Passion according to St. Luke
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Only John names Peter and Malchus, but the account of Peter’s violence and the loss of Malchus’ ear is related in all four Gospels. Luke, as read this morning, is the only gospel that tells us that Jesus healed the ear.
In each of the four accounts, it is clear that Peter was wrong to lash out this way. It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed, tortured, killed, and then rise again. In Matthew we are told that if Jesus wanted to stop the arrest He could call down twelve legions of angels. In John, Peter is told directly, “Put your sword into its sheath. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given Me?”
This is as much of Peter’s betrayal as His denial in Caiaphas’ courtyard and Peter’s particular heresy: he doesn’t want Jesus to be the suffering servant. He doesn’t want Him to die.
Luke gives us a different perspective, however, than the other three. Only in Luke does Jesus heal Malchus’ ear. That indicates that Malchus isn’t really to blame, the Father is. Jesus goes on purpose.The Cup was not lifted and Jesus is obedient. To resist this arrest would be to resist the Father’s will.
Jesus will pray for Malchus from the cross even as He prays for all of us. Whether either Malchus or Peter are ignorant or not, Jesus isn’t. He knows what He is doing. He is going to the cross on purpose, not to destroy Caiaphas and Malchus, not to hold a grudge against His failing disciples, but to save them all, whether they will receive it or not.
The Lord’s rebuke of Peter is also different in Luke. His weakness and submission to the violence of Jews and Gentiles, His willingness to be sacrificed is not without limits. “Suffer ye them thus far,” He says to Peter, in the King James. Literally, He says, “Leave this alone until.”
If Malchus refuses the prophets and will not see what the Centurion sees, namely that Jesus was righteous and therefore unjustly condemned and killed, then Malchus will go his own way. In the same way, if Peter will insist on his own sort of Messiah then he will end up in the same place as Judas. Jesus heals the ear of Malchus first that Malchus himself might hear the Word of God and keep it, that He might receive what Jesus wins for him, but He also heals Malchus because He is undoing Peter’s sins for Peter, that Peter would also be spared.
So it is also for us. The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ heals of what has been done to us and it also forgives of what we’ve done to others.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.