The Servant’s Ear
Luke 22.50-51 (New Revised Standard Version)
Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.
These two verses from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 22, starkly illustrate the power of Jesus to heal.
The incident is recorded in all four Gospels – one of the twelve disciples of Jesus drew a sword and cut off the ear of the slave of the High Priest. Where did it happen? On the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley, east of Jerusalem. Here Jesus is praying and his disciples are with him, only eleven of them, because Judas is not with them. We presume it is late evening, as they have previously eaten their Passover meal together.
Suddenly a mob appears led by the twelfth disciple, Judas. He has betrayed Jesus to the Chief Priests, and here they are, along with the officers of the Temple guard and elders, coming to Jesus and Judas greets Jesus with the usual kiss. At that moment, this incident of the slashing of the ear takes place, and after healing the man, Jesus is arrested and led away to the High Priest’s residence.
So it begins. The account of Jesus’s trial and crucifixion follows, in all four Gospels, and then God raises Jesus to life again after he has been three days in the tomb!
We are just at that moment in the life of Jesus, when the powers of evil and darkness seem to have the upper hand.
In all four accounts, the slave’s ear is cut off, but only in the Gospel of Luke (Luke was a Physician) is there a mention of Jesus healing the slave.
In John’s Gospel, the slave has a name: Malchus. Also in John’s Gospel, the disciple Peter is the one who drew a sword and did this violent act.
The four Gospel accounts do not contradict each other, rather they complement each other. Imagine a car accident and four witnesses to the collision. The accounts vary; the witnesses may have been standing in different places; they have seen things from their own perspective. If they are each speaking the truth, a fuller picture emerges of what actually happened.
In all his ministry, Jesus has been non-violent. He could have tried to capture Jerusalem by the sword, but preaches that his kingdom is not of this world, and does not advocate fighting. The disciples, however, try to defend Jesus, but Jesus, the well-known celebrity healer, tells them to stop; and he performs his last recorded act of physical healing.
Earlier in the chapter, in verses 35-38, Jesus seems to be telling the disciples to arm themselves:
He said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “No, not a thing.” He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled. ”They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” He replied, “It is enough.”Luke 22. 35-38 (NRSV)
But when it comes to actually using the sword, Jesus reveals he didn’t mean them to be violent – he was just speaking metaphorically. He says “It is enough!” Ambiguous, but perhaps he meant, “I am fed up with you! You don’t understand!” And now, at the Ear Incident, he says, “No more of this!” He didn’t want his disciples to be captured alongside him – they were preparing themselves for a greater mission, not just amongst the hospitality of the Jews (where no purse or bag was needed) but to the whole hostile world; the disciples would be the means of spreading the Good News, with God giving them power to heal in the name of Jesus.
it is only Jesus who goes to his death at this point – but death was not the end for him!
I don’t want to speculate on how the servant was healed. I just know he was healed. I presume this to mean that his hearing was unaffected, any flow of blood was staunched, he lived to tell the tale. And no evidence of a severed ear remained to be used against Jesus in his sham trial. The slave of the High Priest, known to John as Malchus, could very well have heard the Good News himself and become a Christian believer. Perhaps it was not just his ear that was healed – it was his whole self.
This is what we need to take away from this incident: the power of God to heal the whole person, and not just in good times, but in the most evil and dark times. After Jesus ascended back into heaven, his Father God sent His Holy Spirit to the first disciples at Pentecost, when the Church was born. God has power to heal today, through this same Holy Spirit, and alongside the power of the medical profession, which is God-given, too.
It is God who has the power to heal, and His Son, Jesus, exercised this power. Today, we know not everyone is healed, but even so, let’s keep praying for those who are sick and recovering. May they experience the power of the Risen Jesus to heal completely.
(Chapelfields (East) Hub)