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.) (John 18:10)
Understanding Jesus and his disciples
From this and the surrounding text, we come to understand several important aspects of Jesus and his close disciples.
One point is that his close disciples - at least Peter and another - were carrying swords. Why were some of Jesus' "close" disciples - often portrayed as "the twelve" - carrying swords? Did Jesus have an army or something?
In fact, the assumption has been that these twelve disciples were chosen by Jesus to be his official successors as they were his closest and most advanced disciples.
Yet we know this is not true.
First, Judas was one of the twelve yet we know he didn't succeed Jesus. He hanged himself after turning in Jesus to the high priest and his arresting officers.
And meanwhile we see that Jesus had many disciples who he sent out to preach on his behalf:
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. (Luke 10:1)And we know that Jesus sent them out to preach:
"Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’" (Luke 10:8)Yet, interestingly, this very same event is portrayed in Matthew as Jesus sending out only "the twelve:"
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: .... As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give." (Matt 10:5-8)So we see that practically the same event is being portrayed differently between Luke and Matthew. Which is right? We can accept that both are right, but we can also see from the text that the book of Matthew does not portray the many other disciples that Jesus had - and yes, he had many.
We can also see that Jesus' disciples were also baptizing disciples:
Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John—although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. (John 4:1-2)So we see that Jesus had many disciples, and not necessarily all of them would follow him from town to town.
And as far as swords, Jesus advised his disciples to obtain swords when he was in Jerusalem:
He [Jesus] said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one." (Luke 22:36)then:
The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied. (Luke 22:38)So we see that Jesus is asking at least some of his close disciples to get swords - not necessarily everyone - but at least two of them had swords. Why?
Because they were his bodyguards. These "close" disciples were to guard Jesus from those who would attack him.
This means that one of the central elements of Jesus' close disciples is that they were his aides - some were his bodyguards, and others would arrange things for him. For example:
So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?'" (Mark 14:13-14)and
Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover." (Luke 22:8)So we see that Jesus had aides - close disciples who were responsible for arranging things. Such as his protection, or arranging where he would sleep, eat, and so forth.
Jesus instructed Judas to notify the high priest
We also know that Jesus himself approved and oversaw Judas' notifying the Jewish high priest where he was:
So Jesus told him [Judas], “What you are about to do, do quickly." (John 13:36)What we see among Jesus' twelve close disciples is that they were his assistants.
They were called "apostles":
When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles (Luke 6:13)
What is an "apostle"?
According to the original Greek, the word ἀπόστολος (apostolos) means "a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders."
What does these words describe? A close servant. An assistant. Someone who provides special services.
Yes, these "twelve" certainly were Jesus' closest disciples in terms of proximity. They also served him in his service to the Supreme Being and are noted for that. But we cannot conclude that they were necessarily Jesus' most advanced or most devoted disciples.
This is evidenced by Judas, along with others - who abandoned and denied Jesus after his arrest. And meanwhile Mary Magdalene, we find later, sat under Jesus' cross while the "twelve" scattered. Should we consider that just because Mary wasn't part of the "twelve" that she was less advanced, even though she refused to abandon her teacher during his persecution?
So being physically close to Jesus doesn't necessarily translate to being more advanced. Otherwise, Jesus' mother and father would be his most advanced disciples. And Judas would too.
What determines whether a person is more advanced is their level of devotion - their commitment to loving and serving the Supreme Being. This is, in essence, spiritual closeness.
And we cannot say that Jesus limited those who would preach on his behalf to the twelve. This is confirmed by his sending out 72 disciples in Luke 10:1. And we can hardly consider this the same type of "appointment" - assumed by ecclesiastical institutions. Sending out 72 of his students is not that type of appointment.
Why is having so many disciples important?
Because sectarian institutions and their teachers like to make it seem that Jesus chose only twelve disciples to represent him and preach on his behalf to spread the message. As if Jesus eliminated his other disciples and students from being able to preach on his behalf and continue spreading his teachings.
The ecclesiastical sectarian institutions like to portray this because from the beginning they have wanted to control Jesus' message by controlling who has the ability to teach. They want to appoint the official professional teachers through elections and institutional politics. They have, in other words, taken a process that was personal - a devoted student learning from a devoted teacher and then passing those teachings on - into an institutional process.
You see, only God selects who will represent Him. The Supreme Being empowers whomever He wants to represent Him.
But He doesn't do this whimsically. He also requires that those whom He empowers become students of one of His representatives before they become teacher. This is what Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist was all about: Affirming that process of student/teacher mentorship.
And by its very nature, this excludes the process of institutional appointment or election by men. Neither does the teacher nor a council of men appoint the representative of God. Once a person learns at the feet of God's representative, a person is introduced to, and has the opportunity to establish a devotional relationship with the Supreme Being. A person who becomes a sincere lover of God is then eligible to be empowered by the Supreme Being to represent Him. If that is God's will.
And only a person with such a loving devotional relationship with the Supreme Being - after being empowered by Him - can introduce others to God - the real Person, God.
Professional institutional teachers, even though they may have advanced degrees or political appointments - even to the position of Pope - gain no entrance into this devotional relationship with the Supreme Being. Why? Because they are tainted by the compensation they have taken, either by position, respect, salary or a combination thereof. Jesus discussed this concept of being otherwise rewarded for so-called service:
"Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full." (Matt. 6:2)Let's say, for example, that a man approached a woman and said, "I really love you will you please marry me?" But then the woman finds out that someone paid the man to marry her - they offered the man payment - if he married her he would receive a million dollars or something.
What would the woman do? Would the woman still marry the man? Certainly not. After finding out he was doing it for the money - he was otherwise being compensated - she no longer trusts the man. Even if he might seem to have some love for her, she is so disgusted by the fact that he would receive payment for the marriage that she just wants to get away from him now.
We must remember that the Supreme Being is a Person. He is a tender-hearted, loving Person. He is soft, kind and gentle. He is precious, in other words.
But He can get disgusted as well. A person who receives payment for something that should be offered to the Supreme Being out of love and devotion - including teaching about Him - would certainly disgust Him, just as the woman is disgusted when she finds out the man was bribed to ask her to marry her.
This is what love is about.
When Jesus teaches us about love he is not using empty words. Love isn't a "thing". It isn't like we can "love" going shopping and also "love" God too. No. Loving God means coming to know Him and coming to care about Him.
And caring about God means wanting to please Him. And wanting to please Him means wanting to do His will. This is the love and devotion that Jesus stressed in his teachings.
Now let's consider this in light of Jesus' statement after he instructs him to put his sword away:
“Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"
What is the 'cup'?
Jesus is talking about doing what pleases God, because Jesus loves God. This is reflected in his prayer:
“Father, if You are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)He starts out by praying "if You are willing". This is how a person addresses someone they love. They are graciously asking: "if this is what you want, then..."
But then Jesus' request continues along this line: "yet not my will, but Yours be done.” This reflects Jesus' extreme love for the Supreme Being, and his wanting to only do what pleases God, even at his own expense.
So we see in Jesus' statement to Peter (“Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?") - Jesus does not want to be protected now (he might have before, when being protected allowed him to serve God). He doesn't want to evade arrest. He doesn't want to avoid the persecution to come. He simply wants one thing:
He wants to please his Beloved, the Supreme Being.
And Jesus doesn't want Peter to interfere in Jesus pleasing his Beloved.
This love for the Supreme Being is also reflected in Jesus' most important teaching:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)