Peter and Malchus

And behold one of them that were with Jesus, stretching forth his hand, drew out his sword: and striking the servant of the high priest, cut off his ear (Matthew 26:51).

But they laid hands on him, and held him.  And one of them that stood by, drawing a sword, struck a servant of the chief priest, and cut off his ear (Mark 14:46).

And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answering, said: Suffer ye thus far. And when he had touched his ear, he healed him (Luke 22:50-51).

Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it, and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And the name of the servant was Malchus (John 18:10).

One of the servants of the high priest (a kinsman to him whose ear Peter cut off) saith to him: Did I not see thee in the garden with him? (John 18:26).

Other than Our Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection, which events, of course, are in all the four Gospels, there aren’t many other events that are recorded in all Gospels. The first multiplication of the loaves and fishes in which five thousand were fed is recounted in all four. The Palm Sunday entrance of Our Lord into Jerusalem is found in all four. The last Supper, likewise. Peter’s denials are found in all four. I may be missing a few others.

What I found intriguing, not having noticed it before, is that Peter’s cutting off the ear of Malchus in the Garden of Gethsemane is also recounted in all the Gospels. Only John, however, tells us that the badly-aimed (thank God) sword was swung by Peter and that the name of the victim was Malchus. And Luke tells us that it was his right ear (as does John who saw it) and that Jesus healed him.

In spite of this miracle of healing, which was evident to all, the soldiers and mob from the high priest still laid hands on Jesus. And this, immediately after another miracle; namely, casting the whole cohort flat on their backs when He affirmed that He was Jesus of Nazareth whom they were seeking. Or, as noted by some exegetes, they all fell at the Savior’s “I AM.” This is the Name of God given to Moses, “I am who am.” Sinners fall backwards, the just fall forward on their face seeking mercy.

Malchus, the servant of the high priest, must have been particularly bold and odious. Peter certainly thought so. He asked His Master “Shall I strike with the sword?” And, without waiting for an answer, he swung it at Malchus intending to kill the wretch. Jesus prevented that, allowing only that his ear be severed. And He healed the man. The mob then allowed the Apostles to all flee after Jesus offered Himself into their hands, like a lamb. The scriptures, as He told Peter in rebuking his rashness, must be fulfilled.

Peter was willing — more than willing — I would say eager to die on the field of battle, but was not willing to die in ignominy as His Lord. No, he quivered at the suspicion of a maid-servant, and denied Christ in the hall of Caiphas the high priest. Not once, not twice, but three times, the last swearing with an oath that he knew not this Jesus of Nazareth.

And who was it that drew out this cursing from the defeated heart of Peter? A kinsman of the man he almost killed in the garden. This kinsman, himself a servant of the high priest, was also in the garden and saw what Peter attempted to do to his cousin Malchus. Had he not also seen Jesus heal his cousin?

What perfidy! You want to seize this Man who has just flattened the whole bunch of you by His word? You want to seize this Man who restores the severed ear to your hateful little provocateur? Malchus, allegorically speaking, stood for those inhabitants of Jerusalem whom Christ longed to heal and gather together as a hen does her brood under her wings. “But thou wouldst not.” No,”neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead”  (Luke 16:31).

I have searched through the commentaries on this verse to see if there is any reference to Malchus’ converting. I could find none. Nevertheless the speculation concerning his possible “conversion” was entertained on account of the fact that he is named by Saint John in his Gospel. Why would an insignificant servant be named by name. I think I know the reason: John was known to the high priest (John 18:15). That fact would indicate that he may have known Malchus the high priest’s servant. John was known to the high priest because, tradition has it, that his father Zebedee had a contract with the temple priests to deliver fish to them. John, no doubt, accompanied his father to make these deliveries.