When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 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." Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, "Whom do you seek?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go." This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: "Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one." Then Simon Peter, having 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?" — Jn 18:1-11
They prayed in the garden, and then they came for him. Again, Jesus speaks before anyone addresses him. "Whom do you seek?" Remember what he asked the disciples originally-- "What do you seek?" I am so fascinated by this, that Jesus again and again addresses people before they can address Him. He invades their lives in a way they don't even know is possible for another man to do-- but he isn't just any Man. Jesus knows their thoughts and their hearts before they can even vocalize their intentions.
He could have kept to himself in the back of the garden; He didn't. He could have turned away; He didn't. He could have waited for them to speak; He didn't. He could have commanded angels and archangels to rescue Him; He didn't. He came forward, and addressed them first. While He was "sorrowful, even unto death", He did not back down from what God called Him to do.
It's what He'd been telling the disciples for months now would happen-- but they hadn't believed. They couldn't see how their Messiah could possibly save them if He died. They didn't know that the only way for Him to really save them was, in fact, death. And so we find our headstrong, heart-strong friend Peter, pulling out His sword and striking the high priest's servants ear. Oh Peter. The servant, the ear? I guess he never heard the phrase "go big or go home"-- if you were going to draw a sword to defend your Master and Lord, wouldn't you at least aim for a more important person or a more wounding place?
And again, Jesus speaks first. To Peter, giving him yet another command and a reminder: "put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?" He commands him to put away his sword, to stop with the impulsivity and attempt to deny God's will. And He reminds Him of what He's been saying so many times to the disciples in so many ways: this is what HAS to happen. My Father, the God of the Israelites and of Heaven and Earth, has given me this cup, this command, this call-- and just like you've listened to My commands to Leave, Follow, and Come, so I have to listen to My Father's call to Die.
Peter has struggled in the calls Jesus has given. Yes, he has obeyed; but he's also faltered, floundering on the sea when he let fear overtake his faith. Jesus has told him exactly what would happen, and he's said, "Never let it be so! I'll die for you before I deny you!" But Jesus knows Peter better than Peter knows himself. And Jesus knows that He has to follow the call given by God, to model to Peter just why Peter cannot save himself. Peter's sin disqualifies him over, and over, from saving himself. Peter cannot be righteous, he cannot do the right thing for the life of him, when left to his own impulses and choices. And Jesus knows this: it's why He has to die, to MAKE Peter, and you, and me, righteous before God.
Jesus created followers wherever He went. From the moment we saw Him walking past John the Baptist and his own disciples, there's been an increasingly growing trail of people who follow behind Him. One of the most interesting things I learned in my seminary class this Spring is to pay attention to whenever someone's name is mentioned in the Gospels, because it likely means that they were a first-hand witness to the account that's being described, that the Gospel writer (in this case, John), knew personally or spoke to the person. We've been taught to take every word intentionally, that there is some purpose for us knowing what they're telling us. When we read this passage in class, I asked my professor, "is Malchus, the servant of the high priest, mentioned by name because he became a believer and follower of Christ?" He said it was very likely, although ultimately impossible to know.
Did even Malchus, the servant who Peter needlessly and impulsively maimed, come to believe in Jesus? Maybe. Can Jesus take our sins and screw ups and impulsive mistakes, and use them for His glory? Absolutely. Should we continue to take no regard to what we do, then, because Jesus redeems us? No, that's not what I'm saying, and Romans makes that clear to us as well. "What then shall we say? Shall we continue in sin so that grace may increase? By no means! How can we who died to sin live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2) But if there's one thing we have learned from the example of Peter, it's that our sin and failure and lack of faith is no match for Jesus' love and grace and faithfulness to the Father. He uses the most broken parts of us, the fear and failure and disbelief and sinfulness, and redeems them for His glory. God's glory is what's at stake. And if a severed ear then healed by the Great Physician is what it took to add one more follower to those who believed, then Jesus would do it. Is it how it had to happen? No. But Jesus is in the business of redeeming all things.
Dear God, Thank you that You called Your son to such a terrible and excruciating death for our sake. We are going around impulsively maiming other people, and yet you draw back our sword and say, "Jesus died so that I the Lord your God can forgive your impulsivity and sin". Jesus, who knows us better than we know ourselves. Who already sees the sin in us, and still dies for us. Thank you for loving us with such a lavish love. Thank you for redeeming the broken parts of us. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Dig Deeper: Are you struggling with a call Jesus has given you? How can you look at this example of Jesus following His call by God to die, and trust that wherever He is leading, He is good?