By Rev. Kimberly C. Orr
January 7, 2021
Matthew 26:52; Luke 22:35-38; John 18:10; Genesis 2:9; Revelation 22:2
Jesus stunned Peter with a rebuke of his overzealous defense, “‘Put away your sword,’ Jesus told [Peter]. ‘Those who use the sword will die by the sword’” (Matthew 26:52, NLT). As we watched the images of chaos and violence yesterday threaten to disrupt the peace of our civil society, it is important to remember that Jesus’ “end game” was not the establishment of a militaristic fiefdom, but rather, Jesus came to restore humanity to our original covenant position before our Creator, as co-regents designed to reflect God’s wisdom into the world around us.
Appearing in Genesis, the Gospels, and again in Revelation, Garden of Eden imagery represents our covenant relationship with God and is key to understanding how are we called to position our prayers and our loyalties during times of unrest and anxiety. In Luke 22, Jesus rightly identified—in hyperbolic fashion—the dire nature of desperate times, but he equally (in the context of a garden!) condemns the use of the sword. Jesus himself stood as the refashioned “Tree of Life” in the midst of a garden, once again misunderstood by humanity.
However, Jesus does not throw up his hands and walk away. No. He beckons us to once again approach the Tree of Life and to indeed “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19) for our sake and for the “healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). As a result, our prayers can become vehicles of rejuvenation and hope, and bolster our life together as the human family, created equally in God’s image. If Jesus is truly our Lord, then our first loyalty is to him, and our most faithful worship is the sacrifice of our self-referenced lives, along with our fear, anger, and mistrust. Through the power of God’s grace and the encouragement of other Jesus-followers, these putrid fruits of the false self can be replaced by the vivifying Fruit of the Spirit, which is characterized by the love Jesus demonstrated on a Tree that brings us life.
Rev. Kimberly C. Orr serves as the publisher of The Upper Room.
In times of crisis, we turn to the Psalms as our prayer book. Join with us in prayer for the United States and our world using the video below, or read more from Rev. Orr on The Upper Room blog here.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.