Did Jesus Demand We Kill His Enemies?

It’s the king in the story, not Jesus, who issues the order to kill his enemies.

The concern is that Jesus seems to be identifying Himself as the nobleman (or the king) in the story. Does that mean He was ordering His followers to round up those who refused to be under His rule and have them executed? No, for at least two reasons.

 

In the gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.” Whoa, that doesn’t sound like the meek and mild-mannered Jesus we know. Did He wake up on the wrong side of the bed? What’s going on?

When I teach on “Never Read a Bible Verse,” I often cite this passage because it’s a great example of how someone who reads (or hears) only a single Bible verse out of context can easily mistake its meaning.

This verse, though, is not a command of Christ. When you read it in context, you quickly realize that Jesus is telling a parable (a fictitious story) about a king whose subjects hate him. It’s the king in the story, not Jesus, who issues the order to kill his enemies.

Though this resolves the contextual concern, it raises another question: Who is the king in the parable supposed to represent? Jesus’ story is found in Luke 19:11–27. It’s the “Parable of the Minas.” In it, a nobleman travels to a distant country to be appointed king. Before he leaves, he gives ten of his servants minas (a mina is about a month’s wages) to invest until he returns. Many of his subjects hate him, though, and don’t want him to rule over them. So, they send a delegation to protest his appointment. Despite their protest, he still becomes king and returns. He calls his servants to account for their investments and also dispenses some rewards and punishments. Finally, he issues the command to kill those who protested his appointment.

The concern is that Jesus seems to be identifying Himself as the nobleman (or the king) in the story. Does that mean He was ordering His followers to round up those who refused to be under His rule and have them executed? No, for at least two reasons.

First, Jesus is telling a parable to His listeners. This is something He often did to communicate an idea or illustrate a point. One of the interpretive guidelines for this genre of literature is to remember that not every element of a parable is intended to have real-world carryover. Rather, we’re supposed to figure out the purpose of the story. The listener (or reader in our case) is supposed to ask, what’s the point of the parable? What’s the take-home message Jesus wants us to understand?

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