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A Mob, a Sword, and the Promise of Peace

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Mark 14:46–52; Luke 22:49–53; John 18:7–11

God’s plans for us are not always easy. In fact, they are usually very challenging. But when we understand, as Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane, that what comes to us from God’s hand is His will, we can accept it with the peace of knowing that His will is always best.


As we sail back to the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus has just finished praying His great High Priestly Prayer in John 17. He has also prayed alone in the garden. With that concluded, Jesus announces to His disciples that soldiers are on their way; and sure enough, Judas and more than 600 soldiers rush into the garden to identify and arrest the Lord. But when the Lord steps forward in John 18:4 and asks, “Whom do you seek?” they answered in verse 5, “Jesus of Nazareth.” And Jesus replies, “I am he”—ego eimi—literally, “I am.” That was the great name of Jehovah God, given to Moses at the burning bush 1500 years earlier, when Moses asked God to tell him His name. God’s answer was, “I am.”

Jesus effectively announces here that the one who had spoken to Moses at the burning bush is now standing before them in the garden of Gethsemane.

As soon as Jesus says, “I am,” verse 6 says, “They drew back and fell to the ground.” The whole crowd falls down by the Lord’s invisible power. It is just one little puff of divine power, and it knocks them all over like bowling pins.

Make no mistake, beloved, Jesus is in command here! No one is taking His life away—He is choosing to give it away. He is not hiding—He is revealing. He is not cowering—He is in command. Indeed, He is helping this group of frightened soldiers take Him into custody.

As the arresting party pick themselves up off the ground, Jesus says, “If you seek me, [then] let these men go” (verse 8). In other words, Jesus is making sure there will only be His cross, not eleven more. None of the disciples will die along with Him. This, as John points out in verse 9, is in fulfillment of Jesus’ own words back in John 17:12.

Now Peter, who has been standing nearby taking this all in, decides it is time to take action. So, in verse 10, we read, “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.).” Now either Malchus was quick enough to duck, or Peter’s aim was off.

By the way, we often highlight the cowardice of Peter later in the courtyard, but we rarely talk about Peter’s courage in the garden. But I must say, I am not sure what Peter was thinking. Perhaps he thought that if he got into deep enough trouble, Jesus would just knock everybody down again. So, Peter swings and literally cuts off this servant’s ear.

We can imagine the scene: The servant screams in pain, blood pouring through his fingers, as he clutches the side of his head. And no doubt 600 soldiers unsheathe their swords and move toward Peter to execute him on the spot.

Now what?

Matthew records in chapter 26 that Jesus immediately steps forward and commands Peter, “Put your sword back into its place. . . . Do you think I cannot appeal to my Father, and He will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (verses 52-53). That’s 72,000 angels, by the way!

Beloved, 72,000 angels would swoop down in an instant to save their Creator and Master if they were called upon to do so. But Jesus does not want to be rescued. He has come to earth for this very purpose—to be our Redeemer. One author wrote, “Peter fought the wrong enemy, used the wrong weapon, had the wrong motive, and accomplished the wrong result!”[1]

All four Gospels record that Peter’s sword literally cut off the servant’s ear; but only Dr. Luke’s account records that “[Jesus] touched his ear and healed him” (22:51). The noun used here for “ear” literally refers to the place of his ear. You could woodenly translate it, “Jesus touched where had been his ear.” I want to point this out so we do not overlook an amazing miracle here. Jesus does not stoop down and pick up the severed ear and reattach it; He touches the side of his head, and a new ear appears in its place.

This isn’t a medical re-attachment; this is miracle re-creation! Only our creator God has the power to create something out of nothing.

So, imagine this stunning sight. There is Malchus’s severed ear lying on the ground, but he suddenly has a brand-new right ear! Furthermore, there is no more bleeding, no more cries of pain.

I have to stop and wonder about the future of Malchus, a temple assistant. Did his boss, the high priest, forbid him to speak of the matter? Was he pressured into denying it ever happened? Was he fired from his job? We don’t know, but we can be sure that Malchus never forgot that night, that encounter, that grace from the Carpenter from Galilee, who is the Master of eternity.

Now notice the underlying perspective of Jesus, again in John 18. Verse 11 says, “So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Drinking the cup here speaks of experiencing the suffering of God’s wrath. Jesus is referring to all the suffering He is about to experience—physical suffering, yes, but more so, spiritual suffering as He becomes saturated with the sins of the world as He dies on the cross for you and me.

Has it ever occurred to you that Jesus was able to drink this cup because, as verse 11 tells us, He knew the cup came from the hand of His Father? The plan of God was at work.

Are you in a deep valley today? Have you been betrayed? Are you rejected? Are you suffering? Don’t be afraid! Your heavenly Father knows why, and He knows best.

And listen, beloved, accepting what God unveils for you in your life today will have an immediate internal impact. Jesus gave this promise back in John 14:27:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

  Take another look inside this garden scene. For the soldiers and the mob, it is pandemonium. For the disciples, it is panic. For Jesus, there is peace.

What best describes your heart today? Pandemonium? Panic? Or Peace?

Most people today think that if you have peace when everyone around you is in a panic, you must not understand the problem! Well, that is not true for Christians. We understand that following Christ does not eliminate problems, but we also know His peace can be experienced in the midst of the storms of life.

What cup has the Father given you today? What has He allowed to plow into the traffic pattern of your life out of nowhere?

I received a letter from a woman whose husband had left her—not for another woman, but for another man. What made it even more devastating to her was to learn that same evening that the other man was her own father! Unknown to her, this had been going on for some time. But in just one evening, her world fell apart. She wrote that she had begun visiting our church and was learning all over again what it meant to trust her heavenly Father, knowing that even with this cup of suffering, He had not forgotten her; He had not abandoned her.

Beloved, the only way you will ever be able to drink from your cup of suffering is to understand that it arrived with the permission of your heavenly Father. He has a plan for your future and for your good and He is ultimately molding you into the image of His Son, your Savior and Redeemer and Friend.

[1] Warrren W. Wiersbe, Be Transformed (David C. Cook, 1986), 109.

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