The Sword of Holy Week
On Thursday, a host of Roman soldiers come to arrest Jesus. Their swords glimmer in the torchlight. In response, the apostle Peter launches himself at a slave-boy and swings a sword to slash off the boy’s ear. Jesus rebukes Peter and restores the boy’s ear. In obedience, Peter puts down his sword.
Importantly we do not hear of Peter picking up his sword again despite having the temptation to use it. After denying Christ, Peter finds himself in the same place as the traitor Judas.
Unable to muster the strength to stand with Christ, both men fall into the following dilemma.
Either Christ is God and in betraying Christ, Peter and Judas have betrayed God and deserve death, or Christ is not God and they have broken the first commandment and deserve death. Either way, Judas and Peter know they deserve death. Judas responds by buying a field, grabbing some rope, and casting himself as his own jury, judge, and executioner. Judas is not willing to wait for the justice of God.
Peter, on the other hand, waits. He has his sword, but does not use it on himself. He keeps faith that it is better to submit to the unknown response of God, than presume to know God’s plan for him. Unbeknownst to Peter, Christ’s work in the tomb will lead to a way out of Peter’s dilemma.
Truly Christ is God and Peter has betrayed him, but death can no longer claim Peter for his betrayal.
As Peter waits in the darkness of Friday night, Zachariah’s prophecy comes true. Mary’s soul is pierced with a sword. For she stood before the cross and watched her only beloved Son die on the cross. Unlike Peter who waits with hope, but no clear knowledge of who Christ is and what will happen, Mary knows what is to come.
Mary knows that the man on the cross must be the Messiah. After all, she knows Christ was immaculately conceived through the Holy Spirit because she herself experienced the immaculate conception. It is terrible to watch your Son die, but even more terrible to watch your Messiah die.
Yet like Peter, Mary waits. Unlike Peter, Mary waits with a hope bolstered by knowledge. The same prophet who foretold her pain, foretold her son’s ultimate conquering. The sword that pierced Mary’s heart bears witness to the fact that Christ will conquer all, for Zachariah’s whole prophecy must be fulfilled. On Sunday, Mary gets to see the final part of the prophecy fulfilled.
May we be like Peter and Mary this Holy Week. Let us wait. Like Peter let us wait and submit to God’s reckoning of our sins. Like Mary let us wait with the knowledge that all shall be well.