The Greatest Betrayal

Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.
–Matthew 26:52

Jesus’s prayer in the garden of Gethsemane set the stage for the greatest betrayal He would ever experience. Look at Luke 22:47: “While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him.” Judas identified Jesus with a kiss to make sure the officials arrested the right person.

Verse 49 says, “When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, ‘Lord, shall we strike with the sword?’” At the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, He had said to the disciples, in essence, “When you go out in My name, do not bring money or an extra tunic with you. God will provide for your needs” (9:3). But during their meal a few hours earlier, Jesus said the game plan was changing, and He told the disciples to start carrying a money belt and a sword (22:36). Once Jesus ascended into heaven, there was going to be a new level of hostility toward Christ’s followers, and He wanted them to be ready to defend themselves. So in the garden, the disciples asked the natural question: “Lord, we have these swords–is this the time to use them?”

There was one overzealous apostle who did not wait for the answer. Look at verse 50: “And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.” That overzealous apostle, John 18:10 tells us, was Peter. Don’t you love Peter? He was ready to do whatever it took to stand with the Lord–at least at this point. We see Jesus’s response in Matthew 26:52: “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.”

Some people use this verse to justify not doing anything to protect yourself. That is not what Jesus was talking about. There is nothing wrong with protecting your own life and the lives of those around you. All human life is sacred to God. No, Jesus was simply saying, “You are not going to advance the kingdom of God by physical force.” We are not going to convert anybody using a sword. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that changes people’s lives, not physical force.

Jesus went on to say, “Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (v. 53). In 2 Kings 19, just one angel slew 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. Imagine what twelve legions of angels could have done to those officials! But Jesus continued, “How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?” (Matthew 26:54). Jesus was saying, “Put the sword away. Leave these people alone; they are simply pawns on God’s chess board to accomplish His ultimate plan.” Jesus knew God would use this terrible betrayal for our good and His glory.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Longest Night” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2017.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.

 

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