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MALCHUS – THE LAST MAN CHRIST HEALED
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
“Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus” (John 18:10).
After eating the Passover meal with His Disciples, Jesus led them out into the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane. He left most of the Disciples at the edge of the Garden. He took Peter, James and John farther into the darkness, where He left them as He went a little farther to pray “more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44), as God began to lay “on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
A few minutes later, Judas led “a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees” coming “with lanterns and torches and weapons” (John 18:3). Jesus asked them who they were looking for, and they “answered him, Jesus of Nazareth” (John 18:5). Jesus said, literally, “I am.” The word “he” is in italics in the KJV, which means Jesus didn’t say “he” – it was added by the translators. That’s why it is in italics. Jesus, “I am,” which is the name of God (Exodus 3:14), and “they went backward, and fell to the ground” (John 18:6). Then a scuffle took place and,
“Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus” (John 18:10).
Jesus rebuked Peter and told him to put away his sword.
That brings us to this man named Malchus, whose ear Peter cut off. This incident was important enough for the Holy Spirit to guide all four of the Gospel writers to record it (Matthew 26:51; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:50; John 18:10). All four of them tell us that Malchus was a servant of the High Priest. But only John tells us that his name was Malchus, and only John names Peter as the Disciple that cut off his ear. Several modern commentators assume that Matthew, Mark and Luke leave out the name of Peter because Peter’s identity might have put him in jeopardy, if his name had been given. But Peter was in plenty of jeopardy anyway, so I doubt that was the reason! It seems to me that answers to questions like that are unknown to us, and it is best to say that the Holy Spirit left it to the later Gospel writer John to give us Peter’s name – as well as the name of Malchus. And it was Luke alone who told us that Jesus healed Malchus’ severed ear. Luke said,
“And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear...And [Jesus] touched his ear, and healed him” (Luke 22:50-51).
Malchus was “the servant of the high priest” (Luke 22:50). That explains why he was at the front of the guards who came to arrest Jesus. Malchus was the High Priest’s personal representative, and was in front of the guards, leading them, just behind Judas. This explains why Peter struck him, since he was leading the others. Then Jesus “touched his ear, and healed him” (Luke 22:51). Dr. Lenski said,
This is a remarkable miracle, the last miracle that Jesus wrought… [It seems] that the ear was slashed off and hung by a shred of skin so that the mere touch of Jesus restored it perfectly (R. C. H. Lenski, D.D., The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel, Augsburg Publishing House, 1961 reprint, p. 1082; note on Luke 22:51).
“Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11).
“The cup which my father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11). Dr. McGee said, “This is the cup of judgment He bore for us on the Cross…Let us not think that the Saviour [went to the Cross] reluctantly. Hebrews 12:2 says, ‘…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God’” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume IV, p. 485; note on John 18:11).
Never forget that this was Jesus, the God-man. The guards fell down under His power when He said, “I am.” By His power, He healed the severed ear of His enemy Malchus. This is Jesus the God-man, who told Peter to put away his sword, and said,
“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).
He could have called thousands of angels to save Him from being crucified, but He went to the Cross willingly, to pay the full penalty for your sin.
They bound the hands of Jesus in the garden where He prayed,
They led Him through the streets in shame.
They spat upon the Saviour, so pure and free from sin,
They said, “Crucify Him; He’s to blame.”
He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set Him free.
He could have called ten thousand angels,
But He died alone, for you and me.
(“Ten Thousand Angels” by Ray Overholt, 1959).
Jesus went to the Cross willingly, “as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7) to pay the price for our sin and save us from the judgment of God.
But our sermon tonight is focused on this man Malchus, this man who was a servant of the High Priest – this man whose ear was severed by Peter’s sword – this man who was the last person Jesus healed before His crucifixion. Is he an important man? No. He was unimportant as far as Christianity is concerned. And yet he is referred to in all four Gospels, is named in the Gospel of John, and is even referred to a second time in John’s Gospel as “the [servant] of the high priest…whose ear Peter cut off” (John 18:26).
Malchus is mentioned five times in the four Gospels. That is all we hear of him in the Scriptures. We never read anything else about him – only that Peter cut off his ear, and Jesus healed him – nothing else! Furthermore, there is no mention of him at all in any ancient tradition. Now, I don’t place much value in ancient traditions. And yet, if he had later become a Christian, one would think there would at least be one mention of it in some history or tradition. At least one of the church Fathers or Eusebius, or someone, would have mentioned him, at least in passing. But there is nothing – nothing else about him in the Bible – nothing else about him in ancient tradition. He is the last man Jesus healed before His crucifixion, but yet there is not one further word about him! What does that tell us? I think the reason is obvious. He was never converted. He never became a Christian. I think that is the obvious conclusion.
Why then is his healing mentioned in the Scriptures? I believe that every word of the Hebrew and Greek Scripture is given by inspiration – and I believe that all the words of the Scriptures are given for a reason. The Apostle Paul said,
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16).
Believing II Timothy 3:16 to be true, what do we learn that is “profitable” from the healing of Malchus? Isn’t the answer obvious? Dr. Lenski said, “What impression did this miracle make [on Malchus]? We hear of none” (ibid., p. 1083; note on Luke 22:51). I am convinced that is the answer. This is the lesson we learn from the healing of Malchus – Jesus can perform a miracle on a person without it having any spiritual effect on his life. A person can experience a physical miracle and yet remain lost – unconverted – never saved. Is that not the lesson we learn from the healing of Malchus? I can’t think of any other reason that the Spirit of God recorded this miracle in the Holy Scriptures! God can perform a miracle in your life without you being saved. That is an important lesson for us to learn in these days when healings and miracles are thought to be so important.
Let me end this sermon by telling you a story. It is a perfectly true story, and I leave it unembellished. I’m only giving you the bare facts, exactly as they occurred.
Late one night I received a phone call. A person I had known as a child was dying. In fact I was told that the doctors only gave him about an hour to live. They asked me to come and pray for him to be healed. It was raining very hard, and he was in a hospital far away, so I asked Dr. Cagan to go with me. The two of us finally got to the hospital. We were told by the family that the doctors had given him up, that he would die any minute. Dr. Cagan and I went alone into the hospital room. I put my hand on him and prayed for God to heal him. That was all. Then we left and drove home. I fully expected that he would die that night. I was very surprised the next morning to hear that he had lived through the night. I was even more surprised to learn, a few days later, that he had been released from the hospital and sent home! His family said it was a miracle. The doctors said it was a miracle. The man himself said it was a miracle. I, myself, believed it was a miracle.
Now, the reason that he nearly died was due to alcoholism. His liver had shut down. But somehow God had healed him. I was, therefore, greatly surprised to learn that he went right back to drinking within a few weeks!
Sure enough, a couple of months later I got another late night call. They said he was dying again. This time the doctors gave him no chance whatever. But the family begged me to come. Again Dr. Cagan and I made the long trip back to that hospital. When we went into his room he could barely speak. But he whispered to me that if God healed him again he would come to our church and “get saved.” Again, I put my hand on him and prayed for him to be healed. Again, the miracle happened. The doctors were astonished! He was soon released from the hospital. A few weeks later he kept half of his promise. One Sunday morning he came through the door of our church. He sat with his wife on the front row while I preached. But he never looked at me once during the sermon. He kept his eyes fixed on the floor in front of him. At the close of the service I gave an invitation for those who wanted to speak with me about salvation to lift their hands. This man did not lift his hand. After the service was over I spoke with him privately and pleaded with him to trust Christ. He said to me, “I’ll have to think about it some more.”
To make a long story short, he went right back to the alcohol. A few months later he died from it. They called me and asked me to perform his funeral, which I did. But I could not give his family one word of consolation or hope. All I could do was preach a simple Gospel sermon and pronounce the benediction. As long as I live I will remember him. He had been my friend as a child. He had been healed twice by a miracle. But he never repented, and he was never converted. He resisted Christ to the end.
What is the point? The whole point of this sermon is very simple – you can receive a miracle and not be saved. You can have answers to prayer and not be saved. You can be blest by God and never be converted. That was the case with Malchus in the Bible, and that was the case of my poor, lost friend, who loved alcohol so much that he would not trust Jesus. What was it that Malchus loved so much that he would not trust the Saviour who had healed him? We cannot say. The Bible is silent. But we can be sure that there was something in Malchus’ life that he was afraid to lose – and so he lost his soul! Jesus said,
“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
What is it that keeps you from trusting Jesus? Jesus died on the Cross to pay for your sin. He shed His precious Blood to cleanse you from all iniquity. He rose from the dead to give you life. What is it that keeps you from coming to Him to receive those great and eternal benefits? I plead with you to turn away from your sins and come directly to Him, for Jesus said,
“Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
The greatest miracle of all is the salvation of your soul. When God draws you to Jesus, and you trust Him, that greatest of all miracles will occur in your soul! You will be born again by His mercy and grace! John W. Peterson said it well,
It took a miracle to put the stars in place,
It took a miracle to hang the world in space;
But when He saved my soul, cleansed and made me whole,
It took a miracle of love and grace!
(“It Took a Miracle” by John W. Peterson, 1921-2006).
I want you who are still lost to come and sit in the first two rows as the rest of them go upstairs to eat. Come up here and we will speak with you about trusting Jesus.
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(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 22:39-51.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“It Took a Miracle” (by John W. Peterson, 1921-2006).