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THE HEALING OF MALCHUS'S EAR.
LUKE xxii. 49-51.
The cutting off the ear of the servant of the high priest by one of the disciples, who would fain have fought for his Master that he should not be delivered to the Jews, is related by all four Evangelists, (Matt. xxvi. 51; Mark xiv. 47; Luke xxii. 50; John xviii, 10;) but the miracle belongs only to St. Luke, for he only tells how the Lord made good the wrong which his disciple had inflicted. And we may trace, perhaps, in this Evangelist a double interest which might have specially moved him to the including in his Gospel this work of grace. As a physician, this cure, the only one of its kind which we know of our Lord's performing, the only miraculous healing of a wound inflicted by external violence, would attract his special attention. And then, besides, there was nothing nearer to St. Luke's heart, or that cohered more intimately with the purpose of his Gospel, than the portraying of the Lord on the side of his gentleness, his mercy, and benignity; all which so gloriously shone out in this gracious work in favor of one who was in arms against his life.
The Evangelist, no doubt, knew very well, but has not thought good to tell us, who it was that struck this blow,—whether the deed might still have brought him into trouble, though that appears an exceedingly improbable explanation, or from some other cause. St. Matthew and St. Mark equally preserve silence on this head, and are content with generally designating him, Matthew as “one of them who were with Jesus," Mark as one of them which stood by.” And it is only from St. John that we learn, what perhaps otherwise we might have guessed, but could not certainly have known, that it was St. Peter, who in this way sought to deliver his imperilled Lord. He also alone gives us the
name of the high priest's servant who was smitten; "the servant's name was Malchus.” The last may easily have been unknown to the other Evangelists, though it very naturally came within the circle of St. John's knowledge, who had, in some way that is not explained to us, acquaintance with the high priest, (John xviii. 15,) and with the constitution of his household; so accurate an acquaintance, as that he was aware even of so slight a circumstance as that one of those, who later in the night provoked Peter to his denial of Christ, was kinsman of him wnose ear Peter had cut off. (ver. 26.)
The whole circumstance is singularly characteristic; the wordbearer for the rest of the apostles proves, when occasion requires, the sword-bearer also—not indeed in this altogether of a different temper from the others, but showing himself prompter and more forward in action than them all. While they are saying, “ Lord, shall we smite with the sword?” perplexed between the natural instinct of defence and love of their perilled Lord, on the one side, and his precepts on the other, that they should not resist the evil,—he waits not for the answer, but impelled by the natural courage of his heart,* and taking no heed of the odds against him, aims a blow at one, probably the foremost of the band, the first that was daring to lay profane hands on the sacred person of his Lord. This was a servant of the high priest's," one therefore who, according to the proverb, "like master like man," may very probably have been especially forward in this bad work,—himself a Caiaphas of a meaner stamp. Peter was not likely to strike with any other but a right good will, and no doubt the blow was intended to cleave down the aggressor, though by God's good providence the stroke was turned aside, and grazing the head at which it was aimed, but still coming down with sheer descent, cut off the ear,—the "right ear," as St. Luke and St. John tell us,-of the assailant who thus hardly escaped with his life.
The words with which our Lord rebuked the untimely zealf of his
* Josephus characterizes the Galilæans as Maximovs.
+ Modern expositors are sometimes a good deal too hard upon this deed of Peter's. Oalvin, for instance, who has a great deal more in this tone: Stulto suo zelo Petrus gravem infamiam magistro suo ejusque doctrinæ inusserat. The wisest word upon the matter (and on its Old Testament parallel, Exod. ü. 12) is to be found in AugusTINE, Con. Faust., l. 22, c. 70. He keeps as far from this unmeasured rebuke as from the absurdity of the Romish expositors, who many of them exalt and magnify this act as one of a holy and righteous indignation. Stella, for instance (in loc.), who likens it to the act of Phinehas, (Num, xxv. 7.) by which he won the high priesthood for his family for ever. Leo the Great, (Serm. 60, c. 4,) had already spoken of it in the same way: Nam et beatus Petrus, qui animosiore constantiâ Domino cohærebat, et contra
disciples are differentiy given by different Evangelists, or rather they have each given a different portion, each one enough to indicate the spirit in which all was spoken. In St. Matthew they are related most at length. That moment, indeed, of uttermost confusion seems to have been no fitting one for a discourse so long as that which he records, not to speak of further words recorded by the others; nor is it at first easy to see how he could have found opportunity for them. But if we suppose that he gave this monition to his disciples, while the healing of Malchus was going forward, and while all were attentive to and wondering at that, the difficulty will disappear; not to say that his captors, who may have feared resistance or attempts at rescue on the part of his servants, now that they found his words to be words prohibiting aught of the kind, may have been most willing to suffer him to speak unhindered.
Our Lord, when he joins together the taking the sword and perishing with the sword, refers, no doubt, to the primal law, “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed,” (Gen. ix. 6,) as again there is probable allusion to these words.of his, Rev. xiii. 10. But the application of the words, “ All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword,” has been sometimes erroneously made, as though Christ, to quiet Peter, were saying, “ There is no need for thee to assume the task of the punishing these violent men: they have taken the sword, and by the just judgment of God they will perish by the sword."* But the warning against taking the sword connects itself so closely with the command, “ Put up again thy sword into his place," and the meaning of the verse following (Matt. xxvi. 53) is so plainly, “ Thinkest thou that I need help so poor as thine, when, instead of you, twelve weak trem
violentorum impetus fervore sanctæ caritatis exarserat, in servum principis sacerdotum usus est gladio, et aurem viri ferociùs instantis abscidit. Another finds in the words of the Lord, “ Put up thy sword into the sheath,” a sanction for the wielding of the civil sword by the Church ; for, as he bids us note, Christ does not say, "Put away thy sword;” but “ Put up thy sword into the sheath,”—that is, “ Keep it in readiness to draw forth again, when the right occasion shall arrive.”—Tertullian, in an opposite extreme, finds in these words a declaration of the unlawfulness of the military service under every circumstance for the Christian (De Idolol., c. 19): Omnem militem Dominus in Petro exarmando discinxit.
* Grotius: Noli, Petre consideratione ejus quæ mihi infertur injuriæ concitatior, Deo præripere ultionem. Levia enim sunt vulnera quæ à te pati possunt. Stat enim rata sententia, crudeles istos et sanguinarios, etiam te quiescente, gravissimas Deo daturas pænas suo sanguine. This interpretation is a good deal older than Grotius. It is, I think, Chrysostom's, and Euthymius sees in these words a apoonteia ris διαφθοράς των επελθόντων αυτώ Ιουδαίων.
bling men, inexpert in war, I might even now* pray to my Father, and he would give me on the moment twelve legionst of mighty angels on my behalf?''I—that all the ingenuity which Grotius and others use, and it is much, to recommend the other meaning, cannot persuade to a receiving it.
The passage supplies a fine parallel to 2 Kin. vi. 17; a greater than Elisha is here, and by this word would open the spiritual eye of his troubled disciple, and show him the mount of God, full of chariots and horses of fire, armies of heaven which are encamping round him, and whom a beck from him would bring forth, to the utter discomfiture of his enemies. Possibly our blessed Lord, even as he thus spake, was conscious of the temptation to claim this help from God,—the same temptation as constituted the essence of the Temptation; but it is one no sooner offered him, than he rejects it at once: for how then should that eternal purpose, that will of God, of which Scripture was the outward expression, “ that thus it must be,” how should this be fulfilled ? (Cf. Zech, xiii. 7.)
In St. John the same entire subordination of his will to the will of the Father, which must hinder him from claiming this unseasonable help, finds its utterance under another image; that of a cup which he needs must drink : “ The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” The image is frequent in Scripture, resting on the thought of some potion which, however bitter, must yet be drained, since such is the will of him who has put it into the hands. Besides Matt. xx. 22,
*'Apti. “Even now at the latest moment, when things are gone so far, when I am already in the hands of mine enemies.”—Kai papaothoel jou et servitio meo sistet. (Rom. vi. 19; xii. 1.)
+ The phrase is remarkable, when connected with the expression 777,005 otparlās oúpavíov, Luke ii. 13, and some other similar language. Without falling in with the dreams of the Areopagite, we may see here intimations of a hierarchy in heaven. Bengel : Angeli in suos numeros et ordines divisi sunt.
Jerome: Non indigeo duodecim apostolorum auxilio, qui possum habere duodecim legiones angelici exercitûs. Maldonatus: Mihil quidem verosimile videtur Christum angelos non militibus, sed discipulis opponere, qui duodecim erant, ac propterea duodecim non plures nec pauciores legiones nominâsse, ut indicaret posse se pro duodecim hominibus duodecim legiones habere. The fact that the number of apostles who were even tempted to draw sword in Christ's behalf was, by the apostasy of Judas, not now twelve, but eleven, need not perplex us, or remove us from this interpretation. The Lord contemplates them in their ideal completeness : for it was no accident, but rested on a deep fitness that they were twelve, and neither fewer por more. He does the same, saying in another place, " Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel,” (Matt. xix. 28,)—when, in like manner, it was not Judas, but his successor that should sit upon a throne.
23; xxvi. 39, where the cup is the cup of holy suffering, there is often, especially in the Old Testament, mention of the cup of God's anger, (Isai. li. 17, 22; Ps. xi. 6; lxxv. 8; Jer. xxv. 15, 17; xlix. 12; Lam. iv. 21; Rev. xiv. 10; xvi. 19;) in every case the cup having this in common, that it is one from which flesh and blood shrinks back, which a man would fain put away from his lips if he might, though a moral necessity in the first place, and a physical in the second, will not suffer him to do so.
And the words that follow, “Suffer ye thus far,” are to be accepted as addressed still to the disciples: “Hold now;* thus far resistance, but let it be no further; no more of this.” The other explanation, which makes them to have been spoken by the Lord to those into whose hands he had come, that they should bear with him till he had accomplished the cure, has nothing to recommend it. Having thus checked the too forward zeal of his disciples, and now carrying out into act his own precept, “ Love your enemies, .... do good to them that hate you," he touched the ear of the wounded man, and healed him." Peter and the rest meanwhile, after this brief flash of a carnal courage, forsook their divine Master, and, leaving him in the hands of his enemies, fled,—the wonder of the crowd at that gracious work of the Lord, or the tumult with the darkness of the night, or these both together, favoring their escape.
* A comma should find place after täte.