The Sword Meets the Ear of Malchus

Luke 22:49-51, CSB

“When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” 50 Then one of them struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear.

51 But Jesus responded, “No more of this!” And touching his ear, he healed him.

How should we proceed with this? Perhaps we should start with the garden of Gethsemane. The setting explains a lot. Jesus is praying alone and He asks His Father for the strength to make it to His cross. It’s said that at that He sweated out what was like drops of blood.

The usual way of praying for a Jewish man was standing, but here we read that Jesus was on His knees. We also read that an angel showed up–it says that this angel came with strengthening power. The Greek word for “strengthen” can mean to invigorate. I believe Jesus’ prayer was answered (but not the way He wanted).

Jesus now had the strength to stand up and face the terror of the cross.

Judas led the mob that came to arrest Jesus. There was the kiss of betrayal and I suppose that the torchlight wasn’t really enough to identify Jesus outright. Judas’ kiss goes into the history books as the ultimate act of a traitor. It’s probably the most wicked kiss ever given to another.

What happens next seems to come out of an R–rated movie script. Peter takes up a sword and slashes and connects with a guy named Malchus who was the servant of the high priest. An ear is chopped off and Peter has a bloody sword, but not so fast. Jesus insisted that this is not the way of a true disciple.

Some would suggest that having good swordsmanship is a vital characteristic of a follower of Jesus.

But I don’t think so.

Jesus stops the whole scene to pick up Malchus’ ear and reattach it. Peter is definitely rebuked (notice the exclamation mark in verse 51)! Being a believer means following Jesus to the garden, and then the cross. Often we look at anything that avoids these places. When we’re truly following Him we are commanded to take up our own cross daily.

“When the Church takes sword in hand, it usually shows that it does not know how to wield it, and as often as not has struck the wrong man.”

Maclaren

Malchus plays such a minor role, and yet the ear amputation speaks volumes. We discover that the implications clarify the Lord’s desire for His followers–something that makes it clear that, “His ways are not our ways.”

Even in the garden, facing arrest and torture, Jesus is still reaching out to those around Him. Malchus is Jesus’ last ‘physical’ healing of another–He is kind and merciful, and He shows us how to love our enemies.

Today is Maundy Thursday. Tomorrow the pain of the cross. But He’s in the garden now, and recognizes exactly what is going down. “But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

Matthew 5:43-44

Meet the Older Brother

Luke 15:25-32

25-27 “All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.’

28-30 “The older brother stomped off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’

31-32 “His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’”

I hated him. I know I shouldn’t but I did. He betrayed all of us by his nonsense. It all started when he demanded that our father immediately divide up our inheritance. Strange I know. It was a shock, like a punch in the stomach. No one knew what to say, it was so bizarre. I have no idea where this idea came from.

He insisted that we divide things up right this instant. He didn’t have the decency to wait for our father’s funeral. It was such a shameful thing that I couldn’t begin to tell you how mortified I was. No one ever heard of anything happening like this before. Even now, after these many years, I can hardly talk about it.

My father simply did what was asked, there was no argument, no resistance.

The property was appraised, and the money was divided up according to custom. We sat at the kitchen table, and the ass watched to make sure that he received every penny that was coming to him. His hungry greed was beyond belief. He oozed arrogance–it was then I really began to hate him.

Never ever had I been so angry and ashamed.

My younger brother never even batted an eye and my father simply did what was asked. My brother didn’t even have the decency to say “thank you.” I desperately wanted to leave, and I couldn’t. I had to be there, and I felt like I was going to throw up.

Enough of that. Let’s move on.

That ass, my younger brother packed up and left. Occasionally I heard of his escapades. There were awful reports of his drunkenness and whoring. He was spending our father’s money as if it would never going to run out. Even talking about it now makes me angry.

The last I had heard was he was now feeding pigs. He had spent every last dime and now it seems he was getting what he deserved. I didn’t shed a tear, I felt no pity. Good, he was getting what he should of gotten all along. I only wished that things would get even worse.

Coming in from the fields I heard a raucous party coming from the house.

I asked one of the servants what was going on. When they told me I was even more shocked. Our father had arranged a celebration, all because my brother had returned. The fatted calf had been killed, the one that was saved for parties, and I heard shouts of joy and dancing. They were celebrating, and that made no sense to me at all.

I had served the estate faithfully, I had sweated to make things work, and I never got a party like this.

My father came out to find me, I had hid out in a shed–I didn’t want to be a part of this awful charade. When he found me he said that the party had to happen. It seems the scoundrel had the audacity to return–the money was spent, and apparently, he came home in rags–it served him right. He got what he deserved.

He told me about the necessity of this celebration.

My mind reeled. Could things get even crazier? Never had I heard of anything so bizarre. It was beyond belief. My father wanted me to come in and join them; I’d rather die. You have no idea.

He kept telling me that this had to happen–apparently he was given a new robe, and worst of all he was given the family ring, the ring that declared that he was now a full-fledged son, someone who could have all of the privilege and authority of a son. I had never heard of such foolishness.

My father said this was necessary, that my brother who I hoped was dead, was now alive.

How bad could things get? Perhaps my father had lost his mind.

“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

Luke 15:7

Painting: “The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt, c. 1667, oil on canvas. This picture shown is a small part. Scripture is The Message, a translation by Eugene Peterson.

Meet Judas Iscariot

Matthew 27:3-10

My name is Judas Iscariot, and I betrayed my Lord. It really had nothing to do with avarice or greed. The money was fine, don’t get me wrong, but that isn’t why I turned him in to the authorities. I simply did what they couldn’t. I wanted to force Jesus’ hand, so he had to drive the Romans out of our country. I was mistaken, I see that now.

Jesus loved each of us, including me. But I didn’t see it at the time.

When he knelt to wash my feet, it shook me. When he stripped down to his undergarments, I admit I had some serious doubts. Behaving like a common slave wasn’t really in my thinking. It would take extra work to shape him, and to deaden such strange behavior. But it would be worth it in the end, if only Jesus would cooperate.

In my mind, I knew that Jesus only needed the right moment to become the next ruler of Israel. That was his destiny, and I was going to help him bring it to pass. I knew that God had called me–this was my purpose. I’d be the kingmaker, and Jesus would certainly reward me.

Some have said that Satan was inside me.

But I hardly noticed. Instead, I was filled with excitement. Finally, the other disciples would come to my side, and together we could make it happen. Enough kneeling, no more groveling–we’re going to rule Israel and end the wicked Roman occupation. I truly believed this. He was our Messiah, our deliverer.

The tricky part was to convince Jesus, to try to manipulate him if necessary, to get him to take control.

My plan was simplicity itself–after I met with the Pharisees, I’d lead them to the garden where Jesus was staying. They insisted on an armed escort, just in case there was trouble among the disciples. I suppose that was prudent, but my part in all of this was simply to give Jesus a kiss on the cheek, to signify that he was the one to the soldiers.

I assumed he would resist and fight. I was so wrong.

Nothing went as planned. Jesus didn’t take charge, and he certainly didn’t overthrow the government. As a matter of fact, you could say that the opposite happened; he was silent and refused to answer most of their questions. I did hear him say, “My kingdom is not of this world.” I should have listened.

I realized way too late, that I helped shed innocent blood. I went back to the priests who hired me, and I insisted they take back the silver. They refused. I threw the bag at their feet and left the temple. Ugly thoughts now filled my mind, and I knew without a doubt that I was completely lost.

Please excuse me, but I have a date with a rope.