Peter, put your sword away!

“When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples. And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples. Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. 

“Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.  As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.  Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way: That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none. 

“Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.  Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”

* * * *

Why didn’t Jesus defend himself? The next step was the horrific and shameful death on the cross. Didn’t he see it? Of course he did. Was he in the right? O yes! If ever there was an innocent man, Jesus was that man!

So why did he tell Peter to put away his sword? Peter was ready to fight to the bloody death for Jesus. Did Jesus tell Peter to ‘stand down’ because he was a pacifist? After all, Jesus did teach his followers that they should not “resist evil.” If someone strikes us on the right cheek, we must “turn to him the other also.”

But that’s got problems. Jesus told Peter that if he wanted to, he could call on his heavenly Father to send an army of angels with flaming swords to cut down all his enemies. No, it’s not that swords were inherently wrong. A necessary evil? Yes. But in the right hands with God’s authority, the sword is necessary for justice and lawful defense. O, friend, Jesus had every right to defend himself.

So Jesus had the right to defend himself—yet, did he have the might? Some poor people in this world are in the right. They have a just cause. But they have no power, no friends in high places, no deep pockets to pay for high-powered lawyers. So they are helpless to get justice.

But Jesus—did he give up without a fight, did he surrender because he was too weak? Consider the passage here, friends. He was in absolute control of everything. He called the shots. ‘Who are you seeking?’ He demanded. When the thugs who came to arrest him replied, ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ then he replied, ‘I am he.” Immediately, an irresistable burst of invisible power lifted them off their feet and hurled them to the ground. Twice! I’d say that’s power. Oh, and what about those twelve legions of angels? All he had to do was say the word, and God would unleash his heavenly servants to slaughter them all!

But there would be no blood. At least, not their blood, and not here in this garden. Instead, Jesus told Peter to stand down, to put away his sword, because he had to surrender. To fulfill the ancient prophesies. To obey the Father. To “drink the cup” and so to give his life “a ransom for many.”

Read again, and believe. And surrender to him who surrendered himself for the likes of you.

Author: westportexperiment

I am a minister serving Presbyterian Reformed Church of Rhode Island, with strong interest in the history, theory, and contemporary application of parochial church extension.

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