Malchus, running his finger through his hair, makes contact with his ear.
It shouldn’t be there. Just a few weeks ago it was lopped off by one of those Jesus’ followers. Peter was his name. This revolutionary saw the hoard and believed it was time to fight. Malchus, commissioned by the high priest, was doing his job. He was loyal to the institution. Peter believed that Jesus was building a different kingdom—one which stood against both Rome and the present temple leaders. For Peter it was time to fight.
Malchus bore the pain of Peter’s misapplied conclusions about the Messiah. He’d only been a few steps behind Judas, the betrayer, when he heard the question. “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” Suddenly, Malchus felt a sharp pain while all the voices around him became faint and distant. Pain and confusion marked those moments as this Jesus-follower had struck him with a sword.
It’s what happened next that had Malchus remembering that day whenever he’d touched his ear. Jesus, the one who was supposed to be guilty of overthrowing Rome and the temple, picked up the bloody ear of this lowly servant and restored it. He restored what his disciple had wrecked.
Thankfully, Jesus is still in the business of doing this. How many believers and unbelievers have endured harm at the hands of an aggressive and misinformed disciple of Jesus? How many have endured harm from those who are bearing the name of Jesus but wielding swords of their own fury and personal brokenness? It’s incredibly good news for those of us who have bloodied ears. Jesus even fixes what his disciples break.
But we’re also Peter in this story. We know that Jesus is gentle and lowly. We know that when a hoard of evil-doers comes after His kingdom that he’s likely to turn the other cheek instead of ball up his fist. And so we fain asking for permission while we swing our swords. After all, the kingdom must be protected. When the gentle and lowly Jesus is attacked we assume it He who is vulnerable and not our own conceptions of Him, so we go into attack mode. We think we’re defending Jesus but really we’re defending our own insecurities.
It’s telling that only a few hours after this attack will Peter actually deny the very One he claimed to be protecting. It’s always easier to fight for Jesus than it is to follow Him to Golgotha. When Peter himself was exposed and endangered at the hands of a mere servant girl he couldn’t bear his position. So he denied Christ.
When roosters crow, Peter remembers pain and grace. Pain from his own foolish disobedience. Pain from his pride. Pain from his own betrayal. But grace from the one who touched Peter at the very core of his being and restored him. Grace to call such a betrayer to further kingdom by stooping and feeding lowly sheep and not lopping off ear lobes.
When he touches his intact ear lobe, Malchus remembers pain and grace. Pain from the hands of a Jesus-follower. Yes, even pain from being on the side of Judas. Pain from one bearing a sword in the name of the crucified. But grace from the One who heals even those on the betrayer’s side.
We’re probably all a mixture of Peter and Malchus. At times we’re the ones doling out the pain—at other times we’re the ones receiving. At times both are present even in the same action. But one thing in common, we need and receive Jesus and his healing.
Jesus heals what his followers break, even if it’s their own hearts.
Here’s my ear, Lord.
Here’s my sword.