“RETURN YOUR SWORD TO ITS PLACE”
12. What kind of “leaven” did Jesus tell his disciples to avoid?
12 In Jesus’ day, religion was often mixed up in politics. The book Daily Life in Palestine at the Time of Christ notes that “the religious sects into which the Jews were divided corresponded more or less to what we term political parties.” So Jesus warned his disciples: “Keep your eyes open; look out for the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” (Mark 8:15) That reference to Herod likely refers to the party followers of Herod. Politically, the Pharisees supported Jewish independence. Matthew’s account reveals that Jesus also mentioned the Sadducees in this conversation. They wanted to keep the status quo. Many of their members enjoyed political power under the Roman administration. Jesus emphatically warned his disciples to stay clear of the teachings, or leaven, that these three groups advocated. (Matt. 16:6, 12) Interestingly, this conversation took place not long after the occasion when the people wanted to make Jesus king.
13, 14. (a) How did political and religious issues lead to violence and injustice? (b) Why does injustice not justify violence? (See opening picture.)
13 When religion is mixed with politics, violence can easily erupt. Jesus taught his disciples that they must maintain neutrality in these circumstances. That is related to the reason why the chief priests and the Pharisees planned to kill Jesus. They saw him as a political and religious rival who threatened their position. “If we let him go on this way, they will all put faith in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation,” they said. (John 11:48) Thus, High Priest Caiaphas took the lead in plotting Jesus’ death.—John 11:49-53; 18:14.
14 Caiaphas sent soldiers to arrest Jesus under the cover of night. Jesus was aware of this shameful strategy, so during his final meal with the apostles, he asked them to get some swords. Two would be sufficient to teach them a vital lesson. (Luke 22:36-38) Later that night, Peter used a sword to attack a member of the mob. No doubt, he was incensed at the injustice of Jesus’ nighttime arrest. (John 18:10) But Jesus told Peter: “Return your sword to its place, for all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matt. 26:52, 53) This powerful lesson was in harmony with what Jesus prayed about earlier that night—they must be no part of the world. (Read John 17:16.) Fighting injustice was something to be left to God.