Did you ever notice that when Jesus and the Apostles leave for the Mount of Olives, Jesus tell the Apostles to bring swords? Here is the text:
35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no purse or bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one. 37* For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was reckoned with transgressors’; for what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”
Why would he do that?
My Bible’s footnotes suggest that this is reference to Isaiah 53, which describes the Messiah wounded and struck down. I have also heard it suggested that Jesus is using even this late moment to teach Peter one final lesson. We know that Peter will use the sword and cut off the ear of one of the soldiers that comes to arrest Jesus. Our Lord will admonish him and heal the ear. The argument is that Jesus to showing Peter how quickly things can escalate into violence. In the years to come Peter will need to remember this and hold his temper as he and the converts are persecuted.
I think both of these explanations have merit but let me propose an additional one. What would have happened if they had not brought the sword?
Maybe the soldiers coming to arrest Jesus would have acted MORE AGGRESSIVELY if they met no resistance. Perhaps they even had been instructed that if Jesus was killed “resisting” the arrest it would be simpler for the authorities than the show trial and trumped up charges that became necessary. Perhaps by prompting the Apostles to bring a sword Jesus was orchestrating events to unfold as he wanted them to. Maybe by allowing Peter to offer resistance Jesus gets to teach one last lesson AND he prevents the soldiers from killing him before the appointed time. Now, that is all speculation, but it’s interesting to think about.
Today’s reading also contains another important passage. Here it is:
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” 33 And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” 34 He said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you three times deny that you know me.”
Now, as always, I remind everyone that I am not a Greek scholar but it is my understanding that the original Greek is very clear in this passage. The passage switches back and forth between the plural and singular. It should be read like this:
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you (plural), that he might sift you (plural) like wheat, but I have prayed for you (singular) that your faith (singular) may not fail; and when you (singular) have turned again, strengthen your brethren.”
So Satan has demanded all the Apostles but Jesus only prays for Peter!
Notice how all the other Apostles get REALLY upset and ask Jesus why he doesn’t pray for them too. Oh Wait! That’s not there. In actuality, the Apostles accept what Jesus has done without question. Imagine the Son of God, the Messiah, tells you that Satan himself has demanded your soul but that he is not praying for you but instead is only going to pray for your friend and colleague. Wouldn’t that upset you a little bit? To have Satan coming after you but God is not in your corner. It would upset me, so why doesn’t it upset the other Apostles? Simply, because they know that Peter is the leader and Jesus has given Peter the same authority that he has. Peter is the rock on which the Church will be built. Jesus has said as much just a moment before:
28 “You are those who have continued with me in my trials; 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
It is clear from here and other parts of scripture that the Apostles do not yet fully appreciate what is about to happen and how all the things they have learned will fit together. But it is also clear that they know Jesus will have a new kingdom and they will be rulers over it. Parts of them still cling to their earthly traditional notions of ruling authority. Jesus is still trying to dissuade them of those antiquated ideas. They will only really get it after the fullness of revelation becomes apparent to them through the Resurrection. However, they also clearly already know that Peter holds a separate office. It will be his job to minister to them. He is the Pastor to the Apostles.