Two Swords Are Enough
Each house, it seemed, pierced the night with a festive light.
The streets were filled with men, women and children well past bedtime scurrying about with laughter and purpose. Passover. The gates of the Temple would be thrown open at midnight.
None of us felt like celebrating. We crowded close to Jesus.
"After I have risen," he said further, "I will go ahead of you into Galilee." After what? What in the name of heaven was he trying to say? He had to know we had no idea what he meant, but he did not respond to our ignorance.
"This very night," he said again, "you will all abandon me because of what will happen. As the scriptures foretell, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'" Why did he bring this up again?
Peter tried again to set him straight. "We will not abandon you, Lord. Such a thought is unspeakable!" he said with scorn. "Even if all do abandon you, I will not." So spoke he for himself, so spoke he for us all.
Jesus stopped, turned and arrested Peter with his eye. "So proud are you of your loyalty?" Simon's face was set as a stone, wild, grey eyebrows set forward and determined, his gaze intense. "Let me tell you the truth, Peter; this very night, as I said earlier, Satan will attempt to sift you as wheat is sifted of chaff. Before the rooster crows a second time, you will on two occasions deny three times that you know me."
Angry and humiliated Peter stammered, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you! Not now, not ever! You are quite mistaken to think otherwise, let alone actually speak such a thing." All of us echoed the sentiment. The face of Jesus was unresponsive, unsmiling at the rebuke.
"I have prayed for you, Simon. Your faith will not fail."
Passing through the north gate of the Temple, we descended into the valley of the Kidron; dark, treacherous and in contrast to the streets of the city, bereft of company as we continued toward the hill called Olivet. Swirling water, swollen from spring rains cascaded down the wadi in torrents. Finding a place to cross safely we turned left where the road led to our destination. Jesus spoke again, "When I sent you without money, baggage or sandals, did you lack anything you needed?"
"No, Lord, we lacked nothing."
"Well, things are about to change. Now if you have money, you had better hold on to it and also take your baggage; and if you don't have a sword, sell your clothes if necessary and buy one. The things that are written about me are about to come to pass. If it becomes known that you follow me, you will need to defend yourselves."
"We have two swords, Lord."
"That should be enough," he replied.
I thought it odd, even remarkable, that this gentle man of peace who had taught us to love our enemies, and to turn the other cheek, would now tell us to arm ourselves for the purpose of defense. Owing to the violence and fear of violence we often encountered, I had considered the purchase of a dagger or better, a sword. Then I wondered if this would simply underscore my lack of faith that God would protect me. Owing to evil men, however; since God has given mankind the intelligence to create weapons of self-defense, would he not expect us to use them for that purpose? I speak here of violent, aggressive threats to others, to family, and to ourselves. So, it seems what I learned from this is that we are to make every effort to live peacefully and lovingly with all men. Yet, there are times when evil must be resisted, sometimes with lethal force. Would it not be "tempting God" not to do so? Should we expect God to always send a "Sampson," a plague, an angel or some other divine action to be our defense?
Sometimes . . . it is ours to do.