil that he uses gas. We haven’t used gas weapons since the first world war. All countries signed a pact saying no more, that was too horrific. And he uses them on his own people to stay in power. Are we, the United States of America, the most powerful nation in the world with the most powerful military in the world, supposed to just stand by and say, “eh, not our problem.” Go ahead, a lot of people said that about him at first. I don’t know. If we do go in and take out Assad, who replaces him? Maybe that guy’s even worse! I don’t know. All I know is that sometimes taking up the sword is necessary. Jesus said to his apostles, “Sell your cloak, buy a sword.” When someone’s attacking you, throwing your cloak at them isn’t going to do much good.
Perhaps you’re familiar with Lieutenant Edwin F. Woodhead.
Yes, I’m sure you’ve all heard of him. Lieutenant Edwin F. Woodhead was the officer in charge of the ammunition line on the USS New Orleans when it was attacked. He says, “I heard a voice behind me say, ‘Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!’ and I turned around and saw Chaplain Forgy walking toward me. Along the line of men he was patting them on their backs and making that remark to cheer them on and keep them going. I know it helped me a lot,” he said. Lieutenant Forgy himself later recalled the incident when he said, “I was stationed aboard the USS New Orleans and we were tied up at 10 10 dock in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. We were having a turbine lifted and all of our electrical power was not on, so when we went to lift the ammo by hoist, we had to form lines of men instead like a bucket brigade. We began to carry the ammunition up through the quarter deck and into the gurneys and I stood there and directed some of the boys down the port side and some of the boys down the starboard side, and as they were getting a little tired, I just happened to say, ‘Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!’ That’s all there was to it.” That’s all there was to it. We still remember that day, December 7, 1941: a day that will live in infamy, and a day that again reminds us, sometimes it is necessary to take up the sword.
Now, we are so blessed. we are so blessed in this country, because since the Minutemen of Lexington and Concord, there have always been fellow Americans willing to head toward the sound of gunfire and not away from it.
And we are in their debt and we must always honor them, and we will because we will never forget. Similarly, sometimes it is necessary to defend our Christian faith using the sword of truth. That’s what God calls this in the Bible, the sword of truth. Because it’s not easy to be a Christian in a fallen world such as this one! That’s why we’re all undercover. That’s why years later when your choral teacher lets known that she’s a woman of faith you kind of go, “Wow, I never knew it.” Sometimes we have to pick up our sword and defend our faith. It’s not an easy time to be a Christian in this country, but it’s especially difficult in other places in the world, such as in Uzbekistan. I want you to hear something from Pastor Salavat.
That’s what the Voice of the Martyrs Ministry does, takes care of people like that and their families.
Father I just want to take this moment in the middle of my message to pray for Pastor Salavat and his family, and all those pastors and believers who gather in remote places to hide from the authorities who would imprison them, persecute them, torture them, kill them. I know you answer all prayer God, and just like you miraculously helped Pastor Salavat’s family, I know you can do the same for others. It also reminds us, Lord, of how blessed we are. We give you thanks and praise Lord for organizations like Voice of the Martyrs, and all of the believers all over the world who pray for the persecuted. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Now, praise God we do not have that kind of persecution to fear – yet. There are folks who would love to strip away your right to have a sword of truth. There are folks who accuse each one of you of hate speech because you believe in the word of truth. And if you are faithful to biblical teaching and you do not copy the behavior and customs of this world, you will stick out and you will most likely be attacked, ridiculed, mocked – sometimes from a direction you might not expect. In Luke 21, Jesus says:
“Even those closest to you – your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends – will betray you. They will even kill some of you. And everyone will hate you because you are my followers.”
They knew Christians were being persecuted at this time and family members were turning them in so they could curry favor with whoever was in power.
“But not a hair on your head will perish!”
“By standing firm, you will win your souls.”
So, on this Memorial Day, when we remember those who stood firm, the question is will we stand firm for the truth, or will we fold at the first sign of resistance for fear of being unpopular or excluded? Remember when your mother told you, and there are probably some mothers here who have used it themselves (maybe you can finish this for me): “If Johnny jumped off the bridge… would you jump off too?”
Look, in Matthew chapter 7, Jesus says, look:
“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate.”
There’s a narrow gate into the kingdom of heaven. Who is the gate? Jesus. Jesus says:
“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
There are seven billion people in the world today, there are only 1 billion Christians. That means 6 billion people have not yet found the gate. That means you’re outnumbered 6 to 1.
“The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow…”
“… and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”
That means 6 billion people aren’t headed through the gate of Jesus Christ. That means the overwhelming majority of people in this world are on the highway to hell. So, is it all that surprising when we try to live a Christian life, we are swimming against the stream? Picture it this way: next time you go to the mall during Christmas time, try going up the down escalator and see what kind of reception you get! What do people say to you? Do they all step out of the way and say, “Oh, excuse me?” No! That’s what it’s like, in many ways, being a Christian today. You’re going up the down escalator. You’re swimming upstream. We need to stand strong in the Lord, even if it means standing alone.
But the good thing is, you’re never alone. You have brothers and sisters in Christ who will come stand with you who will pray for you, who will support you… and you’ll always have Jesus with you. So that in the face of fear – real fear, or fear of being teased or ridiculed or excluded – will we be Chaplain Forgy or Pastor Salavat and say, “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!” or will we remain silent? That’s up to us. Will you stand and pray with me?