Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
What was Peter thinking? A detachment of soldiers, led by Judas, found Jesus and the disciples in the olive grove across the Kidron Valley, to arrest him. Peter, for reasons that escape me, had brought a sword to the prayer meeting, and he swung it. Badly. Being a fisherman, not a soldier, the best he could do was lop off the ear of the High Priest’s servant. Jesus told him to put away the sword, healed the servant’s ear, and presented himself to the soldiers, to “drink the cup the Father has given me.”
It would be easy to judge Peter if we did not so often emulate him. He misunderstood the situation and reacted in the wrong way. All Peter did by his sword-swinging attempt to help Jesus was become an obstacle to God’s work.
Peter failed to realize that the arrest of Jesus was part of God’s sovereign plan of salvation. God was working through the tragedy, accomplishing his redemptive purpose. It just didn’t look that way to him. Peter was sure things had gone very wrong. Somebody had to do something about it. Peter took up his sword and went to work to make things right.
Because Peter forgot that God was still in control, he also forgot that human weapons and human ways do not accomplish the work of God. He swung his sword in full confidence that Jesus would applaud his courage and bless his efforts. But Jesus did not applaud Peter, he rebuked him. In Peter’s attempt to “do something for Jesus” he only made a bad situation worse, and caused pain for others.
What If Peter Had Succeeded?
Consider this: what if Peter succeeded? What if he had been able to fight off the soldiers and free Jesus? What would have been accomplished? He would have stopped the Cross! His attempt to help could have doomed us all to eternal hell. God would never let that happen, but it makes you think. How often do we cause kingdom chaos in our efforts to help God? We pick up human weapons of power politics, persuasion, control, manipulation, gossip, and strife, thinking we can do good.
Peter assumed that Jesus was unarmed. But Jesus did have weapons. Jesus was fighting with the most powerful weapon in the world – God’s love. He was on his way to the cross to lay down his life for sinners. By obedience, by submission, by sacrificial love, Jesus did what Peter’s puny sword could not. Jesus, by laying down his life, conquered sin, and death, and hell. He redeemed lost humanity and stepped on Satan’s neck. He accomplished all of that without Peter’s sword.
God has made the weapons of Christ available to us. “The weapons of our warfare are spiritual,” said Paul. When we love our enemies, when we return good for evil, when we lay down our lives for the sake of others, we wield powerful weapons that God uses in mighty ways.
Peter, trying to do good, did evil, because he operated on his own judgment, by his own power, with his own weapons. Jesus was operating on the Father’s agenda, by the Father’s power, with the Father’s weapons. Peter messed up. Jesus saved the world.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10: 4-5
Frankly, I’m not sure that we in the Christian world understand this. I forget it way too often. We have weapons, but they are not the weapons of the flesh. Anger. Vitriol. Scheming. Political organization. Gossip. Slander. These are the weapons people in the world use to accomplish that which they desire. But those are not our weapons. We have different weapons – better weapons – weapons that actually accomplish mighty and powerful works.
I would like to point out three things about these weapons.
1) Our Weapons are Not Worldly
We do not fight with the weapons of the world. Power politics won’t get the job done. Legalism is pointless. Trying to follow the rules of religion in the power of the flesh is futile. And we don’t do battle with anger and condemnation. These fleshly weapons have no power. They seem effective but they accomplish nothing of eternal significance.
2) Our Weapons are Spiritual and Powerful
When we use the weapons of God, we fight with “divine power.” Did you get that? When I use God’s weapons, I fight Satan with God’s power. Wouldn’t that wipe the smirk off the devil’s face? We are so used to doing much and accomplishing little. We jump in with a great splash but we are seeing little real spiritual transformation. Could it be that we are using the wrong weapons, fighting with the force of the flesh instead of the power of the Spirit.
3) Our Warfare focuses on the Mind
Satan works to spread lies and deceive us into defeat. God speaks truth to our spirits and casts down the strongholds of Satan’s lies. It is not religion that will change us, nor our good works. We cannot try our hardest and succeed. Victory comes when the Word of God casts down the lies of Satan in our minds and we begin to walk in the victory of God.
Paul makes it clear what kind of weapons we have.
”By purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left.” 2 Corinthians 6:6-7
The purity that is produced in us by the Spirit, the knowledge that banishes Satan’s lies, the spiritual fruit of patience and kindness which replaces anger and vengeance, the truth of God applied to our lives – these are the weapons of warfare that the Spirit of Christ gives us that have real power to make a real difference.
May we stop fighting the right battles with the wrong weapons.
A Not So Subtle Allegory
Once upon a time, the nation of Homino found itself constantly under attack by the armies of Skotos. Homino’s fighters were armed only with bows and arrows, swords and spears. They fought the best they could, but were no match for the modern army of Skotos, whose soldiers were equipped with machine guns, artillery, even an air force of bombers and fighter planes. No matter how hard Homino fought, they could not stand against the power of Skotos.
One day, an emissary from the great king of Ouranos came to visit Homino. “I can help you,” he promised. “If you will swear your allegiance to our king, he will take you as part of his kingdom. He will protect you and give you weapons more powerful than any your enemies have.” The people of Homino wanted that very badly, so they agreed to swear fealty to the King of Ouranos, and became part of his kingdom. They were excited to see the new weapons they had been promised.
The king was as good as his emissary’s word. Each soldier in Homino received body armor that would protect them from all the weapons of Skotos. The king sent them the most modern weaponry. He supplied them with an air force; with fighters that could evade Skotos’ fighters and shoot them down. The new bombers had the most sophisticated smart bombs which could target the enemy and destroy them. The people of Homino were amazed at the arsenal put at their disposal by the King of Ouranos and were excited to see what a difference they would make in their battle.
The next day, they were attacked by Skotos. The army of Homino quickly gathered its bows and arrow, its swords and spears and went out to battle. They were soundly defeated. Day after day, the same thing happened. They went to battle against the army of Skotos armed with their primitive weapons while the powerful weapons given them by the king sat idle. Day after day, they returned from battle in defeat.
Some of the commanders of Homino’s army gathered to confront the emissary of the king of Ouranos. “Nothing has changed,” they complained. “Since we gave our loyalty to your king, we have not won a single battle. All of your promises are empty. In spite of all you have promised us, we are still defeated.”
The emissary shook his head slowly. “My friends, the king’s weapons do no good unless you use them. He has given you body armor, but still you face the armies of Skotos unprotected. He gave you powerful weapons to fight them, but still you use your swords and spears. You have an Air Force with the most sophisticated warheads in the universe at your disposal, but the only thing that flies is your bows and arrows. The king has given you every weapon you need to defeat the forces of Skotos but you do not use them.”
Suddenly, it clicked. They were supposed to use the king’s weapons in the battle. The next day, when Skotos attacked, the people of Homino took up the weapons of the king. They were shocked at what happened. The armor the king gave them deflected every bullet fired by their enemies. They bounced off harmlessly. Their new weapons overcame the enemy and their bombers strafed them until they fled in terro. For the first time, the forces of Skotos were defeated.
Today, in Homino, the battle still rages but the outcome is very different. Sometimes, the people forget themselves and pick up their old weapons. When they do that, they are defeated. But more and more now, they are remembering to take up the weapons given them by the Great King of Ouranos. And when they do, the bullets fired at them bounce off harmlessly. Their weapons send their enemies fleeing every time.
And every time, they stop to give thanks to the king for the weapons of victory.