The life, testimony, ministry, and teachings of one Jesus from Nazareth
As we leave the Upper Room Discourse and enter into the events leading up to and after our Savior’s crucifixion, and the crucifixion itself, we’re going to look into the lives of the people Jesus brushed shoulders with during His harrowing, yet victorious, journey.
So as we look at John 18, the first obscure person we meet is a man named Malchus. This man is mentioned as a fleeting character in one verse of all four gospels, and the introduction is not all that pleasant.
“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.)”
Definitely not Malchus’ best moment, and probably not the way he was planning on going down in history. But while this brief encounter is often overlooked or solely focused on Peter, this fleeting and traumatic moment had the potential to change Malchus’ life forever.
Mostly known as simply the servant of the high priest, Malchus would have remained nameless except that the Apostle John graciously gives us his identity. It is unknown how John knew this man’s name, but later on in John 18, we learn that the high priest knows John, which could have been how John knew Malchus’ name. No matter, the key fact is that Malchus was a servant of the high priest. Whether he was a high level or low-level servant is of no consequence; he was still a servant of the high priest, who was the enemy of Jesus. Now the Greek word used for servant can also be translated slave. So whether Malchus served the high priest freely or in bondage is unknown. However, despite his household status, he still took orders from one of the main villains of the gospel, was under the authority and power of one who opposed the Light of the world, and faithfully followed his master’s leading. Does such a job and life description sound familiar? It should.
We also, apart from Christ, take orders from the villain of all history, are under his power and authority, and blindly follow him straight to destruction. Paul tells us in Romans 6 that we are slaves to sin, and John tells us in his first letter that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. So in a lot of ways, we also were like Malchus—enslaved to the wrong master. But thankfully that’s not the end of the story!
So Malchus was on the wrong side of history—the losing side. However, as he follows orders and joins the group heading to arrest Jesus, he somehow ends up in the front of the pack—not the best place when entering a possible conflict. Thus when Peter takes out his sword and strikes, he swipes off Malchus’ ear. Ouch! Wrong place at the wrong time! But wait…was it really a bad thing? Malchus probably thought so at the time. He was most likely in a lot of pain and worrying about being deformed for life. However, while John doesn’t give us this information, the other gospels tell us that Jesus quickly told Peter, “Enough!” and went to Malchus, touching his ear and healing it. Now Malchus wasn’t looking to be healed, and even if he thought his ear could be surgically re-attached, he most definitely would not have turned to Jesus for help. Yet our loving Savior reached out to him and did the impossible in an instant, bringing healing and restoration.
Now some commentators speculate that Jesus healed Malchus in order to spare Peter’s life—such a violent display of rebellion would have meant crucifixion. However, I like to think that Jesus was also considering this servant’s well-being. For didn’t He reach out to us while we were walking away from Him, and work a miracle in our lives, bringing healing and restoration?
After the brief blurp John shares about Jesus’ last healing before the crucifixion, we are left with many unanswered questions. Like, did this experience change Malchus’ life? Or did he walk away and still choose to stay in the darkness? Did Malchus follow the news and the reports about Jesus after the arrest? Or did he simply not care about the One who healed him and the miracle performed that day? History doesn’t tell us what happened to Malchus after this event. But we must not only wonder at Malchus’ fate without examining our own, because we all are in a similar position as this man—slaves to an evil master, yet touched by the living Savior and invited into freedom and holiness through belief in Him. Like Malchus, we all have a choice: to allow Jesus’ touch and miracle to wake us up and lead us to the Savior, or to turn away and go back to the life of bondage, sin, and darkness.
So the question now is…under whose authority are YOU living? Are you living under the mastery of history’s relentless villain or the Savior of the world? Which choice are you making about Jesus? Are you choosing to embrace His free gift of salvation, healing, and restoration? Or instead, are you willfully deciding to stay in the darkness and remain in bondage and sin? If you were Malchus, how would your story’s end read?
Another important lesson and application from this story is that in the midst of the deepest darkness and basest of betrayals, Jesus continued to shed light and hope as He heals the ear of a servant of the enemy. It was His final miracle of physical healing while on earth, and He chose to bestow this upon a servant undeserving and undesiring of such a gift. Nevertheless, our Savior loves to shower grace and love upon those most unworthy, lifting them up from darkness and leading them into His glorious light. And no matter how bitter and deep the darkness, Jesus always brings hope, life, and healing. Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus!
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”