I love it when you, my beloved BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) share with me, from time to time, Ah-Ha! moments you’ve encountered during your study of the Bible. You know, a revelatory moment when something hits home that you’ve read a hundred times but never really found terribly meaningful before.
So I’d like to return the blessing. My Ah-Ha! moment this week.
I’ve been reading my longtime writer buddy Shellie Rushing Tomlinson’s new Bible study, Seizing the Good Life: Discover Peace and Joy through the Study of John’s Gospel (soooo good! I highly recommend it.). When I read (and reread) this seemingly straightforward verse from John 18:10, for some reason, my attention was piqued and I looked the scene up in all four gospels of 5 different translations to get a better understanding and mental picture of the event:
“Simon Peter therefore 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.”
Now does anything interesting stand out to you from that verse?
Okay, read it again, considering the circumstances in which it took place: Jesus and a handful of his disciples, including Simon Peter, were praying (and some of them accidentally snoozing) in a public garden after having dinner together (The Last Supper, but no one knew it but Jesus) in celebration of the Passover, which was a traditional Jewish holiday (like our Christmas or Easter).
And wait. Peter was carrying a sword? Really? To dinner and a garden with friends?
Now I recognize that Jesus had been telling his disciples for some time that he was soon going to fulfill prophecy and die as the sacrifice for their (and our) sins. But up to this point, they weren’t getting it. Especially overly stoked but sometimes dim Peter. But they had no idea when, how, or who would betray Jesus to the authorities to kick the horrible process off like evil dominoes falling. So when “a great multitude with swords and clubs came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders” (Mark 14:43 NKJV) to arrest Jesus in the tranquility of the late night garden, the disciples were startled and horrified.
So horrified that “all the disciples deserted him and fled” (Matthew 26:56 NIV).
But not before impulsive Peter had whipped out his sword (which I assume he had hidden beneath his tunic) and slashed off the right ear of the high priest’s slave, Malchus.
Doesn’t it make you wonder why John felt it important to:
- Report which ear was cut off. (Only Luke and John reported it was his right ear; Matthew and Mark simply said “his ear.”) The visualization of Peter’s panicked counterattack becomes clearer when we presume that Peter was right-handed (like most folks) and slashed at Malchus’s right ear, which means that Malchus most likely had his back to Peter (possibly retreating?) and was probably unarmed because he was a slave …
- Document that the victim was a slave – who likely was reluctant or even resistant to be taking part in this mob debacle and was only there because he was ordered to do so by his master, the driving force behind the plot to get rid of Jesus. (All four gospels cited that the victim was the servant/slave of the high priest.) In other words, the wounded man probably wasn’t there of his own will. He quite possibly had no animosity toward Jesus at all.
- State his name: Malchus. After all the amazing and incredible miracles performed in the Bible to nameless people, i.e. the woman at the well, the healed blind men (more than one!), the woman with an issue of blood, the lame man who walked, the lepers made clean, the adulterous woman Jesus saved from being stoned … and many others), why did John make it a point to name this seemingly insignificant man, a mere slave? To insure that throughout countless generations until the end of time that Malchus’s name will be known. Hmm. I think it assures us that none of us are truly insignificant or nameless – we’re not just part of a mob, whether we choose to be there or not. As individuals, we’re so important to our Savior who died for each of us that He knows our name.
- NOT mention that Jesus healed the mutilated man after rebuking Peter for fighting violence with violence. Only Luke wrote about the miraculous healing, “And he [Jesus] touched the place where the man’s ear had been and healed him” (Luke 22: 51 NLT). But John did report Jesus’s response to Peter’s rash behavior, “Jesus therefore said to Peter, ‘Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?'” *FYI: John’s was the only account that actually named Simon Peter as the overzealous swashbuckler; the other three gospels only reported that it was “one of” the disciples.
Okay, friends, that’s all I have room for now. I know we busy gals like shorter blog posts rather than diatribes so I try to curb my blabber control issues.
I hope that my musings on this simple but sometimes overlooked passage give you food for thought. As you know, I’m no official Bible scholar or teacher … I’m just a little hick gal from the sticks who loves God’s Word and yearns to digest every single morsel. And I’m betting you do too! So grab your Bible(s) and reference materials and do a little research on your own. It’s so important that we don’t just swallow teachings or implications about the Bible that someone else has chewed, but that we chew them for ourselves.
Hey, we don’t have to be scholars to be students of the Bible. I’d love to hear about your own Ah-Ha! moments, fellow student!