For many, the Gospels are the best part of the Bible for one reason: Jesus. Yes, all of Scripture already points to the Son, but these four accounts record the words and works of The Word manifest in the flesh; the very image of the invisible God.
Men of all ages have scrutinised, studied, and marvelled at these narratives for two millennia. Among them, His seven utterances on the cross ― through the most monumental hours for mankind ― have received much attention.
Last week, we began a deeper look at some of His utterances on the way to Golgotha. Part 1 looked at Jesus’ exhortation to rise and pray amid trouble and temptation. Today, we look at the following text:
But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And He touched His ear and healed him. Luke 22:51
The leaders of the Jews had wanted to arrest, try, and execute Jesus for a long time. Their desire is recorded as early as Mark 3, when Jesus entered the synagogue and healed a man on the Sabbath. “The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against Him, how to destroy Him” (Mark 3:6). It is ironic, then, that they finally laid their hands on Him right after one of their own was healed by the very same man they hated.
Elsewhere, it has also been recorded that these Jewish leaders wanted to keep things under wraps (Matthew 26:3-5). They feared a tumult among the people. So they chose to wait till after midnight to execute their mission.
Let us not kid ourselves though. This was their hour, and they clearly made no attempt to hide their activity. The power of darkness loomed large as a “great crowd” (Matthew 26:47) made their way to Gethsemane carrying lanterns, torches, and weapons.
It is ironic that they finally laid their hands on Jesus right after He healed one of their own
Led by Judas, one of Jesus’ own, accompanied by some chief priests and Pharisees, with “a band of soldiers” (John 18:3) for muscle… all for one Man — an eternally righteous, infinitely gracious, limitlessly loving Man.
Jesus had seen this coming all along — even before heaven and earth were formed, if we’re being specific. He had warned His disciples about these events to come on numerous occasions too (Matthew 16:21). In fact, the last foretelling of His impending death concluded with Him responding affirmatively to His disciples carrying two swords with them. “It is enough”, He’d said at the time (Luke 22:38).
As it turns out, the disciples were ready to go on the offensive as soon as they realised what was about to happen. After all, they had expressed their desire to die for Jesus. And so, as soon as the arresting party took hold of Jesus (Matthew 26:50), the disciples asked, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” (Luke 22:49).
Without further ado, Peter swung for Malchus’ head and missed. Both Doctor Luke and John record that the servant’s right ear was cut off. The Greek text clarifies that Peter only nicked off the lobe of the ear.
Either way, neither Peter nor the rest of the 11 won any prizes for bravery that night. Jesus did not pat him on the shoulder for trying, take the sword from him, and proceed to show him how it’s done. Rather, what came out of His Master’s mouth was a rebuke.
Courage is not measured by our willingness to swing a sword, but by our readiness to herald the truth
[The text — even the original — doesn’t clarify who Jesus’ words were directed to in Luke 22:51. Either He said them to His captors to diffuse the situation, and immediately healed Malchus to further calm things down. Or, He was rebuking His disciples. The latter seems the more probable notion.]
Having just emerged from the garden where He had indicated His complete submission to the will of the Father, Jesus would not turn back now. His hour had finally come, and He would not falter.
“No more of this!” He said to Peter and Co. No more warring of spiritual battles by carnal means. No more being caught up with flesh and blood when our battle is against the “cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). No more blunt daggers; only the double-edged sword. No more taking matters into one’s own hands; only resting in the Father’s sovereignty.
Here is the lesson: Jesus calls us to lay down our lives for Him. To our Lord, courage and commitment are not measured by our willingness to swing a sword or pull the trigger; rather, it is a measure of our readiness to herald the truth and, sometimes, go down without a fight for it.
The ridicule of the world will surely follow. But it will bring glory to the Father, whose sovereign will we honour in not fighting back if it comes to it. Yes, many truths are worth fighting for. But the Christian ideal is worth dying for. Total submission to the Father’s will goes all the way, “to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).
This is the example the Son displayed. For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising all the shame that came with it (Hebrews 12:2). So before you wield a sword in Jesus’ name (literally or otherwise), know that His call is different. He demands that you deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).
If the call to follow Jesus — even unto death — is overwhelming, His challenge in life follows the same vein. It is merely the other side of the same coin.
Before Him, stood His enemies. The chief priests hated Him. Judas betrayed him. The band of Roman soldiers would soon beat Him till His bones were laid bare and crucify Him after. And a certain Malchus, who, in all probability, was privy to the conspiracy against Him.
Many truths are worth fighting for. But the Christian ideal is worth dying for
Peter’s rashness only made matters worse. To say the tension in the air was palpable would be an understatement. And yet, our Lord delivered a moment of complete calm. He touched the ear of the wounded slave and healed him. Imagine that!
His enemies were ready to put to use the arms they carried. But Jesus did not rely on the sword; He didn’t need to. His kingdom — as Richard Chenevix Trench puts it — is marked by gentleness, mercy, and compassion, not torches, lanterns, and weapons. They who most needed His grace were blinded by their own righteousness.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught an ideal too lofty for our imagination (Matthew 5:43-44; Luke 6:27). Outside the garden of Gethsemane, He followed through on His teaching with such grace and glory they are beyond our praise.
The credo is plain and simple: “… Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” It asks too much of us to “be Jesus” to the world around us. No one can do that — let alone perform divine surgery like Him. But we can point them to Jesus, through His Word and by our life.
The least we can do is to not be so overcome with “zeal” that we go around inflicting wounds in His name. G Campbell Morgan notes: “… the last act of Divine surgery performed by the tender fingers of Jesus, was made necessary by the blundering zeal of a disciple. I think sometimes He has been busy ever since healing the wounds made by the blundering zeal of disciples.”
No more of this, as He said; more of healing touches, as He showed. May that be the mark of the Church till He returns.
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