"... for all who draw the sword will die by the sword... " (Matthew 26:52-54)

With that, one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 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 26:52-54)

Is this the origin of the phrase, 'die by the sword'?

Many credit Jesus with the origin of the popular phrase, "those who live by the sword will die by the sword."

First, this is not a good translation of what Jesus stated above.

Second, this phrase was used prior to Jesus' arrival. It was part of a popular book and drama written by the Greek Aeschylus in the Fifth Century BCE. The statement translates (Fagles) to:
"By the sword you did your work and by the sword you die."
This means that Jesus either had knowledge of this famous Oresteia trilogy of literature and utilized part of it for this situation or he otherwise stated it on his own. 

Why didn't Jesus want his disciples to fight off the guards?

From Jesus' statement, we can see clearly that he was responding to one of his followers who attacked one of the guards who came to arrest Jesus.

Who did this? It was Simon Peter. This is confirmed in the Book of John, where it states:
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. (John 18:10)
It is curious that in Matthew, Peter is described as "one of Jesus' companions." The Greek phrase, εἷς τῶν μετὰ means, literally, 'those who were with'. The next word is Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous), so we know that the text is referencing someone who was "with Jesus" at the time of his arrest. So who was with Jesus?
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." (Matthew 26:36)
We know from this statement that his disciples were with Jesus at the time of his arrest. Therefore, we know two things about his disciples:

1) At least one of them - Simon Peter - was carrying a sword.
2) His disciples were prepared to defend their teacher against attack.

We also know from this statement that Jesus wanted no part of any bloodshed between his disciples and the guards. There was certainly blood spilled, as cutting off someone's ear would certainly spill some major blood. But we see that this displeased Jesus, evidenced by his statement.

So Jesus chastised one of his disciples who pulled his sword and attacked a servant of the high priest. Why? Didn't Jesus appreciate that his follower is trying to protect him?

Peter does not realize that Jesus was allowing himself to be arrested. And that he had helped arranged it with one of his disciples. Peter believed that he was doing his duty to protect Jesus.

Both were doing their duty. Peter was doing his duty by trying to protect Jesus. And Jesus was doing his duty by accepting the arrest. Both were ultimately choosing to serve the Supreme Being.

Why didn't Jesus evade arrest?

Jesus states here that if he wanted, he could call on God and God would protect 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?

What does this mean? It means that if Jesus didn't want to be arrested, he could ask God to protect him from arrest, and God would protect him.

The term, "put at my disposal" communicates that Jesus could easily disband the guards and prevent being arrested. But Jesus could have also escaped into the wilderness in advance of being arrested. Why didn't he try to escape arrest?

This same question is answered as we discussed that Jesus instructed Judas to arrange for his arrest.

Jesus invited being arrested because he saw it as inevitable, and he wanted to have the most impact. He knew the High Priest wanted Jesus out of the way. They had been planning this for some time.

Jesus wanted this to come to a head around the Passover because this is when so many Temple followers would be in Jerusalem. He wanted to get the message to them that his teachings were important.

Yes, Jesus was trying to bring attention to his teachings. He was standing up for his teachings. He wanted the people to understand that these teachings were important.

His teachings were so important that he was ready to die for them.

How does this 'fulfill' the scriptures?

The word "fulfilled" can have multiple meanings, depending upon the context. It is being translated from the Greek word, πληρόω (plēroō). This word can mean to "make full," but also to "execute," "carry out" or "accomplish" according to the lexicon.

Within the context of Jesus' statement, he is indicating that his actions would "accomplish" the teachings of those Prophets before him. What does that mean?

Let's say that a father says to his son as a boy, "be kind to others." When that boy grows up, if he shows kindness to others, he will be effectively accomplishing what his father instructed.

We could even apply "fulfilled" in that context - that the boy was fulfilling the instructions of his father by being kind to others.

But "accomplish" or "carry out" are fairer ways to describe this. In a similar use, by Jesus acting to please God, he was effectively carrying out the primary teachings of the scriptures - that is to love God with all our heart and soul (Deuteronomy 6:5) - spoken by Moses but taught also by Joshua, Eli, Samuel, David, Solomon, and others including John the Baptist.

Yes, by doing what he was doing, Jesus was carrying out or accomplishing this primary instruction of the scriptures.

Why has 'fulfilled' been misinterpreted?

Such an interpretation arose from the First Council of Nicaea of 325 AD organized by Roman Emperor Constantine leading to the Second Council of Ephesus in 449 put together by the Roman Emperor Theodosius II, which led to the creation of the Roman Catholic Church.

This interpretation attempted to conflate that the entire Bible was all about Jesus. It construed that practically every statement mentioning the persecution of God's messengers was predicting Jesus' persecution.

It was as if Jesus was the only messenger of God who was persecuted. That is completely untrue. Many Prophets and teachers in the teaching lineage of Jesus, including Elijah, Amos, Zechariah, Jeremiah, Uriah, and of course John the Baptist were persecuted for their teachings. We should also add that most of Jesus' close disciples were persecuted and murdered, including Peter, James, Matthew, Luke, Mark, John, Andrew, Matthias, Jude, Thomas, Barnabas, Phillip and others.

Such an interpretation would contradict centuries of dedication by so many messengers of God who have suffered due to their teachings. Jesus for one would be insulted with such an interpretation.

The result of this interpretation - construed in an attempt to paint the Roman Catholic Church as the only true religion - allowed the Roman government to dominate Europe and the Middle East.

This interpretation would also mean so many statements within David's Psalms, Ezekiel's revelations, Isaiah's writings, Moses' teachings, Job's communications with God, Solomon's visions and so many other deep teaching events of the Scriptures had no meaning other than to predict Jesus' persecution.

This interpretation is manipulative and contradicts the clear language of these Scriptures. Key verses have been lifted and taken out of the context of surrounding verses.

Such an interpretation is aimed at attracting followers. Why? Because it creates a doctrine that allows cleansing or purification without going through the hard work of having a change of heart. As if Jesus' crucifixion allowed everyone [who accepted it] to become automatically purified.

Does Jesus' crucifixion really remove our sins?

This doctrine - which Jesus never taught - states that all one has to do is "accept Jesus into my heart and accept that he died for my sins" and we are saved from the consequences of our actions that harm others.

If this were true, why do followers of this doctrine who have participated in rituals such as communion and confession still suffer the consequences of their actions? Why are those that participated in these rituals not "saved" from the consequences of their actions?

Yet we see every day that even those who claim to be "born again" will still suffer consequences from their activities - as does everyone in the physical world.

But does it work? Does accepting that Jesus died for my sins really remove the consequences of my actions? Does going to communion and then doing the "Hail Marys" really cleanse my sins?

We can see the answer practically as we see others who have done so. There are many criminals who have committed crimes and confessed their crimes, yet they end up being caught and arrested - and punished - for their crimes. If Jesus' crucifixion saved them, why do they still have to go to jail or otherwise pay for their crimes?

These examples defy this teaching about our sins being "cleansed" or otherwise "saved" once we make this pledge of allegiance to Jesus, or "take confession."

It basically points to the fact that the entire teaching is false. Their promises and rituals have no power. They have made false promises in order to gain followers, and have thus tricked followers into joining their institutions.

This is the same as preachers who promise that if we go to their revivals we will be cured of physical diseases and handicaps. So many of these evangelists have been exposed as cheaters for paying people to fake their "healings." This is besides the placebo effect, allowing others to believe they will be healed if they go to one of these revivals.

Con artists can be very persuasive and charismatic. But they also are tricky. For example, many will say that if someone doesn't get healed, or "saved" or cleansed of the responsibilities of their sins, they must not have "believed enough."

This is hucksterism disguised as religion. It is cheating. They profit from their followers. They become wealthy from fooling their followers. They are selling "becoming saved" or "born again" - not so different from selling snake oil.

Was Jesus saying his crucifixion was a prophecy?

Let's look again at Jesus' statement:
"But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?"
The word "Scriptures" is taken from the Greek word γραφή (graphē). This means, according to the lexicon, 1) a writing, thing written; 2) the Scripture, used to denote either the book itself, or its contents; 3) a certain portion or section of the Holy Scripture.

Jesus is not talking about fulfilling the entire Bible here. He is not saying that the entire Old Testament was all about him. Jesus is talking about its content.

He is talking about the message of the Scriptures being fulfilled.

And what is that message? This is the message taught by Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David and every other Prophet. And it is the central message of Jesus' teachings:
"'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." (Matthew 22:37-38)
How so? We can see from the lives and teachings of all the Prophets that they loved God with all their being. They gave their lives to God, and they made so many sacrifices for God.

Giving oneself to God out of love is the message and example of all of the Prophets, and thus the teaching of all the Scriptures. This is what is trying to be conveyed, both from the specifics of their teachings, and the context of their lives. 

Many of the Prophets were persecuted for their teachings and their commitment to the Supreme Person (such as John the Baptist). While not everyone was executed as Jesus was, we can see that they all committed their lives to the Supreme Being in one respect or another. This is the message that Jesus' life fulfills.

And all of these Prophets were each "messiahs," because their teachings and lives - individually and as a whole - have the ability to teach us this central message of the Scriptures. They all fulfill this message of the Scriptures to love and serve God with all our hearts and all of our being.

And certainly, Jesus' act also fulfills this message, because Jesus was committing himself to do God's will. Because Jesus loves God. This is the take-away message from Jesus' life and all of the Scriptures. This is how Jesus' act "fulfills" (carries out) the Scriptures.

Can Jesus' crucifixion save us?

Jesus' act of sacrifice truly has the ability to save us, if we understand what he was doing and take that into our lives.

How so? Jesus allowed himself to be persecuted because he was standing up for his teachings - the teachings of love of God. He considered those teachings more important than his life in this world.

Jesus was communicating to us that we can become happy if we commit our life to God. If we come to know Him, love Him, and please Him we can be fulfilled.

This can save us because it can change our consciousness. It can change our consciousness from self-centeredness to God-centeredness. Such a consciousness cleanses our hearts and saves us from doing other activities that harm others.

Being saved does not mean there are no consequences for our actions. Having consequences for our actions is part of the physical world. And we should invite this programming done by God because it helps us learn and grow.

Being saved means our heart becomes changed. This means our actions will change, and thus the consequences for those actions will be positive. 

And if our lives become spiritualized, then our consequences will also be spiritual. We will be directed home after the death of our physical body - where we can reunite with our best friend, the Supreme Being.