by dave jacobs
Although Matthew, Mark and Luke tell of Judas leading the mob to arrest Jesus, only John includes Jesus identifying himself as the one the mob was looking for, as well as the soldiers falling to the ground. Matthew and Mark tell us how someone with Jesus drew a sword and cut off the ear of a servant of the High Priest. Only Luke tells us that Jesus healed the man and only John identifies the man swinging the sword as Peter and the servant as Malchus. Only Matthew records Jesus’ words, “Put your sword back in its place for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”
For me, one of the beautiful things about the Gospels is that although there are four different writers recording events from four different perspectives, when you bring them together you get the big picture. Leave one perspective out and you’re going to miss out.
Comparing the different gospel stories reminded me of the different expressions of Christianity in the world today. Some studies suggest that the number of denominations might be up to 43,000. One thing we need to remember is that most of these groups agree on the fundamentals of the faith or what we might call “orthodoxy.” Having said that, all of these groups disagree with one another on certain lesser points of doctrine. The number 43,000 is a loud reminder that we don’t agree…and yet, together we make up the body of Christ. As I pointed out previously, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John do not always agree with one another and yet together they give us the big picture of the life and teachings of Jesus. The relatively few times the gospel writers differ from one another does not bother me. Their differences are not over anything important. Their similarities far outnumber their differences.
We agree that there is orthodoxy but we can’t agree on our definition of orthodoxy. For one group something is regarded as ‘essential’ and for another it is ‘non-essential.’ In one group someone is branded a heretic and in another group they are accepted. One denomination calls another apostate because they interpret the Bible differently than they do. Every denomination believes they have the Bible on their side.
If I am right then you must be wrong.
Once I buy in to this way of thinking an adversarial relationship develops between us. Peter meant well. He was just trying to defend Jesus but in so doing he cut off Malchus’ ear.
There are too many who are rushing in with swords drawn to defend God’s word. There’s too much of this. Does Jesus need me to defend him? Does God’s word need me to defend it? Does truth need me to defend it? If there is a need for Christian Apologists, do they need to be carrying a sword? Apologists always seem to morph into doctrine-police or orthodoxy-officers who patrol the streets looking for criminal activity. When they find someone in violation, they draw their sword and let it swing. Someone always loses an ear, or worse. I’m worried that we have too many apologists swinging swords and too many doctrine-police locked and loaded.
And Jesus said, “Stop it!”
Those who live by the sword will die by the sword. What goes around comes around.
If I am short on grace, mercy, love, and respect towards those I have serious disagreement with, there might come a time when I need some grace, mercy, love, and respect but can’t find it.
Paul defended the truth in his letters, as did Peter and John and James. But I’m not worried about them. I’m worried about us. There are enough defenders of the truth out there already. I don’t think the world needs another one, especially not me. I think the world needs more Christians and pastors who are peacemakers. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” I want to be a peacemaker. I invite you to join me.