"Whom are you seeking?" He asks.
"Jesus of Nazareth," they answer.
"I am He." They fall back into the shadows.
The question is repeated, and the answer.
Then a familiar figure steps out of the shadows. It is Judas! He plants a kiss on Jesus cheek! The officers move in to make their arrest! A sword flashes in the moonlight! Our text describes that dramatic moment!
And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear and healed him. (Luke 22:50, 51)I call it His last miracle. It was not, of course. It was followed by that miracle of miracles, the resurrection. And that was followed by the continuing miracles of the church and of conversion. But it was the last miracle of His ministry; the last miracle of healing His hands performed. And that last miracle is a microcosm of His ministry. It is His whole ministry in miniature. It is as if every sermon He preached, every sign He performed, every parable He told were all gathered together, distilled and the essence of them reproduced in this single dramatic event.
Here We See His Control of All Situations
Who is in charge here? Not Judas! He darts in to plant his venomous kiss and disappears. Not the officers! They shrink in the shadows until Jesus bids them do their duty. Jesus is in charge here! He has the power to halt the proceedings at any point. It was the same power seen when He cleansed the temple and drove its merchants before Him like leaves before the autumn wind. It was the same power that held back the murderous crowd at Nazareth that wanted to throw him over a cliff. It was the same power that stopped the officers who, sent to arrest Jesus, were themselves arrested by His words.
Here is power to heal. What must have raced through Malchus mind when Jesus raised His hand! Will He slap me? Will He choke me? Will He strike me dead? But that hand had never been lifted in vengeance against any man. And it never would be.
It is often true that power corrupts. How else shall we explain the Caesars and the dictators of history? How else can we account for the petty politicians and the small town tyrants? But power does not always corrupt. It did not corrupt Jesus. Christians must not shrink from their duty as citizens. Power need not corrupt.
Jesus' power was always controlled. We sing of "gentle Jesus, meek and mild," but our understanding of gentleness and meekness is sometimes inaccurate. Meek does not mean weak. Meek does not say "I can't." Meek says "I won't." Jesus could have called twelve legions of angels. He called none.
Some say that Michelangelo's greatest masterpiece is his statue of Moses. He has carved Moses larger than life. The muscles ripple across the marble. It is a sculpture of unmistakable strength and power. Beneath it Michelangelo wrote a line from Deuteronomy: "Moses, the Meek."
Here We See His Compassion for All People
I would never have healed Malchus. I would have thought his missing ear an appropriate souvenir of that awful night of infamy. And if I had healed him I think I would have put the ear on upside down!
Suppose Jesus had not healed him. Human nature has not changed much. Whenever you meet a person without an arm, or hand, or finger, you sooner or later ask, "How did it happen?" Everyone who met Malchus would have finally gotten around to the question, "What happened to your ear?" And Malchus would have had to answer, "A Christian did that!"
Jesus healed him and taught us compassion for an enemy. He not only told us to love our enemies He did it! He did it on the cross! He did it at the judgment! He did it here in the garden. Jesus first miracle was for a stranger and His last miracle was for an enemy. Not only so, but His last recorded prayer was a prayer for His enemies.
We see also His compassion for a friend. He does not say to Simon Peter, "Can't you do anything right? You almost missed him altogether!" Nor did He say, "Simon, you dummy. For three years I ve been telling you I must go to the cross. I have told you my kingdom is not of this world. Can't you understand anything?" No, Jesus simply said, "Suffer ye thus far," and healed him. Thus He taught us how to forgive our friends. That may be a good deal harder than forgiving our enemies. After all, we don't expect much from our enemies. We expect a great deal from our friends. When they disappoint us, it is very difficult to accept it. We forget how often we may have disappointed them. We forget how often all of us may disappoint God!
Later, we see Jesus compassion for His family as He commits Mary to the care of John. Perhaps we are here most lacking in compassion. If we treated our friends as politely as strangers, if we treated the members of our household as considerately as the guests in our home, how different life would be. The people we love the best we sometimes treat the worst. If forgiving an enemy is difficult, and if forgiving a friend is harder still, to forgive your family is hardest of all. But that is a compassion we must learn.
We see reflected here His compassion for all men. He had time for Nicodemus, that self-righteous know-it-all. He had time for the woman at the well, a Samaritan and an adulteress. He had time for cowardly Pilate. He had time for Zacchaeus, that little man whose heart was even smaller than his stature. We would have passed every one of them by. He passed none of them by.
We never need to sing, "Pass me not, O gentle Savior; Do not pass me by." The danger is not that He will pass us by, but that we will pass Him by. I like to think of the song as more of a confession than a petition, as sung more for our benefit than His.
Here We See His Composure at All Times
With what poise and serenity Jesus went about His ministry. With what frustration I go about mine! He was not annoyed by the pressure of the crowds. He was not surprised by the power of the demons. He was not baffled by the questions of the Pharisees. He was not frustrated by the quarrels of the twelve. He could face the need of a hungry multitude, the threat of a storm on the sea, or the thievery of the temple merchants without ever losing His composure.
He was in command of every situation. How did He manage it? Because He was always in command of himself. "He that rules this spirit [is better than] he that takes a city," says the book of Proverbs. I would like to think that I, too, could keep my composure in every situation. I would like to think that no matter what my doctor told me, or my lawyer told me, or my accountant told me, or my friends told me, or my family told me, that I could remain composed and serene.
How is it possible? Jesus was in command of every situation because He was always in command of himself. And I can be in command of every situation, if I will let Him be in command of my life.
I wonder if Malchus ever thought about that right ear. I wonder if he looked in the mirror and mused about that fateful night. I wonder if his ear smarted more from the touch of Jesus than it had stung from the sword of Simon. I wonder if he ever said, "This right ear is not really mine. It belongs to Christ. He gave it to me."
What about that blind man at Jericho, to whom Jesus gave sight. Do you think he ever said, "These are not my eyes. They belong to Christ. He gave them to me"?
What about that deaf stammerer whom Jesus healed. Do you think he ever said, "This is not my voice. It belongs to Christ. He gave it to me"?
What about that lame man whom Jesus made whole. Do you think he ever said, "These are not my legs. They belong to Christ. He gave them to me"?
What about you? Have you ever said, "These are not my hands, my feet, my ears, my eyes. This is not my mind. This is not my life. They all belong to Christ. He gave them to me"?
General William Booth was the founder of the Salvation Army. Toward the end of his career, he was interviewed by the press. As he looked back over his lifetime, this is what he said: "God had all there was of me. There have been others who had greater plans and greater opportunities than I; but from the day I had a vision of what God could do, I made up my mind that God would have all there was of William Booth."
Does God have all there is of you?