misreading the scene | John 18.10-14
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.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people. John 18:10-14 | ESV
Misreading the entire scene, Simon (Peter), saw this as his cue. He had a sword and he drew it, swinging mightily at the nearest member of the holy vanguard – and cutting off his ear. The right one. And the soldier’s name, by the way, was Malchus (“King”). Jesus would have none of this, barking at Peter, “Put that sword up where it belongs – in its sheath. Now. My Father is serving up a huge draught of suffering for me, and you’d have me just let it pass by?”
Then the detachment of soldiers with the commander and the rest of the company, back up on their feet, rushed and took Jesus, quickly binding his hands. Off they led him – to Annas (“humble grace”), the real religious power broker in town, father-in-law to Caiaphas (“hollow beauty”) who officially held the reins of power that year as high priest – yes, the same Caiaphas who counseled his fellow religious leaders that it was better for one man to die for the sake of all the people.
MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
This wasn’t the first time Peter misread a scene.
On what we know as the Mount of Transfiguration, when he suddenly awoke to see Jesus in a glorified state having a conversation with Moses and Elijah, he blurted out, “Lord, it’s good for us to be here. Let me make three booths so the three of you can stay a while.” He was scared and had no clue what to say, the gospel writer informs us.
Another clip for the “Peter’s Most Embarrassing Moments” compilation.
But no harm done. God simply moves in with a bright cloud that envelops them all and tells Peter to listen to his Son, no booths required, thank you.
Now in the garden Peter awakens suddenly again, and this time it is no glorified Christ, but one covered in a bloody sweat; and there are no heavenly visitors standing with him, but a traitor with an armed guard. He instinctively reaches not for a hammer to build but for a sword to strike.
Other gospels tell us the disciples shouted the question, “Lord, do we strike with the sword?” Peter didn’t wait for the answer. He didn’t need to. Jesus had said in that upper room merely hours earlier, “Let him that has a sword, take it.” Why take it if not to use it? How else to use it? And when better than now?
And so he slashes, severing a royal ear from a priestly foot soldier.
Yet another clip for the reel.
But no harm done. Jesus merely reaches out to apply his healing touch to the site of our overzealous slashing at others.
One last miracle of healing.
A severed ear.
How desperately we need that same healing touch to our own royally severed ears. A restoration of hearing – and of sight, taste, and touch too.
For we also misread the scenes playing out before us far too often, don’t we?
When most recently did you find yourself totally misreading a scene? How do we avoid this?
Lord, I love the way you bring healing in the wake of the wounds I inflict. Help me to slow down, to see, to think, to pray, so that I inflict fewer wounds – especially in your name – and instead become your healing touch for others. Amen.