Jesus Heals the High Priest’s Servant (A Unique Healing in Gethsemane)
See also: Luke 22:35-46
by Sam Gillespie and Nicole Arnoldbik
Skip for a moment to the last, unusual healing Jesus performs right before his death. Peter cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant when Judas comes to betray Jesus in Gethsemane, and Jesus touches the ear and makes it whole. He heals a wound inflicted by a sword. Not a disease, not a mental illness, not demonic oppression, but this time Jesus heals a wound from a violent act of man (one of his own followers!) against man. He stands against the long trail of human violence that began with Cain.
We can taste the Kingdom here as Jesus stops to heal even amid being arrested on false charges. What a demonstration of our Savior’s restorative power and self-restraint! Jesus says to Peter in Matthew’s account of this story, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” In other words, “Nothing can get in the way of my plan. I don’t need you to defend me.”
All four Gospels record this incident. However, only Luke, the physician, provides closure by saying that Jesus actually heals the man whom one of his followers attacks, showing kindness to his captors. The high priest’s servant is identified in John’s account as Malchus, meaning “king.” John also identifies Peter as the one who made the attack and Malchus’ relative as the servant of the high priest who later prompts Peter’s denial by the fire in John 18:26 when he asks, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?”
For more than one reason, Peter’s ears are probably burning/ringing when he hears the rooster crow. Perhaps Malchus’ kinsman was ready to smite Peter’s ear in return for his sign of contempt* for the high priest and those who support him – an ear for an ear. On the other hand, maybe Malchus’ kinsman simply wanted to know more about the surprising miracle.
Notice Jesus’ words when Peter cuts off Malchus’ ear:
“No more of this!” (Loosely translated, “Enough, already!” Jesus also says, “That is enough” or “Enough of this kind of talk” in Luke 22:38.)
Jesus’ self-restraint lays the groundwork for later staying pinned to the cross when he could have ripped himself away. He could have rescued himself! In fact, his mockers and his doubters asked him why he didn't. But he chose not to do what he could do. In the face of endless possibilities, he chose the hard thing–and he chose it not by default but out of wholehearted obedience to the Father’s will. Thus, all of humanity’s travails are brought under the Son of Man’s healing power.
*Some scholars write that the wound Peter inflicts is done by a kind of dagger or fighting knife called a sica, and the blow is a symbolic act attempting to shame (maim), not to kill. If Peter had his way, the servant would have had to report the disgraceful story about how he lost his ear for the rest of his life. Since Jesus has his way, the servant has a testimony of grace to tell instead, even to his master, Caiaphas. This “mishap” serves a greater purpose.
Father, we know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2) Your will be done. Thank you that every mistake can be healed and “undone by love.”
Sam Gillespie has been at The Falls Church Anglican since Easter 2010. He lives in West Springfield where he takes care of his son. Nicole Arnoldbik serves as our communications coordinator.