Malchus, faithful servant of the High Priest, had seen Jesus many times. Permit me to imagine a few details of this man’s life. He was a man who knew his duty and attended to it faithfully. The leaders in the Temple trusted him. He was also close friends with the Captain of the Temple guards. He knew that Jesus was a threat to his superiors but Malchus couldn’t help liking Him. He had often been assigned to watch Jesus and report back to the leaders. Who else could do the things He did? Malchus had heard the best speakers in the Temple and none of them compared with Jesus.
Now one of His own men had betrayed Jesus. A deal was made and Judas stood among them. He would lead them to Jesus. Immediately, Malchus hated Judas. Such betrayal was too far beyond his personal code; his whole life was built on loyalty and solemn duty. His friend, the Captain of the guard was ordered to assemble a squad of heavily armed soldiers to follow Judas and arrest Jesus. There were eleven other disciples still true to Jesus, so the detachment had to be a substantial one. Malchus would accompany them but he hated the duty as much as he hated Judas. He watched the Captain strap on his short sword, hoping it would not be needed and accompanied the soldiers out of the courtyard in the footsteps of Judas.
Judas knew where to find Jesus and led the Temple guards to Him. It was a beautiful, peaceful grove of ancient olive trees with an olive press nearby. The full moon lit the garden almost like mid-morning. It was called “Gethsemane,” literally, “olive press.” He and His men often spent the night in prayer or slumber here. Jesus made no attempt to avoid capture. Here Jesus, like olives from the grove, would be crushed in His spirit in prelude to the torture of His body.
As was His custom, Jesus had separated Himself from the disciples and sought a solitary place to pray. His men, exhausted from the intense teaching Jesus had given them, found the Garden to be a place of rest, not prayer. Their rest would be short-lived.
Led by their Captain, the Temple guards entered the garden with the religious officials safely in the rear. Malchus flanked his friend, the Captain, at his left side. A signal had been prearranged by Judas to point out which man was Jesus. Jesus asked the guards,
“Whom are you seeking?”
As Judas stood with the guards, they answered simply,
“Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus identified Himself with the most ancient name of God that could be uttered,
“I am He.”
The ground shook at this proclamation and to a man, the Temple guards fell backwards. As they trembled on the ground, He asked the question again and received the same answer. Jesus then pled for the safety of His men.
“I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way…”
Without warning Peter drew his own short sword and attempted to strike the Captain, aiming for his neck. He missed and removed the ear of the unfortunate Malchus. The stricken servant sank to the ground, the blood pouring from the right side of his head. Jesus rebuked Peter:
“Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”
We learn from other witnesses that Jesus retrieved the severed ear from the ground and gently reattached it to the bleeding head of Malchus. The servant struggled to his feet. The ear was healed and the pain was gone. Only the blood remained.
When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered. And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples. Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth. “Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Then He asked them again, “Whom are you seeking?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,” that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.” 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 the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”
Lord Jesus, You came to this earth on a solemn mission no one else could ever perform. None of the things that happened to You that night surprised You. You exercised no supernatural means to avoid the pain. Your very human heart suffered from the rejection predicted by Isaiah—You felt everything inside and out. It is easy for us, from the distance of two millennia to wonder why this was necessary. Open our eyes, Lord, to the tragedy and cruelty of sin. It is no minor annoyance; sin is the plague of this fallen world. All the pain and rejection You experienced was needed to counter sin and establish a New Creation again. Thank You, Lord.
Ten Thousand Angels
Words and Music: Ray Overholt
1. They bound the hands of Jesus in the garden where He prayed;
They led Him thro’ the streets in shame.
They spat upon the Savior so pure and free from sin;
They said, “Crucify Him; He’s to blame.”
He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set Him free.
He could have called ten thousand angels,
But He died alone, for you and me.
2. Upon His precious head they placed a crown of thorns;
They laughed and said, “Behold the King!”
They cursed Him and they struck Him and mocked His holy name
All alone He suffered everything.
3. When they nailed Him to the cross, His mother stood nearby,
He said, “Woman, behold thy son!”
He cried, “I thirst for water,” but they gave Him none to drink.
Then the sinful work of man was done.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved
TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.