What did Jesus say to Peter when he drew his sword?

Jesus’ response to Peter drawing his sword in the garden of Gethsemane is recorded in all four Gospels. When a mob came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus responded by telling Peter to put his sword away and healing the servant’s ear. This incident reveals key truths about Jesus’ mission, His commitment to nonviolence, and His authority over challenging circumstances.

Quick Summary of the Key Event

Here is a quick overview of what happened when Peter drew his sword in defense of Jesus (Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:1-11):

  • A crowd carrying swords and clubs comes to arrest Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane late at night.
  • Judas betrays Jesus by kissing Him, which signals the crowd to arrest Him.
  • When the crowd advances to seize Jesus, Peter draws his sword and cuts off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s servant.
  • Jesus tells Peter, “Put your sword back in its place! For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
  • Jesus heals Malchus’ ear, the only time in the Gospels Jesus heals an enemy.
  • Jesus says He could call on legions of angels for protection but submits to being arrested to fulfill Scripture.
  • The disciples flee in fear as Jesus is arrested.

This confrontation vividly demonstrates Jesus’ commitment to nonviolence, His authority and power, and His willing submission to fulfill His mission on the cross. Now let’s explore the details and significance of this dramatic incident.

Why Did Peter Draw His Sword?

On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus took His disciples to the Mount of Olives to pray. He was soon arrested by a crowd sent by the Jewish leaders. The Gospel of John provides details on what transpired (John 18:1-11):

  • Judas knew the place because Jesus went there often with His disciples.
  • Judas led a detachment of Roman soldiers and temple guards to arrest Jesus.
  • They carried lanterns, torches, and weapons.
  • Judas identified Jesus with a kiss.

When the armed crowd converged to seize Jesus, Peter boldly drew his sword in defense of his Master. As John 18:10 records:

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

Peter likely intended to protect Jesus from being arrested and killed. Just hours earlier at the Last Supper, Peter had boasted, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” (Mark 14:31). He followed through on his word by trying to prevent Jesus from being taken away.

Peter striking Malchus with the sword reveals his courage but also his misunderstanding of Jesus’ purpose. As one of Jesus’ closest disciples, Peter had seen His miracles and heard His teachings. But he still failed to grasp that Jesus must die to fulfill His mission. Peter took matters into his own hands to try to “rescue” Jesus.

How Did Jesus Respond to Peter’s Act of Violence?

How did Jesus react when Peter recklessly cut off Malchus’ ear? All four Gospels record Jesus immediately telling Peter to stop and put away his sword. Here is how the Gospel writers describe Jesus’ response:

But Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. (Luke 22:48-51)

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:10-11)

And one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. And Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:51-52)

The consistent message across the Gospels is that Jesus rebuked Peter for attempting to defend Him through violence. He commanded Peter to stand down and not attempt to stop His arrest and crucifixion. Jesus affirmed that He would “drink the cup the Father has given me”, meaning He would submit to the suffering ahead to fulfill God’s plan on the cross.

Key truths we learn about Jesus from this incident

Jesus’ response to Peter drawing his sword reveals vital truths about who Jesus is and His mission:

  1. Jesus is committed to nonviolence. He told Peter explicitly to put away his sword. Jesus rejected the use of violence to accomplish His purposes.
  2. Jesus is sovereign over the situation. No one could lay a hand on Jesus unless He allowed it to fulfill Scripture.
  3. Jesus embraces His suffering. He submitted to being “drinking the cup” of crucifixion for our salvation.
  4. Jesus has compassion even for His enemies. He healed Malchus even though he came to arrest Him.

Jesus was fully in control even when being arrested. He rebuked Peter’s brazen attack while also showing grace to Malchus. This exemplified His teaching to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Why Does Jesus Say “All Who Draw the Sword Will Perish by the Sword”?

The most direct response Jesus gives to Peter is, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). What did Jesus mean by this statement?

First, Jesus makes it clear that being a follower of Christ is incompatible with violence. Those who live by the sword will face judgment for taking matters into their own hands to harm others. The way of Jesus is love and sacrifice, not force and retaliation.

Secondly, Jesus knows that violent resistance against Roman authorities would only lead to more bloodshed. Drawing swords against trained soldiers would result in the disciples being killed. Jesus aims to prevent a skirmish that could lead to harm to His followers.

Thirdly, Jesus’ Kingdom does not advance through force or human means. The sword represents man’s way, but it cannot thwart God’s plans. Only through Jesus’ willing sacrifice on the cross can redemption be accomplished.

Lastly, Jesus hints that persecutors who take up the sword will perish spiritually. Those who use violence to oppose God’s purposes may face eternal judgment. The way of peace and forgiveness is the only path to salvation.

Jesus admonished Peter to trust in God’s purposes rather than taking matters into his own hands. His Kingdom will only spread through laying down our lives out of love, not lifting up the sword out of hatred.

Why Does Jesus Heal the Servant’s Ear?

It is remarkable that amidst the tension and violence of His arrest, Jesus takes the time to heal Malchus’ ear. Why did He do this?

First, Jesus lived out His own teaching to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Despite Malchus assisting in His unjust arrest, Jesus showed him compassion.

Jesus also healed Malchus to demonstrate He was still fully in control of the situation. Though appearing helpless, He used His authority to miraculously restore Malchus’ ear.

The healing also served as a rebuke to Peter’s rash actions. Jesus undid the damage Peter had inflicted with the sword. Far from approving Peter’s violence, Jesus chose to heal instead.

Finally, Jesus extended grace to give a glimpse of the salvation He would soon accomplish on the cross. His atoning death makes forgiveness available even to His enemies.

Jesus’ command to Peter and subsequent healing of Malchus paint a beautiful picture of God’s upside-down Kingdom. Out of evil actions, Jesus brought redemption and restoration.

Why Does Jesus Say He Could Call Legions of Angels?

Matthew’s Gospel provides another detail – when Peter struck the high priest’s servant, Jesus told him:

“Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:53-54)

A Roman legion contained 6000 soldiers, so twelve legions would be 72,000 angels! Why does Jesus refer to all these angels at His disposal?

First, Jesus reminds Peter that no human force could override God’s will. If Jesus wanted, He could instantly have angelic protection. But He refrains to fulfill Scripture.

Secondly, Jesus hints at His divine authority over the angelic realm. He is no mere human, but the Son of God with limitless spiritual forces at His command.

Thirdly, Jesus foreshadows His teaching that if needed, He could appeal to His Father who would send angels to defend Him (Luke 22:43). But divine intervention cannot stop the crucifixion.

Finally, Jesus indicates that God’s power is not measured in swords or soldiers, but in spiritual forces carrying out His perfect plan. No human schemes can ever thwart what He has foreordained.

Jesus’ rebuke of Peter reminds us that God’s Kingdom advances through humility, sacrifice and trust in God’s Word. No amount of human force can override God’s perfect plan.

Why Did the Disciples Flee When Jesus Was Arrested?

All four Gospels describe that when Jesus was arrested, His remaining disciples fled the scene in fear. For example, Matthew 26:56 records:

“Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.”

Why did the disciples scatter after Peter’s bold act of drawing his sword to defend Jesus?

First, when Peter attacked Malchus, Jesus had commanded him to stand down. He made it clear He would not allow armed resistance. At this point, the disciples likely sensed any efforts to fight would be futile.

Secondly, seeing an armed cohort sent to arrest Jesus deeply shook the disciples’ confidence. Despite their bravado at dinner, fear overcame them in the face of grave danger.

Thirdly, Jesus had predicted that when the Shepherd was struck, the sheep would scatter (Matthew 26:31). His prophecy was now coming true before their eyes.

Finally, the disciples still did not grasp that Jesus must suffer and die. When their expectations of Jesus as a conquering King were threatened, they abandoned Him.

The disciples’ flight fulfilled Scripture of God’s people forsaking the Messiah. Despite their intentions, fear kept them from standing by Jesus in His darkest hour.

Principles We Learn from Peter Drawing His Sword

Reflecting on Peter striking the high priest’s servant yields the following principles for disciples of Jesus:

  1. Zeal without knowledge of God’s Word and ways leads to foolish choices.
  2. God’s Kingdom advances by laying down our lives, not lifting up the sword.
  3. We are to love our enemies and trust God’s justice, not take matters into our own hands.
  4. Jesus desires to heal and restore even those who oppose the Gospel.
  5. God is sovereign over every circumstance, so we should trust His purposes rather than resist.
  6. No spiritual forces can ever thwart God’s foreordained plans.
  7. Fear often causes us to abandon Jesus instead of standing by Him.

Peter acted out of good intentions but lacked understanding of Jesus’ mission. We must immerse ourselves in Scripture to gain spiritual wisdom for how to properly respond when facing injustice as followers of Christ.

How Should Christians Respond to Injustice and Persecution?

As Christ’s disciples, how should we respond when facing injustice, persecution or threats from the world? Here are biblical principles:

  1. Follow Jesus’ example to refrain from violence and trust God (1 Peter 2:21-23).
  2. Love your enemies and bless those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:14).
  3. Overcome evil with good through service and sacrifice (Romans 12:21).
  4. Allow suffering to strengthen your faith and purify you (1 Peter 1:6-7).
  5. Entrust yourself to God who will judge justly (1 Peter 4:19).
  6. Pray for and forgive those who wrong you (Matthew 6:12; Acts 7:60).
  7. Be willing to endure hardship for the Gospel (2 Timothy 2:3; 4:5).
  8. Wait on the Lord’s deliverance in His perfect timing (Psalm 37:7-8).

Just as Jesus exemplified grace under fire, we must trust Him amidst trials knowing He has overcome the world. God may not remove injustice now, but His final justice will prevail.


When Peter drew his sword in defense of Jesus, he acted out of good intentions but was rebuked. Peter failed to understand Jesus’ mission to suffer and die on the cross. Jesus responded with grace and healing even towards His enemies. This incident teaches vital truths about Jesus’ commitment to nonviolence, His authority and compassion, and His willingness to sacrifice Himself. As His followers, we must trust God amidst injustice, refrain from vengeance, and overcome evil with good.

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