Think Before You Act

(John 18:10-11)

think before you act
Think before you act

My aunt used to have a poster on the wall that said, “Make sure brain is engaged before putting mouth into gear.” In other words, “Think before you speak.” It is equally important to think before you act as we will see in this couple of verses of scripture today, which are:

10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus.
11 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?”

There are some great lessons we learn from the actions and reaction of both Peter and Jesus respectively. They show us a way to live, behave and act.

Think Before You Act

The wall plaque above is about not being impetuous. Peter was impetuous. Many times in the New Testament we see Peter behaving in a manner that seemed to be impetuous. He was human and he made mistakes, often because of his impetuous nature.

But he was also committed. He was prepared to jump in boots and all and to give everything of himself to whatever the matter or cause was that he was involved in. In this example he knew the Lord was in trouble. Here came a mob of people to arrest Jesus and take Him away to be tried and put to death.

Peter was having none of that and even though the mob included soldiers and officers of the chief priests, all armed with weapons, Peter stood up to defend his Teacher, Lord and friend, Jesus. Peter had a sword, drew it and used it to attack those who would harm Jesus.

He forgot the fact that they were outnumbered, outgunned in the weapons department and some of these were trained soldiers. He just struck out to defend his friend and hang the consequences. He was impetuous and committed.

Jesus’ Reaction

But then we see Jesus’ reaction to what Peter had done. He did not stand and fight shoulder to shoulder, he did not blindly strike out at those who had come against Him. Instead, Jesus had His brain in gear before He spoke.

Jesus was trying to protect His disciples and friends too, but not through aggression as Peter had done. We saw in the preceding verses that He told the mob that it was Him they were seeking and they should let the others go.

Would they have let them go if the rest attacked the mob? No! Violence leads to violence. Jesus knew that and so His words were to Peter to, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?” This situation could have easily turned uglier had they continued to follow this violent path. But in the version of this event in Luke we see that Jesus diffused the situation completely.

50 And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.
51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.

Jesus turned to the man who was His enemy but had been injured and healed him then and there. In this simple action He showed that He was truly the Son of God and He reacted with love, not violence.

The Lesson

So now we see the contrasting approaches of both Jesus and Peter.

Peter reacted like a man. When challenged he fought back. When backed up against the wall he relied on his own strength and the power of his weapons to try to address the situation. Peter jumped in boots and all without thinking, without ensuring his brain was engaged before he reacted.

On the other hand Jesus showed the need to think first before reacting. He showed the need to weigh up the circumstance and to then take the right actions. His focus was the protection of his disciples so that they could later go out and preach the gospel to the world. Jesus had the long-term view not the worry of the moment.

What was the significant difference in these two approaches? Peter relied on the strength of man to overcome, which would have led to disaster. But Jesus relied on the power of God to overcome and He both saved His disciples and friends, and also gave all of mankind the path to salvation, none of which would have happened if they had followed Peter’s way.

But Peter learned his lesson. Jesus knew his heart for it was to Peter that Jesus passed the baton to protect, teach and grow the church, which we will see later on. It is evident that the rest of the disciples learned this lesson too for we see this in the words of James who said in James 1:19-20,

19 Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,
20 for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.

Being quick to hear means to listen closely and carefully to what you are being told. Being slow to speak means to think over things before you open your mouth, that is, to make sure your brain is engaged before putting your mouth into gear. And finally being slow to anger means to consider your reaction before taking any action for anger clouds your judgement.

It’s a great lesson that we can all benefit from. So tell me, have you ever been in a similar situation? Did you ever strike out instinctively rather than thinking things through first? And what would you now do differently to ensure you think before you act?

(Photo sourced from

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