Put your sword back in its place. All who take the sword will die by the sword. Don’t you know that I could call on my Father for help, and at once he would send me more than twelve armies of angels? But in that case, how could the Scriptures come true which say that this is what must happen?”
Did you have to come with swords and clubs to capture me, as though I were an outlaw? Every day I sat down and taught in the Temple, and you did not arrest me. But all this has happened in order to make come true what the prophets wrote in the Scriptures.”
Jesus has just been betrayed by Judas. He has been identified by Judas as the enemy, and now comes the arrest.
Jesus was still speaking when Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs and sent by the chief priests and the elders. (Matthew 26:47).
For some reason I always envisioned that Jesus was arrested by the Romans. I don’t know why I had that impression. He wasn’t arrested by Romans. It wasn’t the religious authorities themselves. Jesus was “arrested” by an angry armed with swords and clubs. The cowardly priests and the elders got a bunch of thugs all whipped up into a frenzy and sent them off to do their dirty work. I’m reminded of those old horror movies where the whole town starts chasing after Frankenstein or some other misfit with torches and weapons. Can you imagine how different life would be today if the church could arrest people? By sending and angry mob? Yikes!!!
Yesterday I reflected on Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. Now we have a second betrayal by one of Jesus’ disciples.
Then they came up, arrested Jesus, and held him tight. One of those who were with Jesus drew his sword and struck at the High Priest’s slave, cutting off his ear. (Matthew 26:50b-51).
Throughout his entire career Jesus has always advocated peace, non-violence, and passive resistance. And yet now, one of his disciples (identified as Peter in the Book of John, but then again almost all the factual details in John are questionable), cuts off a lowly slave’s ear!! By resorting to violence this disciple truly betrayed Jesus and his ministry. The last thing Jesus wanted was to start a rumble. He wanted people to love their enemies, turn the other cheek, and rise above it when persecution comes. He healed people, he never hurt them. The disciple’s action was a betrayal of everything that Jesus stood for.
So what does Jesus do? First, he admonishes the disciple and reiterates his position on nonviolence. He offers some profound words of wisdom which are also a stern warning to all humanity:
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him. “All who take the sword will die by the sword.
Ain’t it the truth? Kids join gangs to be safe but it makes them more likely to get shot. People who shoot other people get shot. When war breaks out no one is safe. What goes around comes around. Violence results in more violence. Hatred results in more hatred. Hurting people hurt people. On and on.
Next, Jesus makes it clear that he is not a victim who needs to be defended. He has chosen to submit himself to this arrest and persecution. He says that he could shut down this hot mess any time he wants, but he chooses not to do so. He wants to hold a mirror up to the face of humanity so that they might see how savage and uncivilized they are. He is committed to doing everything in his power to help people repent and embrace the Kingdom of God:
“Don’t you know that I could call on my Father for help, and at once he would send me more than twelve armies of angels? But in that case, how could the Scriptures come true which say that this is what must happen?”
Having chastised his renegade disciple for his barbaric act of violence, Jesus now turns to the crowd. Again, he lets them know that they are making a big mistake. He says that he is not an outlaw. He reminds them that he is a teacher. He wants them to question why they are suddenly chasing him around with swords and clubs. He also reiterates that by submitting to his persecutors he is fulfilling a prophecy.
Then Jesus spoke to the crowd, “Did you have to come with swords and clubs to capture me, as though I were an outlaw? Every day I sat down and taught in the Temple, and you did not arrest me. But all this has happened in order to make come true what the prophets wrote in the Scriptures.”
So what is the prophecy in the Scriptures that Jesus keeps referring to? There is no direct relationship to a particular scripture. There is nothing about anyone being chased around by Neanderthals with swords and clubs. I think he is probably referring to a passage from Isaiah called “The Lord’s Servant”:
“Here is my servant, whom I strengthen—the one I have chosen, with whom I am pleased. I have filled him with my Spirit, and he will bring justice to every nation. He will not shout or raise his voice or make loud speeches in the streets. He will not break off a bent reed nor put out a flickering lamp. He will bring lasting justice to all. He will not lose hope or courage; he will establish justice on the earth. Distant lands eagerly wait for his teaching.”
God created the heavens and stretched them out; he fashioned the earth and all that lives there; he gave life and breath to all its people. And now the Lord God says to his servant, “I, the Lord, have called you and given you power to see that justice is done on earth. Through you I will make a covenant with all peoples; through you I will bring light to the nations. You will open the eyes of the blind and set free those who sit in dark prisons. (Isaiah 42:1-7).
It pretty well sums things up. He wants to be God’s faithful servant. He has been filled with God’s Spirit. He has a passion for justice. He will go quietly and calmly into the persecution that is waiting for him. He is courageous and he will not lose hope. He will show the power of peace. He will make things right by lifting up the lowly and putting down the proud. He will open the eyes of the blind and set the prisoners free. This is the mission and prophecy that Jesus is determined to fulfill. He is this man. And this is the person God calls us all to be.
So what happens next? It says: Then all the disciples left him and ran away.
Now he is alone. Everyone has abandoned him. But Jesus is absolutely determined to be God’s faithful representative. He will not defend himself. He will not fight back. He will discipline himself, he will keep his emotions under control. He will march right into the fire. He will let the people in power and the fickle disciples and the angry mobs do their worst, because he believes that if he stands firm to his convictions God’s love will be revealed and the Messianic Age will begin to unfold. And ultimately he will have the victory. His quiet courage and dignity in the face of the worst that mankind has to offer continue to illuminate our darkness and give us all a compelling glimpse of the Kingdom of God.
What does this scripture say to you?