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When Jesus was being arrested, we read in John 18:10, 11,
10 Simon Peter, then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus. 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?”
Since John himself was of a priestly family and thus had access to Jesus’ courtyard trial, there is no doubt that he also knew Malchus, the high priest’s slave. John is the only evangelist to give us his name. Perhaps the other gospel writers omitted his name because they wrote their accounts while Malchus was still living and to reveal his name might have put him in danger. He was, after all, owned by those who had crucified Jesus and who had then persecuted the church.
John’s gospel was completed many years later when it no longer mattered, and so his gospel honors Malchus by name. There is little doubt that Malchus became a believer, because, as Luke 22:51 tells us, Jesus “touched his ear and healed him.” Luke is the only gospel writer to tell us that Jesus healed his ear. John is the only gospel writer to tell us that it was his right ear.
The name Malchus is from the Hebrew Melek and means “King or Kingdom.” In this case, I believe he served as a prophetic type of the Kingdom under the spiritual leadership of Caiaphas, who condemned Jesus.
Peter thought he was honoring Jesus by defending him, but Jesus rebuked Peter for opposing the will of God. Sometimes the will of God is that we undergo trials, persecution, and even false accusation for the greater good. When we do not understand this, we can easily come against the will of God without realizing it. Matt. 26:52-54 says also,
52 Then Jesus said to him [Peter], “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?”
Even if Jesus had wanted to defend Himself, He would not need Peter’s sword. But Jesus knew His mission from the Scriptures and said, “it must happen this way.”
Self-defense is a natural right as long as it does not interfere with the will of God and the path that God has chosen for us. Most people have little or no awareness of God’s will for their lives, because they are largely blind and deaf—a condition that God Himself has imposed upon the majority as part of the kingdom’s “wilderness” experience. Deut. 29:4 says,
4 Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.
The blindness did not end when the Israelites crossed the Jordan, for again we see the same blindness and deafness centuries later in Isaiah 29:10 and even in the first century A.D. (Rom. 11:7, KJV). Paul, however, distinguishes the remnant from the rest of the people, telling us that the remnant are those who see the truth and hear the word.
Malchus’ position as the slave of the high priest makes him a type of the kingdom that is supposed to be God’s slave but was, in fact, the slave of the world systems (i.e., the “beast” systems). God had redeemed Israel from Egypt, and by the law of redemption (Lev. 25:53), Israel was then required to serve God as their new Master.
When Peter cut off Malchus’ ear, it signified that his carnal act of self-defense would only serve to hinder the kingdom’s ability to hear the commands of God. More specifically, destroying his right ear meant that the kingdom would be unable to hear God’s words of mercy set forth in the law. The left side signifies judgment, the right side signifies mercy.
Without one’s right ear intact (spiritually speaking), one cannot truly know the mercy of God, which translates into the message of reconciliation and the restoration of all things. If an ambassador of Christ cannot hear the message of mercy, how can he fulfill his calling to tell God’s enemies “that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:19)? Those who hear only out of their left ears can only threaten divine judgment against the world.
Thankfully, Jesus healed Malchus’ right ear, thereby indicating that he had been chosen as part of the remnant of grace which Paul describes in Rom. 11:5-7. Ultimately, of course, because God imposed blindness and deafness upon the kingdom and the world, He took upon Himself the responsibility to heal them all as well. In fact, the law in Exodus 21:26 demands this,
26 If a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave and destroys it, he shall let him go free on account of his eye.
What is true of an eye applies equally to an ear, for in the end they both signify one’s ability to see and hear the word of God. Hence, when God blinded the eyes of His servants, He made Himself legally responsible to set them free by the law of Jubilee. It was an act of mercy disguised as judgment, and those whose right ears have been healed are able to understand this.
A short time before Peter tried to defend Jesus with his sword, Jesus had discussed swords with His disciples. Luke 22:35-38 says,
35 And He said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.” 36 And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And He was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.” 38 They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”
Why would Jesus suggest that they depend upon two swords and then reverse that policy an hour later? Did He intend for Peter to defend Him with his sword? According to Jesus, it was to fulfill Isaiah 53:12, “He was numbered with transgressors.” So what role did swords play in Isaiah 53, which speaks of Christ’s death as the Lamb that was led to slaughter (i.e., sacrifice)?
Obviously, the swords in Isaiah 53 were not used as military weapons but as tools of sacrifice. Just as a sacrificial lamb did not defend itself against the sword of the priest, so also Jesus was not to fight to defend himself (Isaiah 53:7).
There were two kinds of swords in those days, a long sword for battle and a large knife (or small sword) used for killing animals and cutting up flesh. Peter and the disciples were not military men, so it is certain that they would carry only a knife to cut up meat for lunch.
The disciples had “two swords” among them. Peter carried one of them, but we do not know who carried the other. The way most translations read, we are given the impression that Jesus approved of the two swords, telling them, “It is enough,” i.e., two swords were sufficient. The Greek word is hikanos, which can certainly mean “sufficient,” but if we see this as a common Hebrew expression, we will see it in a different light.
In Deuteronomy 3:26, Moses says,
36 But the Lord was angry with me on your account and would not listen to me; and the Lord said to me, “Enough! Speak to Me no more of this matter.”
The Greek word hikanos may be translated “It is enough” in some contexts, but it may also be translated “Enough!” In such cases it means, “Stop! I’ve had enough of this!” So Thayer’s Greek Lexicon comments on Jesus’ use of this word in Luke 22:38,
“Jesus, saddened by the paltry ideas of the disciples, breaks off in this way the conversation. The Jews, when a companion uttered anything absurd, were wont to use the phrase….”
In other words, Jesus invoked the Shut Up Angel, whose ministry can be quite useful, though he is undoubtedly the angel most ignored in the universe.
With this in mind, we can now read Jesus’ words with greater clarity and understanding. Jesus reminded them that when He had sent them out earlier to preach the Kingdom, they needed no supplies nor swords, because God provided for their needs and protected them. The disciples did indeed remember. But then Jesus appeared to reverse course and contradict Himself.
In reality, this was not a contradiction, for He was building upon the things that they had learned previously. He spoke to them, using physical terms that were to be taken spiritually. “Are you ready for the final battle? Grab your spiritual purses and swords.” But the disciples thought that Jesus was speaking carnally, so they showed Him their two swords! Jesus probably threw up His hands, saying, “How long will it take for them to understand? Enough of this nonsense!”
So when Peter used his physical sword, cutting off Malchus’ ear, Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Stop! No more of this!” (Luke 22:51). This, I believe, is also how we ought to interpret hikanos, “Enough!”
When we are sent out to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to those who are blind and deaf, it defeats our purpose to cut off men’s ears. When we use carnal tools that spring from a carnal mindset, we only make matters worse. And when we cut off their right ears, we prevent them from hearing the message of the reconciliation of all things from the God of Love.
Jesus said in Luke 22:36 that the disciples were to take their spiritual purses and wallets with them, along with their spiritual swords. Why? Because Isaiah 53:12 prophesies that He was to be “numbered with the transgressors.” The word translated “numbered” is the Hebrew word manah, and Luke uses its Greek equivalent, logizomai, “to count, reckon, or impute.”
To impute in this case was to reckon Christ to be a transgressor. It was a legal accusation not based on truth or fact., or as Paul defined the term in Rom. 4:17 (KJV), to call what is not as though it were. See also 2 Cor. 5:22.
Jesus was soon to send the disciples into the world by the power of Pentecost, armed with spiritual swords (Eph. 6:17). Jesus had taught them for three years by personal example that they were not to depend on physical swords. Now a New Covenant was about to be instituted on the day of Pentecost, by which they were to conquer the world by the fiery sword coming from their mouths.
The Israelites under Moses had failed to do this, for when they refused to hear the word, they were left only with physical swords by which to conquer the land of Canaan. Hence, they conquered the land by the Old Covenant sword, whereas Jesus trained His disciples to conquer the world by the New Covenant sword.
It appears that Peter and the disciples still did not understand the difference, even after spending three years under Jesus’ teaching. The fact is, they still needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to be fully equipped under the New Covenant. This story, then, illustrates the reason why it was necessary for Jesus to leave them and to pray that the Father would send them the parakletos to empower them with the sword of the Spirit.