The most surprising detail in today’s reading is the fact that Simon Peter had a sword (v. 10). The leader of the pack was packing first-century heat! We already knew Peter had an impetuous nature and a motor mouth, but a sword? That bit of information counters our usual picture of a peace-loving Jesus and his unarmed band of “merry men” (but see Luke 22:38).
Not that Peter was much of soldier. Being a fisherman by trade, it’s unlikely he was a skilled swordsman—which no doubt explains why he only severs Malchus’ ear and not his neck with his violent act. Dare you imagine the mayhem that might have followed had Jesus not stopped his defending disciple after this first wild swing?
Currently the wisdom of owning and carrying guns (the sword’s current counterpart) is a hotly debated issue. This reflection, however, is not the best place to engage it. Here it is best to learn the wrongness of trying to defend our faith, our Savior, with the sword. Violence in the service of Jesus is always a non-starter! Be it in the Crusades of yesteryear or the verbal and attitudinal violence in today’s culture wars, sword-swinging Christians always prove to be as bungling as Peter, creating a bloody mess. The only sword in the Christian’s armor is the word of God (Eph 6:17). That word is said to be “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing…[and] able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).
What hot button topics inflame you with righteous indignation? How might the word of God help you confront and channel them constructively?
May the words of my mouth and the actions of my life be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.