I am reading about a scene in the garden of Gethsemane. The disciples are sad, confused, and feeling threatened. Nothing is going as they would choose. When the soldiers come to arrest Jesus they don’t know how to handle things, “Lord, shall we strike with our swords?” they ask. Peter doesn’t wait for Jesus to answer, but instead lashes out and cuts off a soldier’s ear.
Maybe you can relate to Peter. Something is going to pieces around you and you don’t like it. You feel threatened and anxious. An injustice is happening and you’re used to drawing your sword. You don’t know what else to do but cut off an ear. Aren’t battles fought with aggressive action? Piercing words? If cutting off an ear isn’t the right response in these moments, what is?
We don’t have to wonder. If we listen in on what Jesus said to Peter, we will hear what he may be telling us. Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place… Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” Matthew 26:52-54 NIV
Jesus is giving Peter three truths here. First, Peter is to put his sword back in its place. Reacting in his usual and natural way will not work in this situation. Secondly, no matter how things appear Jesus is in authority. John’s gospel reports that when the Roman soldiers arrived on this scene, Jesus did not hide or hang back, but went straight to them and asked, “Who is it you want?” When Jesus told the soldiers who he was, the entire detachment fell to the ground. A strong indication of who was in charge of the moment. Yes, Jesus could call on the angels. But it wouldn’t be right. Why? That brings us to truth three. Jesus came to fulfill the scriptures. He came to prove God’s word true, to fulfill each promise and prophecy God had made through the generations. He was here to bring salvation to people, exactly the way God said it would come. Through the cross.
I don’t know about you, but when I feel threatened and anxious I tend to lash out. I can see now that’s the wrong response. It hurts others and it does not fulfill God’s plan. I love this scene in the garden, because it gives me a blueprint for walking through things. I want to learn to handle hard moments like Jesus did, honoring God and his word. Next time I face a threat and cry, “Lord, shall I strike with my sword?”, I want to remember this scene, listen, and pray. I want to hear Jesus say, “I’m in control.” I want to put away the sword of my flesh, take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and ask a new question. “Lord, what scripture do you want to see fulfilled in me?” (After all, this is why I read the Bible, to know when and how to apply what is written in it, to find myself and my answers there.) I want to learn to kneel in that garden and like Jesus pray this prayer, “Show me Lord, how to act in a way that proves your word true, your love deep, your redemption real. Show me how to live in a way that brings salvation.”
The character and nature of Jesus is amazing in this scene. Jesus was going through a horrendous trial, more awful than anything we could face. And he could have been gratified that it appeared someone was standing up for him, that they cared enough to cut off an ear. But Jesus wasn’t at all gratified by that. He wasn’t looking for someone to cut off an ear for him. And he doesn’t want us looking for that either. When we are living to make people pay, we have a problem. We’re missing the greater sacrifice. Jesus sacrifice. Jesus came to get us out of the eye for eye and ear for ear system. Jesus didn’t cut off an ear as a badge of his love for us, he suffered in his own self. He did not strike. He was stricken. He did not make another person pay. He paid. His life’s blood is on the purchase agreement of our souls. So let’s not be looking for ears. Jesus alone is worthy of our constant gaze. And highest praise.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5 NIV