Prepare to Listen. Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.
Prayerfully Read Matthew 26:47-56
47While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.’ 49At once he came up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. 50Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you are here to do.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. 51Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 52Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?’ 55At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
It’s instinctual to defend and protect those we love, whether with words or weapons. We understand Peter’s violent reaction when Judas arrived with an army to arrest the leader he loved, and whom he hoped would establish a new world order in Jerusalem. But resorting to violence isn’t the way of Jesus. He immediately rebuked and stopped Peter, saying, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Violence begets violence and rarely, if ever, proves anything. I’m not sure that we’ve gotten this message, at least in U.S. society. We resort to guns and violence too often and too readily. It’s not the way of Jesus and should be condemned by the church.
Jesus didn’t rebuke Judas. Instead, he “delicately,” showed him love, calling him friend, not enemy, urging, “do what you are here to do.” Judas betrayed him, led the enemy to him, identified him with a mocking kiss, yet Jesus gave him a chance to change his mind. He was friend. Later that night, Jesus was tortured, insulted, mocked, spat upon, falsely accused. He never once reacted with violence, never once let fear dictate a vindictive and hateful response and never once appealed to the Father for vindication. He remained calm, maintaining “unflinching acceptance of a path that pointed to suffering, humiliation, failure and death.” He willingly and humbly followed it.
Jesus’ path of non-violence is radical, but it’s what led to ultimate victory. It’s what is most needed today when fear leads so many to react in violent ways. Chose the way of non-violence today.
Respond in Prayer
Lord, there is nothing sissy-ish in your way. It took great courage to resist a violent response, trusting God to be with and keep you. Help me live more like you today. Amen.
Live Obediently. Put away your ‘sword,’ be it words or weapons.
 Only John names him (Jn. 18:10).
 From John of the Cross as quoted in Lent With Evelyn Underhill, 1990, p. 37.
 Ibid., p, 38.
Despite having frequently read and taught Matthew's Gospel, preparing these daily devotions, taking that second gaze, has surprised me with newness.