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Holy Wednesday Reflection 2016: “The Gloves are Off”

Each day this week, we’ll offer a short reflection on a reading, or a portion of a reading, for Holy Week. We hope that you find this to be helpful as you observe this week of the proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus for us sinners. In the one-year lectionary, the reading for Holy Wednesday is Luke 22:1–23:56. Again, we will focus on just a small portion of this reading.

— By Elizabeth Ahlman

And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough” (Luke 22:35-38, ESV).

The Baptistry (under the main sanctuary) of the St. Mang Cathedral in Füssen, Germany. (Photo by Christopher Ahlman).

The Baptistry (under the main sanctuary) of the St. Mang Cathedral in Füssen, Germany. (Photo by Christopher Ahlman).

Reading this passage from Luke, my first thought was, “Why does Jesus have them take the moneybags and knapsacks along now? Why at this time?” So I walked over to the living room and asked my husband, “What do you think this means?” His reply was that it had always struck him as being as if Jesus says to the disciples, “The gloves are off.”

You see, this occurs on the night on which Jesus is betrayed. They have finished the Lord’s Supper, and they are about to head to the Mount of Olives. There, Jesus knows what is to come: a betrayal by way of a kiss, Roman soldiers and swords, beatings and false trials, death on a cross — being numbered with the transgressors. Jesus knows that everything is about to drastically change. They are about to go out to do battle.

And when you look at the Isaiah passage to which Jesus refers, the idea of battle takes even more root:

Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12, ESV).

While the disciples must be prepared because the devil and the world will assault the Church, it is Jesus who on this occasion goes out to do battle for the sake of the whole world. His battle looks different than any battle which we might imagine. Jesus’ battle is one in which He must let the other side “win,” at least in appearance. Jesus’ battle is a battle unto death. This is a death which His people will share. The spoils of this death will be divided among the many and the numerous (“strong” in the Hebrew may also mean “among the numerous”).

In fact, Jesus has already divided the spoils with His disciples: in bread and wine which He proclaims to be His body and blood, He divided the spoils of forgiveness, life and salvation before the battle appeared to be underway. The disciples then went out equipped to meet anything and to face the new world of a King who would defeat His enemies by way of His own death.

And the spoils of that death continue to be divided among the numerous. As we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ, the spoils He won for us on the cross are divided among us without ever diminishing or running out — forgiveness, life and salvation are ours. In His body and blood given for us in with and under the bread and wine, Jesus shares with us again the spoils of His bloody, glorious battle. The Righteous One who was numbered among the transgressors divides the spoil with the transgressors made righteous.

Let us Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, You are the Righteous One numbered among transgressors, we give You thanks and praise that You have done battle for us and divided the spoil among us. Grant that we may be ever prepared to face the snares of this world through daily repentance and contrition in remembrance of our baptisms and regularly partaking of Your precious Supper so that we may live eternally in the victory You have won; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

  • Read the reflections for Palm Sunday, Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday here.
  • Read the Holy Wednesday reflection on a different portion of this text from 2014.

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