“Jesus’ enemies are not his only problem.” – Dale Brunner
Today I learned that a very prominent member of my denomination of Southern Baptist was released from his position as president of our largest seminary. That, along with several high-profile evangelicals embroiled in various scandals, reminded me of a conversation I heard recently.
In a coffee shop, two young adults were ripping my Christian faith. They rattled off the usual suspects: The Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, Abortion Clinic bombers, Southern White Slave masters, pedophile priests, and philandering preachers.
I felt my face redden. They kept talking about my faith as “those people.” As if we were not a part of the human race. I wondered if they had ever actually spoken with a Christ-follower or were they just parroting their favorite critic of the Christian faith.
When people who claim to be followers of Jesus do bad things is it because of His teachings, or is it in spite of His teachings? Jesus went against the conventional wisdom of his day by teaching, “…I tell you, love your enemies.” It is easy to love those who love us because it makes sense. But to love our enemies…that is a love beyond reason.
Speaking of enemies—When Judas betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane with a betrayer’s kiss, he was accompanied by the Temple guard and a contingency of Roman soldiers. When they came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword and proved he was a better fisherman than gladiator and while aiming at the man’s throat, cut off his ear instead. Jesus rebuked Peter, calmed the mob, and turned toward the wounded man named Malchus. Here was an enemy if there ever was one.
The wound must have bled profusely. Red crimson spurted through his fingers as he instinctively placed his hand over his wound while blood flowed down his neck and jawline, matted into his beard, streaked down his neck and his robe growing wet and warm.
How long did it take for Jesus to stoop and pick up the severed ear, clean it off and place it back on the man’s head? Did he have to convince the guards he meant no harm before they would release his arms?
Jesus reached up to Malchus’ blood-stained hand pressed tightly in the gash where his ear used to be and gently pulled it away; muttered a prayer and healed the ear. The mob, for fear of further violence, jostled Jesus away to a trial and then to the cross where He died.
Malchus? We don’t know what happened to him. This incident is mentioned in all four Gospels and Luke calls his name but after that there is no further mention of him in Scripture, as far as I can determine, none in history. But he went somewhere.
“How was your day at work, Malchus?” asked his wife.
“Oh, pretty good. All things considered” he said.
She laid down her wooden spoon she had been stirring in a pot of stew. Looked at him and screamed, “What in the world happened to you, Malchus?” when she saw the blood on his robe
Then maybe Malchus said,
“Interesting story…. I was attacked by a follower of the Nazarene. The man had a vicious look in his eye that screamed hatred. I have never seen such uncontrolled rage in all these years in my garrison. This follower of the Nazarene was in a full-tilt rage. The guy’s name was Peter. He was a fisherman from Galilee, I think. He took a swing at my head with a sword, I ducked but he cut off my ear.”
Then she asked, “I see the blood, but where is the wound?”
Malchus said, “You’re not going to believe this, but when that fisherman cut off my ear and blood was squirting everywhere, and people were screaming, and swords were drawn; I heard the Nazarene say something about putting swords away. The next thing I knew he had my ear in one hand and with the other he pulled my hands away from my wound. I looked into his eyes and saw the opposite of what I saw in his follower’s eyes. I saw such deep compassion and grace and love. He turned my ear in his hand; looked at it, brushed off a pine needle and then, whispering something, pressed my ear back on my head. The bleeding stopped, he smiled at me and then they took him away.”
He paused and pulled on his ear and then said with a smile, “Say what you will about that violent fisherman, but there is something pretty amazing about that Nazarene.”
Of course, I have no idea what conversation occurred between Malchus and his wife. But the truth is pretty simple. Followers who misappropriate the theology of Jesus and do unspeakable things in Christ’s name have been doing so for two millennia. That is a fact. No defending it.
However, those actions, severe and violent as they are, do not discount the validity of Jesus or his teachings. In fact, the healing of Malchus proves just the opposite. Jesus transcends his follower’s behavior, even his really good ones…like the Apostle Peter.
Jesus rises above.
I wish I were a better ambassador of the Nazarene. I hope I get another opportunity to speak on His behalf in my coffee shop, I know what I would say to those two if I see them again.
Don’t judge Jesus by those who follow him.