Speaking Of Life 2019 | Put Down Your Sword
“And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” Matthew 26:51-54 (ESV)
This is a strange aside in the story of Jesus’ arrest. As the gospel writers describe it, there are literally hundreds of soldiers who’ve descended on four guys in a garden in the dark. Then one of them, Peter of course, decides to try to defend himself. What a preposterous picture, a fisherman with a sword against a detachment of professional Roman soldiers.
It’s a painfully vivid picture of our reactionary eye-for-an-eye squabbles as human beings. You have a grudge against me, so I answer in kind; you cut me off, so I tailgate you! On and on we go in the cycle of offense-and-revenge, tit-for-tat. And yet Jesus says, “Stop.” Peter—put down your sword. STOP the cycle, stop the insane merry-go-round.
This small conversation is a microcosm of the big picture. Jesus is in the midst of giving himself, to take the punishment for sin—and all the grudges, squabbles, and eye-for-eye that goes along with it—onto Himself. Total forgiveness to all. We can only imagine.
Have you ever forgiven until it hurts? Our natural reaction when shoved is to shove back. It’s deeply ingrained in our psyche, even in our physical reflexes. It can be uncomfortable, even painful to stop ourselves from retaliating. We have to give up our “rights” in that moment, the revenge we “deserve” in our own minds. We have to put down the sword.
By every right, God could have wiped humanity out and started over. We chose sin and polluted his perfect world. But God’s plan was never to take his revenge on us. He took that hurt into himself in Jesus. Instead of cutting off an ear, he let himself be cut and beaten and finally killed. He forgave us until it hurt him. He took the pain and violence of that sin into himself in Christ, so much so that it killed him.
As John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” May we join Jesus in stopping the cycle of revenge by putting down our swords; choosing to forgive as Christ has forgiven us.
I’m Greg Williams, Speaking of Life.