Welcome to my new category of posts: Scripture Impressions and Digressions. At times when I teach, there are rabbits I would love to chase while interpreting Scripture which time does not always permit. In these doxologies, time is relative. So let the chasing commence.
This past Sunday (3/18/12), I preached on the story of Jesus’ arrest on the edge of the Garden of Gethsemane as recorded in John 18:1-11. We paid particular attention the latter part of the story during which John records the story of Simon Peter and the “ear-echtomy” of Malchus. The garden scene is one of darkness which evolved into chaos, confusion, and desperation on the part of Simon Peter.
So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons . . . Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he” . . . “So, if you seek me, let these men go.”
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:1-11, abbreviated)
Indeed, Peter drew his sword and struck a blow for Jesus. John Chrysostom, one of my favorite Church leaders of all time, asks a great series of questions here: Why did Peter even have a weapon? Did Jesus not command his followers to refuse to carry items of value?
Then Jesus sent out the twelve, instructing them . . . “Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff . . . ” (Matthew 10:5-10)
And . . .
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out . . . And he said to them . . . “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals . . . ” (Luke 10:1-4)
Jesus had commanded his followers to neither carry nor accept anything of value. This included money, extra clothing, or anything made of metal that was attached to their belts. In other words, Simon Peter probably should not have been carrying a sword. Chrysostom’s conclusion was that Peter had armed himself that evening fearing these events might come to pass.
Peter tried to take control of a situation that was not about him. This was not his time, it was Jesus’ time. Jesus was ready to be taken. Thus he corrected Peter, called off the uprising, and healed Malchus’ ear (Luke 22:51).
I like what Campbell Morgan says about this passage. He reminds us that Jesus still treats the wounds that His followers carelessly inflict on others. From Morgan:
“Simon drew his sword and struck a blow for Jesus. I like Simon. He had something in him. I know it was wrong. It was honest zeal; it was just zeal without knowledge. Jesus’ last miracle, a divine surgery on Malchus’ ear, was rendered necessary by the blundering zeal of a disciple. I sometimes think that our Lord is still often healing wounds that zeal-without-knowledge people make on other souls.”