LUKE 22:49-53 (NIV) | “When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
"Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour — when darkness reigns.’”
Anger is a slippery emotion that tends to come with a lot of guilt, shame, and destruction.
For some of us, it brews slowly and hides in the back of our heart, subtly impacting most of what we say and do. Often, it grows into a well-schemed plan to execute judgment on the object of our anger. Over the course of three years, Jesus’ message and methods gradually lit the flame of anger in the hearts of the religious leaders of his day. Instead of hearing him and examining themselves, they burned with anger toward Jesus until finally they began to “look for an opportunity” to be rid of him for good.
For others, it is a quick boil that explosively burns anyone unfortunate enough to be near at the time. This is a bit like the disciple who struck at the priest’s slave, cutting off his ear. Whatever his motivation — fear, protection, revolution — his anger burned hot against Jesus’ captors, and he lashed out.
The thing that intrigues me the most in this passage is the question, “Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords.” Without waiting for an answer, one of them lashed out. And why not? They could see that a terrible injustice was about to occur. And only hours before, Jesus himself had instructed them to bring the swords (verse 36)! Surely this anger was justified!
But something different was motivating Jesus.
Someone once shared with me the principle of authorization. In law enforcement, all deputized officers have the authority to execute the actions of their job: make arrests, carry a weapon, issue citations. But they cannot do this whenever or wherever they choose. Their authority is only in force within their jurisdiction. Though a city police officer has the authority to make arrests, they cannot do so in another city where they do not have jurisdiction. Further, within the officer’s jurisdiction, they cannot issue citations to random people for no reason but must have authorization to do so (for example, they must be able to prove that a law has been broken).
The way this principle applies to us is that every person who follows Jesus and has been adopted by the Father has been given the authority to do the things Jesus did and commanded us to do. Interestingly, it seems that God also grants to his children areas of jurisdiction in which to operate in this authority. But authorization, now that is the tricky one! When and how are we to use this authority?
I think Jesus models the answer for us in this story. When love rules in our hearts towards the people and places we are called, then we have authorization to use our authority. In exasperation, we discover that often this means submitting ourselves to the source of our anger! Even toward his enemies, Jesus was driven by love. With anger surrounding him, and perhaps welling up within him, he overcame the destruction of anger by offering himself in love, thereby exercising his authority to overthrow the power of darkness.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION
- How does anger usually express itself in your life?
- Do you usually feel justified in your anger, or is it something that carries a level of shame for you?
- What new options open up to you as you think about applying the principle of authorization to areas of frustration and anger in your life?
- Look for one area in your life where you can exercise your authority in love, submitting to the people or things that anger you.
This reading is a part of our "Small Feet Big Shoes" devotional series. You can also sign up to receive these meditations by email.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eric Purcell and his wife, Lisa, have served with CRM since 2010. Eric leads CRM’s :Beta: team in Omaha, Nebraska, where they are working to form leaders who are rooted in place and living out their calling in the world so that the tangible love of Jesus is expressed in every place where people call home. Eric and Lisa live in Omaha with their daughter Norah, sons Brennen and Lachlan, a cat, a guinea pig, and eight chickens.