“No More of This!” (Why Jesus Armed and Disarmed Peter) – Brian Zahnd
It’s soon after midnight. We’re in an ancient olive grove with a full moon shining through the boughs. Jesus is in anguished prayer. Disciples are nearby…sleeping. We hear angry voices. A mob is approaching bearing torches. Now they’re upon us and the torchlight reveals the mob is bearing something else — weapons. A battle is about to begin. Luke tells us what happens next.
“There came a crowd, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’ And when those who were around him saw what was coming, they said, ‘Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!’ Then one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ Then Jesus touched the man’s ear and healed him.” –Luke 22:47–51
A few weeks ago I spoke at a conference where the presenters explored the beliefs of Jesus. I spoke on what Jesus believed about violence. And what did Jesus believe about violence? Well, it’s reported that Gandhi once said, “Everyone knows that Jesus taught nonviolence…except Christians.”
But that’s not entirely true. For the first three centuries, all Christians knew that Jesus taught nonviolence. Prior to Constantine the Old Testament text most frequently quoted by the Church Fathers was Isaiah 2:4 — a messianic prophecy that says in the age of Messiah swords and spears will be turned into plows and pruning hooks, and that the study of war will be abandoned. The early Christians believed that Isaiah’s prophecy spoke of Jesus, and that with his death, burial, and resurrection the peaceable kingdom Christians are to inhabit had been inaugurated.
The most quoted New Testament text by the Ante-Nicene Fathers was Matthew 5:44 — “Love your enemies.” In that same passage, Jesus says this: “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” (Matthew 5:38–39) Thus the earliest Christians believed what Jesus believed about violence — that violence belongs to the old age that is passing away with the arrival of the kingdom of God.