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The Miracles of Jesus Part 36: Healing the Ear of a Servant in the Arrest Party in Gethsemane
Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-11 - Jesus shows compassion, calm and power upon His arrest; His disciple Peter is impulsive and attacks in an irrational manner.
“While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.” And He touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come against Him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as you would against a robber? While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.””
Luke 22:47-53 NASB1995
“Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples. Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, *came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and *said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He *said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Therefore He again asked them, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus the Nazarene.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me, let these go their way,” to fulfill the word which He spoke, “Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one.” Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus. So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?””
John 18:2-11 NASB1995
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This healing miracle takes place as Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane (shown in the photograph above in the present day). Judas betrays the Lord to the troops with a disciple’s kiss and the other disciples wonder about defending Jesus. The healing itself is only documented in Luke 22 (a doctor would focus on that aspect), but I have also included relevant verses in John 18, where the slave who loses his ear is named (Malchus) and the sword-wielder is also named (Peter). John doesn’t document the miracle, but he does note that when Jesus said “I am He”, the large group there to arrest Jesus falls back and to the ground.
Even as He is being arrested and will be crucified the next day, Jesus has compassion on Malchus and wants His arrest to be peaceful. I really like this commentary from Enduring Word on the passage in Luke on how the manner that this arrest happened was so important to the developing events:
c. Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss? Of course, Jesus knew the irony of being betrayed with a warm greeting; so He essentially asked Judas “are you so dead to all feeling that you can kiss and betray?” Judas is a good example of a seared conscience.
i. The betrayal of Jesus was terrible sin, and Judas bears full responsibility for it. Yet God, in His providence, used it as the best way to deliver Jesus into the hands of His adversaries.
· If they captured Jesus in a fight or if Jesus ran and hid until they found and caught Him, it would show that He was an unwilling victim.
· If Jesus surrendered Himself it might excuse His murderers or be seen as suicide.
· If it happened accidentally it would lessen the full effect of the bitter cup Jesus was about to drink.
· “No; he must be betrayed by his friend, that he may bear the utmost depths of suffering, and that in every separate circumstance there may be a well of grief.” (Charles Spurgeon)
And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear: John 18:10 identified this unnamed swordsman as Peter. When Peter used sword-power he could only cut off ears; but using the power of the Word of God, could pierce hearts for God’s glory (Acts 2:37).
“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.” (Alexander Maclaren)
Luke, with his medical precision, identified the ear as the right ear. Assuming Peter was right handed, the only way to cut off someone’s right ear in this manner is if you attack from behind. It’s likely – though not certain – that Peter attacked from behind.
Jesus stopped this foolish and ineffective bloodshed by saying, “Permit even this.” “He told His disciples who had resorted to violence, ‘Let it be as far as this.’
And He touched his ear and healed him: Even here, Jesus was present to clean up the mess His disciples left behind. He healed the damage done by Peter.
As might be expected, the impulsive Peter is the one who cut off the ear of Malchus. If Peter is assumed to be right-handed, he had to do this attack from behind the victim, who was apparently unarmed. This is from the commentary from Enduring Word for the Gospel of John for this same event:
Simon Peter, having a sword: The disciples apparently sometimes carried swords, and Luke 22:38 indicates that they had at least two on this occasion. Having a sword made sense when there were robbers and violent men to consider.
Drew it and struck the high priest’s servant: Each of the other Gospel accounts mention that one of the disciples did this, but John is the only Gospel writer to say that it was Simon Peter who made this attack. Peter wanted to fulfill his previous promise to defend Jesus at all cost: Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!(Matthew 26:35).
“It is exceedingly thoughtless in Peter to try to prove his faith by the sword, while he could not do so by his tongue.” (John Calvin, cited in Henry Morris)
And cut off his right ear: It has been noted (but not proved) that this meant Peter, holding the sword in his right hand, must have attacked the high priest’s servant from behind, because it would be near impossible to cut off his right ear if he was facing the servant Malchus. It is entirely possible that Peter deliberately chose a non-soldier, and attacked him from behind. This was not a shining display of courage.
It may be significant that John alone mentioned the high priest’s servant by name, Malchus. This is another piece of evidence that John had connections to those in the household of the high priest (John 18:16). It may also indicate that Malchus later became a Christian, because often people in the Gospels and Acts are named because they were known among the early Christian community.
Put your sword into the sheath: Jesus did not praise Peter for what he did; He told him to stop. This was to protect Peter as much as to protect those who came to arrest Jesus. Most of all, it was that Jesus could drink the cup the Father gave to Jesus, the measure of suffering and judgment He would endure.
“Peter’s impulsive action was more likely to get himself and his companions into serious trouble than to do his Master any good, but even if it had a better chance of success, Jesus would allow nothing to stand in the way of his bringing to completion the work which his Father had given him to do.” (F. F. Bruce)
John the Gospel writer named Peter as the offender, but did not tell that Jesus miraculously healed the cut-off ear of the high priest’s servant (Luke 22:51).
I find it interesting that the fact that this servant or slave is named means that he might have converted later to Christianity. Peter, of course, ends up having a miserable night all together, with his later denials of Jesus. Fortunately, before a real melee could begin, Jesus calms the group down after healing Malchus and goes peacefully with the arresting party and the rest of them scatter. I sometimes can’t belief that this is the same Peter who speaks with such authority in Acts after the Pentecost and wrote two beautiful epistles. I must give kudos to the people who are doing the streaming hit series “The Chosen”: their choice of the actor portraying Peter (Shahar Issac) is perfect. He is rash and impulsive and prone to quick emotional reactions and sudden bouts of anger; this Peter is also younger, which goes against many of the historical analyses that identified Peter as an older man (the Bible does not actually say).
So what did we learn from this miracle?
Jesus heals the severed ear of a servant in the arrest party at Gethsemane: Jesus, even as He is being betrayed and arrested, shows compassion for one of those in the arresting party. Peter acts impulsively and severs the ear of Malchus, a servant of the High Priest. The Lord calms down the disciples, heals Malchus instantly, and departs with the arresting party.
My next devotional examines the last miracle documented in most official chronologies, a second miraculous catch of fish from the Sea of Galilee after the Resurrection, found in the Gospel of John. I will summarize the miracles in another devotional, then start a short series on Psalm 8.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Your compassion and peace were evident even as you were arrested the night before your crucifixion. May your peace that surpasses all understanding and compassion for others be seen in your believers, even if circumstances are difficult or persecution occurs. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.
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