Bystanders Day 4: Malchus

By Jaime Sherman

  • Matthew 26:30-56
  • Mark 14:26-50
  • Luke 22:39-54a
  • John 18:1-12, 28

All four Gospel writers — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — record Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane just outside Jerusalem, but only the physician Luke records how a simple, healing touch by Jesus that night changed a young man’s life.

Listen to Jaime share today’s post.

In the dark of night following Jesus’ final meal with His disciples, they slipped across the Kidron Brook and into the garden on the Mount of Olives. Jesus, burdened by sorrow and the weight of His impending death, urged His disciples to pray with Him. But after a full day of Passover preparations, a big meal, and a dark, star-studded sky above them, their prayers quickly trailed off into slumber. 

Then, just as quickly as they had fallen asleep, they awoke to a great crowd illuminated by lanterns and torches held high. Rubbing sleep from their eyes, the disciples spotted the leader of the pack, Judas Iscariot. But this was no midnight Passover party with curious spectators arriving to hear Jesus teach and heal. No, their fellow disciple had turned traitor, for these were armed soldiers and officers from the high priests and Pharisees, finding a rare moment of comradery. 

Judas approached Jesus, and as he kissed Him on the cheek, the crowd surged forward. This kiss, this traditional, friendly greeting, was the sign to seize Jesus. This simple act earned Judas his 30 pieces of silver from the chief priests and brought Jesus one step closer to the cross.

The lights flickering in the crowd caught on swords and revealed clubs, and in one of his characteristically rash moves, Peter drew his own sword that warded off wild animals and robbers as they traveled dangerous roads between Galilee and Judea. Afterall, Peter was the one who had boldly proclaimed he would go to prison, even die, with Jesus if needed. Whether intentionally or accidentally in the confusion of that moment of soldiers and swords, Peter struck a young man.

His name was Malchus, and he was a servant of the high priest Caiaphas. With the quick “swoosh” of his sword cutting through the air, Peter severed Malchus’ right ear. The night became a bloody one, but this wasn’t God’s plan.

“Put your sword into its sheath,” Jesus instructed Peter. “Shall I not drink this cup that the Father has given me?”

With a brief brush of His hand that Matthew, Mark, and John missed in the chaos of that moment, Luke saw that Jesus “touched his ear and healed him.” Then Jesus was led away into the night to face the high priest, and a servant left the garden touched by the Great Healer of bodies and souls.

In His own moment of torment, this Man, who his master so disliked, cared enough to still His followers and reach out with a healing touch to a mere servant, even a servant of the very one who wanted to silence Him.

Reflect on how your life has been touched by Jesus, and ask God how He might be asking you to share that story with others.

For additional narratives in our Bystanders series, click here.