Matthew 26:53-54 – Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” NIV
Judas Iscariot has just led a group of soldiers to arrest Jesus. Jesus has told Judas to do what he came to do. However, one of the previously sleeping disciples grabs a sword and cuts off the ear of the servant of the High Priest. John tells us (18:10-11) that it was Peter wielding the sword and that Malchus was the name of the servant. It is interesting that the disciples that could not stay awake and fight the spiritual battles with Jesus are now attempting to fight a physical battle in which they are probably out numbered and certainly ill equipped to fight.
It is also interesting that they are equipped to fight at all. However, Luke records an interesting conversation in the upper room: Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.
36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That is enough,” he replied. (Luke 22:35-38 – NIV)
Why was Jesus talking about swords in the first place and making sure that they were “armed?” This all happened after Jesus had told Peter that he would deny Him, and Peter was the one to grab the sword and start swinging. Could it be that before His time in the Garden with the Father that Jesus was considering the possibility of resisting? Could it be that He was concerned for protection or defense for His disciples? Could it be that all of this was preplanned as a display of the fact that He was willingly laying down His life? Interesting questions! He tells Peter: “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52 – NIV)
Matthew is the only Gospel writer that records Jesus’ question. It’s like saying, “If it is a physical fight that is to take place, don’t you think that I have the power at my disposal to handle it?” Twelve legions is approximately 72,000 angels. There is a an Old Testament account of God providing similar protection for the city of Dothan under the Prophet Elisha (2 Kings 6:16-17). They had seen Jesus’ power, and He is assuring them that it’s still at His disposal, but this is not the way the victory is to be won. The Scriptures must be fulfilled. The Disciples are confused, conflicted, grieved, and afraid. They flee.
Jesus was fully human and fully God. We are not. As His followers we are humans being transformed by the Holy Spirit into the image of Jesus. We often resort to human means to fight spiritual battles. I think quite possibly that when Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane that He was still considering how much resistance to offer his captors. After His time with the Father, He knew what He must do and submitted His will to the Father’s. The Disciples had not at this time prepared themselves adequately to do the same.
How do I tend to fight spiritual battles with physical means? How can I be assured of both the power and will of God in a situation? Are there times when I think that God should use His power to exert a physical solution, and He does not? What is my response? Does that mean that He doesn’t love me? What is Jesus teaching me here?