Don’t Take A Knife To A Gunfight :: by Grant Phillips

In John 18 (also Matthew 26, Mark 14 and Luke 22) we are told of Jesus’ arrest. During this incident one of Jesus’ disciples, Peter to be exact, drew his sword and lopped off the right ear of the high priest’s servant. The high priest was Caiaphas and the servant here is a man named Malchus. After Jesus healed Malchus he was arrested and taken first to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas. (By the way, this is the last physical healing Jesus performed.)

If you recall, Peter had previously said that very evening in the upper room that he would lay down his life for Jesus. Jesus responded by informing Peter that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crows.

Now after that conversation with Jesus, here in the garden is Peter carrying a sword. Why?

From studying the history of those days, and it would be applicable to us also; the roads they traveled were dangerous. He, and perhaps others in the group, carried a weapon for self-defense. Jesus never contested their doing so. The disciples and anyone else who carried a weapon for self-defense were not “living by the sword.” They were not trouble-makers. They simply meant to protect themselves and their loved ones. But this really isn’t my point.

We know that after Jesus was arrested, Peter vehemently denied even knowing Jesus. The same man who took a slice at the high priest’ servant is now cowardly hiding in the shadows, afraid to even admit knowing Jesus. What happened between these two events? I’m not sure, and I don’t think any of us can offer much more than a guess.

My guess is: Peter reacted in the heat of the moment. Even though there were, under these circumstances, 200-600 Roman soldiers in addition to the temple police, Peter’s adrenalin level was still way up there in declaring earlier that he would lay down his life for Jesus. After Jesus calmed everyone down, reality set in, and Peter probably broke out in a cold sweat, thinking, “Am I suicidal?!”

This being said, what does all this have to do with, “Don’t take a knife to a gunfight?” Thanks for asking. I would like to point out two things for us to think about.

First of all the very heart of the Gospel is starting at this point in history to be played out before the eyes of those present.

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, (1) died for us, (2) was buried, and (3) rose again the third day that those who believe in Him might have eternal life.

This event that Peter and the others were witnessing wasn’t as much about soldiers, police, and witnesses as it was about a battle between good and evil. There was much more going on here than what one could see with the naked eye. The forces of Satan were prepping for a victory, so they thought, by finally killing the Son of God and ruining God’s plan for salvation for mankind. The clock had started ticking on their anticipated and joyful success.

Peter’s short bladed Roman sword was no match for the forces of Satan. If Jesus had not stepped in, Peter and the other disciples would have also been arrested and perhaps crucified along with Jesus.

I find it odd that Satan didn’t make a better effort in attempting this. I think his reasoning was that it wasn’t necessary. He would kill Jesus and that would be the end of it. Little did he know that an empty grave would change everything.

Also, keep in mind that when Jesus said, “I am He,” his accusers “drew back and fell to the ground.” (John 18:6 NIV) Jesus may have been starting His journey to the cross, but He was still God and He was definitely the one in charge, not Satan. Satan may have thought he had the advantage since he had the “big guns” (Roman soldiers, temple police) so to speak, but all Jesus needed was the Word of His mouth.

So His disciples were released to fight another day when they would be empowered with, not a Roman sword, but the Sword of God. The Word of God and the Holy Spirit would very soon begin His Church through their message about the Son of God.

The second point I would like to make is that sometimes we are guilty of bullying the Gospel upon others. It is essential that we speak the Truth, all the Truth, but it is not necessary to beat people over the head with the Gospel.

Sometimes we think we must talk the person into being a Christian. We have to be more eloquent and knowledgeable than they. However, more often than not, we’re just taking a knife to a gunfight. Besides, it isn’t our responsibility to “talk them into” being a Christian. We couldn’t anyway. Only God can move a person’s heart. Only God can draw them to Him. We are not God. We are messengers, and our message is Jesus Christ.

We have no power of ourselves. Our power source is the Holy Spirit who resides within each and every Christian.

The Holy Spirit of God is our teacher and our guide. As we grow in Jesus, the Spirit of God will help us to grow in love and share the love of Christ with others.

Notice that I mentioned “love” before “share.” Our love will never be fully matured on this earth, but without love we best keep our mouth shut. The Apostle Paul said,

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NKJV)

When speaking to others about Jesus, we bring a knife to a gunfight if we depend on our abilities. On the other hand, if we allow prayer and the Holy Spirit within us to be our own strength, Satan is disarmed. Satan is no match for the Word of God.

We can never outsmart Satan, but neither can Satan ever outsmart God. We can never overpower Satan, but Satan is a weakling before God. Doesn’t it make sense then for those of us saved by the blood of Jesus Christ to submit totally to our Father’s will and let Him do the fighting?

If we’re going to meet Satan at the OK Corral our only defense is God’s offense. Our strength is in our Holy God, not us. Therefore we should depend on Him. Prayer and the Bible allow the Holy Spirit to work within us to accomplish God’s purpose for us. His will, not ours gives us the ultimate weapon against the forces of evil.

Grant Phillips