3. Go the Second Mile
Need 3 cordless or clip on mikes, one for each, 1 backpack.
Text: “If one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one
mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:41).
Background: Going the second mile, Jesus' third example, is drawn from
the relatively enlightened practice of limiting to a single mile the
amount of forced or impressed labor that Roman soldiers could levy on
subject peoples. Such compulsory service was a constant feature in
Palestine from Persian to late Roman times. Whoever was found on the
street could be coerced into service, as was Simon of Cyrene, who was
forced to carry Jesus' cross (Mark 15:21). Armies had to be moved with
dispatch. Ranking legionnaires bought slaves or donkeys to carry their
packs of sixty to eighty five pounds (not including weapons). The
majority of the rank and file, however, had to depend on impressed
civilians. Whole villages sometimes fled to avoid being forced to carry
What we have overlooked in this passage is the fact that carrying
the pack a second mile is an infraction of military code. With few
exceptions, minor infractions were left to the disciplinary control of
the centurion (commander of one hundred men). He might fine the
offending soldier, flog him, put him on a ration of barley instead of
wheat, make him camp outside the fortifications, force him to stand all
day before the general's tent holding a clod of dirt in his hands--or,
if the offender was a buddy, issue a mild reprimand. But the point is
that the soldier does not know what will happen.
It is in this context of Roman military occupation that Jesus
speaks. He does not counsel revolt. One does not "befriend" the
soldier, draw him aside and drive a knife into his ribs. Jesus was
surely aware of the futility of armed insurrection against Roman
imperial might; he certainly did nothing to encourage those whose hatred
of Rome would soon explode into violence.
But why carry the soldier's pack a second mile? Does this not go
to the opposite extreme by aiding and abetting the enemy? Not at all.
The question here, as in the two previous instances, is how the
oppressed can recover the initiative and assert their human dignity in a
situation that cannot for the time being be changed. The rules are
Caesar's, but how one responds to the rules is God's, and Caesar has no
power over that.
Imagine then the soldier's surprise when, at the next mile marker,
he reluctantly reaches to assume his pack, and the civilian says, "Oh
no, let me carry it another mile." Why would he want to do that? What
is he up to? Normally, soldiers have to coerce people to carry their
packs, but this Jew does so cheerfully, and will not stop! Is this a