History in microcosm John 18:1-12
Loving enemies and living sacrificially – John 18:10-11
Peter’s zeal for the Lord in striking out with his sword was commendable but lacked wisdom and was not in the will of God. Acts of unwise zeal are more likely to come from the young but are not exclusively their domain. They arise more as a result of spiritual immaturity than youthfulness and spiritual immaturity frequently exists in older people who have become static in their learning. Peter was going through a very rapid learning period that continued into the apostolic period recorded in Acts. This however did not stop Jesus from giving Peter a great deal of responsibility for the early church or indeed prevent him contributing very significantly to the New Testament. Jesus treated Peter with firmness and gentleness as he corrected him and undid the harm he had done. As we look back over our Christian life we may now view some of our zealous acts as unwise or indiscrete. They are however not beyond redemption.
Peter struck out with what was probably a Roman style short sword aimed at the head probably with the intention of killing the high priest’s slave. Either due to a poor aim or evasive action he succeeded in only cutting off his ear. John records the slave’s name, Malchus. v10 At the time of writing this would have been a checkable fact. Jesus heals him immediately (Luke 22:51) even though he was about to be led off to his own death. Jesus was demonstrating his own teaching of loving your enemies. In the same way we too should be people who, “are loving those around us, praying for them, knowing their names, and treating the opponents of the gospel as people made in the image of God.” (Josh Moody, John 13-21 For You.)
In everyday life in most western countries that means loving the enemies of the gospel and praying for them. It means not demeaning them, attacking them or vilifying them and certainly not engaging in physical violence. The “state” has the authority and power under God to take legal action against criminals and pursue just war in certain circumstances. (Romans 13:4) Christians either individually or as the collective church are to represent Jesus through love even to our enemies. Jesus has set the ultimate example of this form of sacrificial life.