Did Jesus Bring A Sword?
Nancy B. Detweiler
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) What an odd thing for the Prince of Peace to say.
Anytime there is what appears to be a contradictory statement in the surface reading of the Bible, we need to compare the word usage elsewhere in the biblical text. The Greek word “machairan” translated “sword” appears in one additional passage in the gospel of Matthew. Jesus and his disciples are in the Garden of Gethsemane when a large crowd appears, seeking Jesus. When they attempted to arrest Jesus, one of those with him drew a sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest.
“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Return the sword to its place; for all who take swords will die by swords….’” (Matthew 26:47-56) He rebukes the one who used his sword to harm a man Jesus could easily call “his enemy.”
The gospel of Mark uses the Greek word “machairan - sword” in one passage—in the Garden of Gethsemane. “But one of those who stood by drew a sword and struck at the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.” Jesus rebukes the crowd for bringing “swords and staves” to arrest him, while they had ample opportunity every day to do so in the temple.
The gospel of Luke uses a different Greek word “romphaia” for sword in Luke 2:35. This word denotes a “double-edged sword”; however, it is also used symbolically to mean “pain or anguish.” (Bauer’s Lexicon) In this passage, a pious man named Simon is speaking to Mary and Joseph in the temple, regarding the baby Jesus. “Simon blessed them, and said to Mary, his mother, ‘Behold, this one is appointed for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, and for a sign of dispute; and a “romphaia – sword” will pierce through your own soul, so that the thoughts of the hearts of many may be revealed.”
In Luke 21, Jesus is describing the “end times.” Verse 24 – “And they will fall by the edge of the “machairan – sword.” Jesus is speaking of the wars that are a part of our end times.
In Luke 22:35-53, Jesus and his disciples are preparing to go to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus already knows he will be arrested. He tells the disciples that they are in danger because they accompany him; thus, they need to have a “machairan – sword” for protection. The disciples have two swords; Jesus states, “That is enough.”
Later in the Garden, the crowd comes to arrest him. “And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered, saying, ‘It is enough for the present.’ And he touched the ear of him who was wounded, and healed it.” (Luke 22:50-51) Jesus healed his enemy—the enemy who was assisting him in accomplishing his mission of Earth, thus only “the enemy” as perceived by those who knew not the Divine Plan.
The gospel of John uses the word “machairan – sword” in one passage (John 18:10-11). Once more they are in the Garden of Gethsemane. “But Simon Peter had a sword, and he drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear… Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put the sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which my Father has given me?’”
Jesus, knowing the danger all of his disciples were in, made sure they had swords for their own protection. He, on the other hand, did not need a sword. “Do you think that I cannot ask of my Father, and he will now raise up for me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53) Jesus intended to be arrested as a part of the unfolding of his mission on Earth.
There are no references in the 4 gospels where Jesus accepts use of the sword, except for the disciples own protection. While accepting that the disciples are in danger and may need protection, he affirms a better way for those of higher consciousness. Remember Jesus taught we are to do all the works he did and even greater works (John 14:12). He rebukes the use of the sword … heals the damage done with the sword (restores the servant’s ear) … reminds us that we reap what we sow with the sword … and states that the Father will send a host of angels for his protection. We have the same access to the assistance of the angels when we are acting within Divine Love and in accordance with the Divine Plan.
Did Jesus incarnate to disrupt peace and bring a sword (a weapon) as Matthew 10:34 states? None of the above Greek references in the 4 gospels upholds this idea. When we look at Lamsa’s translation from the Aramaic—the language spoken by Jesus—we find a footnote relating to Matthew 10:34. This footnote states the Aramaic word translated as “sword” is an Aramaic idiom meaning “division.” Read in Jesus’ own language, the verse states: “I have not come to bring peace but division.”
How and why would Jesus bring division to Earth? Jesus brought a very radical message of Truth … a Truth so profound … so abstract he could not teach all of it to us. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Holy Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:12-13)
Because we all evolve spiritually at our own pace, we come into Truth at varying times. It takes only a glance at our world to see that truth—as we perceive it—becomes the foundation of war after war. Truth—as each of us perceives it—tears apart families, for “for we know in part and we prophesy in part” … “now we see through a mirror, darkly” (I Corinthians 13) Our search for Truth is an individual search. The Holy Spirit guides us on an individual journey in accordance with our readiness to listen and to heed.
It seems the most difficult facet of Truth for human beings to grasp is that THERE IS ONLY ONE TRUTH, but this One Truth is far greater than the sum of all the parts we think we know. We know in parts and find it seemingly impossible to recognize how much we do not know. We cling to what we think we know as if our very existence depends upon it. We fight over and allow ourselves to be imprisoned by a very limited concept of truth. Yet, we say we follow Jesus, the one who said, “the truth will sent you free.” (John 8:32)
Jesus is our Prince of Peace only as we follow his radical message and rise above the need for “division.”