Vol. 5, No. 9
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JESUS HAD POWER (Colossians 1:16-17). "Wonder-working" power (Luke 5:17). He could walk on water. He could raise the dead. He could instantly heal those afflicted with horrible, life-long disease. He could cast out demons. He could feed thousands with but a few loaves and fish. He could transform water into wine. He could rebuke the storm and calm the sea. He had power (Acts 10:38).
And yet -- perhaps his most surprising manifestation of power was the intentional failure to employ it (1 Peter 2:21-23; cf. Isaiah 53:7; Mark 14:61). Despite the unlimited miraculous resources at his disposal -- when faced with Calvary and all that entailed -- Jesus restrained his own mighty hand. "Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously." Has it ever occurred to you that one of the Lord's most significant displays of power was expressed in a non-miraculous way?
The chief priests, elders, and scribes [religious leaders!] levied a sordid array of attacks against Jesus. They brought false testimony against him (Mark 14:55-58). They accused him of blasphemy (Mark 14:64). They spat upon him, they blindfolded him, and they struck him (Mark 14:65). Pilate had him scourged (Mark 15:15). His own friends betrayed him and denied him (Mark 14:10-11; 66ff). Finally, he was thrust upon a cruel cross and forced to endure humiliation and torture (Mark 15:22ff; cf. Hebrews 12:2).
JESUS COULD HAVE PREVENTED IT ALL. Peter tried to (Mark 14:47), in fact, Peter vowed to (Matthew 26:31-35; Mark 14:31). When the enemies attempted to take the Lord away, Peter struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. In another one of his brash initiatives, this future leader -- apostle, preacher, leader -- of the first century church tried to start a fight. Peter wanted the mob to know that he was ready to "come to blows" if necessary and he drew blood in order to prove his point: But Jesus didn't need Peter's sword; he was the Son of God. He not only had power, he had all power at his disposal.
Then too, Jesus could have called angels. Mighty, super-human (Psalm 103:20; cf. Matthew 28:2-4; 2 Thessalonians 1:7) legions. A legion was anywhere from 3,000-6,000 thousand strong. We sometimes sing, "He could have called ten-thousand angels..." More accurately, he could have called between 36,000 and 72,000 angels PLUS (cf. Revelation 5:11; Daniel 7:10)! So why would he need Peter's puny blade? The host of heaven could have been beckoned with but a word, and Jesus could have retaliated.
Let's be honest, most of us have more in common with Peter than with the Lord. Right? When our mates hurt us with words, we want to show our superiority and exhibit our prowess -- "Where's my sword?! Hey angels, comedown!" When our enemies try to hurt us, our inclination is to emulate Peter rather than Christ. We want to unsheathe our weapon and fight back; we want to call in our reinforcements and engage in battle.
But the Lord urges us not to use force (Romans 12:19). You see, we -- like Jesus (Matthew 26:54) -- have a mission (Matthew 5:43ff; 1 Peter 2:20); a mission to reconcile others to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). So, how can we bend our will to the Father's and subdue our desire to use force, intimidation and/or power? Consider:
1. Remember that those who live by fighting eventually die in battle themselves. "...All who take the sword will perish by the sword"(Matthew 26:52). I know couples who are capable swordsmen. They are skilled in verbal engagement. They know how to "cut to the core" with their sharp tongues (Proverbs 12:18a). They mutilate their mates by hacking them to pieces with their words. [Peter would be proud!] By their malicious and caustic jabs, they bleed the life out of their relationships. As a result, their marriages are "killed" and divorce ensues. Husbands/wives -- "swinging your sword" (Matthew 26:51) doesn't produce peace; it only escalates hostilities (Proverbs 15:1). Be a lover (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a; Ephesians 5:25; Titus 2:4), not a fighter (Proverbs 17:14; 20:3; 1 Timothy 3:3). Be a peacemaker (James 3:14-18; cf. Matthew 5:9), not warmonger (James 4:1; cf. Psalm 68:30b).
2. Remember that employing force nullifies your mission. "How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?" (Matthew 26:54). Had Peter been permitted to fight off the mob, had Jesus summoned his legions (Matthew 26:53) and prevented his own capture, Calvary might never have occurred and you and I would still be in our sins. Peter could have cut and Jesus could have called, but either alternative would have aborted the Father's will for mankind (Matthew 26:54). Brethren, when we employ retaliatory force against others, we effectively severe any opportunity to win/reconcile them to Christ (cf. 1 Peter 3:1; 4:19). We have a mission to win souls (Proverbs 11:30b; Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 12:17-21), not personal battles (1 Peter 2:20ff).
3. Remember that the greatest exercise of power is often the decision not to employ it. "Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously"(1 Peter 2:23). Jesus didn't dial 1-800-4ANGELS; instead he turned over his Shepherd's rod and became a sheep himself (Isaiah 53:7). Real power backs away from a fight. Real power shows restraint and exercises self-control. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..."(Galatians 5:22-23; cf. 2 Peter 1:5-9).
In the Garden of Gethsemane, when Roman soldiers from Fort Antonia came to arrest Jesus, all three synoptic Gospel writers say there was a "great multitude" armed "with swords and staves" (Matthew 26:47; cf. Mark 14:43; Luke 22:47). A typical Roman cohort consisted of six hundred soldiers, so in all likelihood there were hundreds of battle-ready Roman troops in and around the garden that night. Without hesitating, Peter pulled out his sword and took a swing at the head of Malchus, the servant of the high priest. (The high priest and his personal staff would have been in the front of the mob, because he was the dignitary ordering the arrest). Peter was undoubtedly trying to cut the man's head off. But Peter was a fisherman, not a swordsman. Malchus ducked, and his ear was severed. So Jesus "touched his ear and healed him" (Luke 22:51). Then He told Peter, "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:52)...Think about that incident. There was an entire detachment of Roman soldiers there -- perhaps numbering in the hundreds. What did Peter think he was going to do? Behead them all, one by one? [John MacArthur, "Peter," Twelve Ordinary Men, 41-42].