Matthew 26:47-56 Part 3


As we come to the text once again, after having been away from it for three weeks, let’s get up to date as quickly as we can.  And then we’ll continue with what Jesus says to Peter (verses fifty-three and fifty-four); and then His words to this crowd of men which has come by order of the president of the Sanhedrin to apprehend Him.

While Judas was executing his plan, as foretold by the prophet, Jesus was being separated out as the Perfect Passover Lamb.  His suffering had begun.  The Father was withdrawing from Him; and the suffering was so intense an angel was sent to keep Him from premature death.

But Judas arrived at Gethsemane as Jesus was rousing His sleeping disciples.  And with him was a large crowd, apparently made up of temple guards, priests and elders of the Sanhedrin, and others – one of whom, Malchus, was a personal servant of the high priest and president of the Sanhedrin.

In the darkness of the grove Judas greeted and identified Jesus with a kiss, whereupon certain ones of the crowd moved forward and laid hands on Jesus to seize Him.  According to the Gospel of John it was Peter who then unsheathed his sword and hacked off Malchus’ ear.

Now, while we’re right there, the question has been asked as to why the apostle John named Peter in his Gospel, and Matthew, Mark and Luke didn’t.  And knowing the context and the history, and having gone through it line by line, helps us and provides us a fairly simple solution to what (otherwise) might be a little mysterious.  And the answer has to be that the three writers of (what we now call) the synoptic Gospels wrote their accounts during the time when revealing Peter’s identity might have endangered him.  (I think we can make that stronger.  It certainly would have endangered him.)

But John wrote his Gospel at a much later time (maybe even after Peter’s death) when there was little or no danger in revealing who it was.  You see, it was very dark at Gethsemane; and the only man (other than the apostles) who could point Peter out as the attacker and be a witness against him was Judas… and he would commit suicide during this very day.  So to avoid the retribution that would surely come to Peter from Caiaphas, all the apostles kept his identity a secret.  Except John – when there were no consequences.

But Peter, you remember, had sworn to die with Jesus, as had all the others (in the upper room, at the institution of the Lord’s Table); and his attack on Malchus here in Gethsemane was against overwhelming odds.  But when Jesus chides him about the use of the sword (verse fifty-two), He says nothing to him about his bravery; He says nothing about his being responsible to his Master; He says nothing about the oath Peter uttered (the oath to die with Jesus)… and his dedication to it.  And neither does Jesus say anything about the foolishness of attacking when there were thirty-to-one odds!

Instead, He chastens him!  And the chastening Peter receives concerns the attack on the magistrate’s representative!  Over and above the issue of prophetic fulfillment, taking up weapons against established authority constitutes an action against God and His ordained authority which promotes self-destruction!  Jesus says to him,


“Return your sword into its place, for all who have taken up a sword will destroy themselves in connection with a sword.”


Malchus and the rest of this crowd had been sent from the chief magistrate in Israel.  So Peter’s attack was not self-defense from lawless robbers and killers of the night.  And although the entire event had been prophesied, and although Jesus was to be apprehended and crucified at this very time by the determinate council of the Father, there had been revealed irrevocable principles and laws and statutes from God the Father which pertain to His ordained authority.  It had been etched in stone at Sinai!

Rebels against God’s magistrates will destroy themselves and their generations after them.  And Jesus’ words concerning the unsheathed sword perfectly reflect the Law of God.  An attack on, or rebellion against, the magistrate is as an attack on or rebellion against, a parent is as an attack on, or rebellion against, the structure of humanity is as an attack on and rebellion against, the Person and authority of God.

The Law of God is the very basis and structure for the existence of human society.  And the fifth Commandment (“Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long on the land…”) promises length of days in the land should man obey.  In other words the society and structure in which you live and exist (family, Church, company, town, state, nation) will prosper if you honor the authority which God, Himself, has put there.

But when authority is dishonored, or disobeyed, or struck down, it is an attack on human order and structure… and an attack on the authority of God the Father.  Human structures disintegrate, individuals revert to chaos, (and so for generations) under those conditions.  And they do so because God has laid it down, and written it down, in eternity as a universal principle of order.  It is a Law… directly from His mouth!  Human structures disintegrate and individuals become chaotic and lawless, in the presence of rebellion against authority!  And the consequences last for generations!

Just look at the families that split; and the Churches that are in disorder; and the rampant libertarian individualism in our country.  The structures are disintegrating!  And I would venture to say that, in every case (or very nearly every case), there is some sort of ungodly dishonor exhibited toward God’s ordained, established authority!

A divorce (for example) is a fracturing and dismemberment of the very basic building block of human society.  The “single flesh” of husband and wife (which God commanded to be) is torn into pieces; and the “generational” consequences for the family are frightening!

Flo and I have spoken often of the families all around us in which there have been multiple marriages and divorces… and of the children birthed to this or that wife and this or that husband.  And now the children are having children out of wedlock and from multiple marriages.  And there’s no end to the strife and the confusion… which child goes with which grandfather, and who’s my half-sister, and which husband is it that hates my former husband’s children!!!  And those (present) second (and third) marriages will probably break up too (without repentance and forgiveness); and others (more than likely) will be entered into.

I mention marriages especially because the family, and its basic authority structure, is the foundation of any society.  But the exact same thing is true with regard to the Church and to the magistrate… i.e. the consequences of dishonor and rebellion last for generations!

Now, it goes without saying that husbands and elders and magistrates rebel against God too, bringing terrible, collateral, historical consequences of their own.  But God has provided just and holy remedies for those instances in His Word… remedies which build the structures of society rather than tearing them down through subordinate rebellion!

But I’m going too far afield… we need to get back to the text.

The disciple, Peter, struck the representative of God’s ordained authority.  And the chastening and correction which he received from the Lord is axiomatic.  This is God’s Law; and rebels self-destruct.  The apostles must have learned what Jesus taught them; for every event or example or teaching in the letters and writings of the New Testament reflect this same concept.  “Honor your God-ordained authority that you might have length of days in the land….”

Strike at your parents, rebel against them, and you are worthy of death; devise and scheme against the king and he’ll fall on you with his sword; take up weapons against the magistrate and you will destroy yourself.


“Whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves judgment.”  (Romans thirteen, verse two)


Our Lord always confirmed the Law of the Father, didn’t He?  And now we have His very words to that effect in this text.

Now, Matthew spends no time on it (the deed is done), and the purpose of the entire event has been accounted for (as far as he’s concerned).  But Luke (the physician) has an interest in the wound… and in the fact that Jesus touches it and heals it.

And since nothing in the shadows of Gethsemane is insignificant, we need to offer some comment on it.  And I begin by just making a few points, once again, about the miracles of our Lord.  They are viewed by a certain segment of the professing community as a dazzling, awe-inspiring display of power by the “chief magician”!  A phenomenon available to all… given “strength of faith”!!  So if one believes “strongly enough” in the miracles of Christ, then one may participate, and be a recipient (or even a “worker”) of those same miracles!

The “mighty deeds” of Jesus are seen as a “display” of power – power that is available to all those who believe.  In fact (in many cases) it is a “mark” of belief in Christ that His dazzling “power” has been transmitted to the Church in every age.  They stand on their own (the miracles do) – unconnected to anything else.  There’s no reason for them, other than the fact that they manifest the “power”.  Therefore there is no reason that that same power can’t be used by others (having been transmitted from the Lord).  And (contemporarily speaking) that same dazzling, awe-inspiring “magic” can be used today; people will be drawn to it (as was Simon the sorcerer) and they will “faith” in it and they will follow.

This is how the “miracles” of Jesus are viewed – especially in the more “pentecostal”, “faith-healing” circles of the professing community.  And of course (as Simon wished to do) there have been many who have used the “drawing power” of the miraculous and the magic in order to build a following and a financial base and a reputation for themselves (there are always those who need signs and wonders!).

Still others just “accept” the mighty deeds of Christ as having been accomplished for the purpose of confirming Who He was – the Messiah/Son of God.  And they stop with that explanation (seeing no other reason for them), missing the importance of the Christ being the “fullness” of the prophetic Word!

And still others (the more modernistic, liberal ones) just “discount” them.  They’re just “stories” which were developed in the Christian community and which “evolved” over the years and were written down in the Bible as true.  Therefore once those “stories” have been “redacted out”, then what’s left is the “real” history.

According to them in the case here in our text the healing of Malchus’ wound is simply a “pericopae” (a little “story-insertion” into the historical text) in order to make it more appealing, or attractive, to whoever reads it.  It’s there for the “mystery effect”; and according to them it was put in there (maybe in the early days) by some ingenious story-teller who was a follower of Jesus, who wished to “dramatically expand” the story in order to gain followers.

Those are the three main views with respect to the “miracles” of our Lord.  (Again, it’s important that we hear these things because we are commanded to be prepared to “give an answer”!)

Now, there is an article in a recent periodical which I thought particularly relevant to us at this point.  And it has to do with what is called the “dual covenant”.  The dual covenant theology is an “insidious heresy” which arises out of the current wave of “political correctness”.

In order to avoid the terrible “evil” of anti-semitism, Christians are now called upon to eliminate prejudice against Jews by elevating Judaism to a co-equal plan of salvation with Christ and Christianity.

The “dual covenant” theology maintains that Jews need not believe in Jesus Christ but can be saved through another covenant, i.e. God’s promise to Abraham!  Therefore Jews and Christians are co-equal; there is a two-track plan of salvation, and neither is to exclude the other.  The Abrahamic covenant is for Jews, and Christ’s substitutionary atonement for Gentiles!

And of course the result of all of this is to withhold the Gospel from the Jews in the name of fighting prejudice.  But Jesus said, “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  No Gentile; no Jew; no one.  And the entire New Testament teaches that the promise to Abraham is fulfilled in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, the promised Messiah, the King of the Jews! (Acts chapter three, verses twenty-five and twenty-six)

The Christian Church has been engaged in a battle with false teachers from the beginning.  The apostle Jude, alarmed by the presence of false teachers in the Church (after the resurrection of Christ), and compelled to unmask them publicly (as we strive to do), warns that their method is to beguile and disguise.  They (he said) were like clouds with no water!

And the same is true with regards to the miracles of our Lord (especially as we consider the healing of Malchus’ wound).  This was not just a confirmation of Jesus’ power; it was not a dazzling display of magic; it was not a miracle which stands alone and is irrelevant to anything else.  And it certainly was not simply a last-minute offering of salvation to Malchus and the rest of this crowd, or an act of love and compassion in the midst of great suffering!

And, of course, it was not a sign to the Jews that they were acceptable to God because of the Abrahamic covenant!  Jesus’ healing of the wound had nothing to do with Malchus’ acceptability, or Judaism’s acceptability, or God’s compassion on the Jewish nation.  He corrected a wrong committed upon God’s ordained authority!

Jesus’ miracles were signs of the Presence of God’s Messiah Who was the Fullness of the prophetic Scriptures – that the blind might see; that the deaf might hear; that the lame might walk; that those in prison might be set free; that the lepers might be made clean… all of the ill-effects upon God’s elect people by an ungodly nation!  The Law of God was restored in Him!  And a nation of leaders who He had ordained had turned His Law and His Worship upside down.

Jesus’ reversal (by His miraculous healing) of all the evil done to His people by this nation and its leaders, were signs of His coming judgment.  The healing of the wound of the representative of Israel’s highest authority was the correcting of a wrong and a sign of imminent judgment to the Jewish nation.

Well, that’s all we had time for this Sunday.  Next Lord’s Day we’ll finish this passage and then proceed to the trial of our Lord for sedition and blasphemy.  And we’ll serve the Lord’s Table on that occasion.

Messiah was here.  He was born of a virgin six miles down the road, and He has come to fulfill all His Father’s will – as revealed in the prophets!


And now, here on the Lord's Day December 25th, 2005, let me say a few things about the birth of God's Christ.

I know that the Revelation to John isn't the "normal" place in Scripture to preach about Jesus' birth, but I would have you understand that Revelation chapter one holds a "key" to the height and depth and breadth of the salvation that has been wrought - and Who's birth we celebrate on this date each year.

(And by the way, you may celebrate this event today, or you may celebrate it any other day, or you may celebrate it every other day.  You are free to do so!  I prefer to celebrate on this day, with everybody else - and then to stay in a celebrating mode every day!)  But today happens to be the First Day of the week... which is the only day set aside by God as HOLY!  So, no one should presume to set aside the worship of God in favor of a birthday celebration (which can be any day).

But, back to St. John.  It was revealed to John while exiled on the island of Patmos in the mid sixties what would shortly come to pass.  Jesus Christ is revealed at the beginning of the Revelation as the Faithful Witness!  And then, right after that - the Faithful and True Witness and Origin of the creation of God.  The Faithful One, the True One, the One Who was there in the beginning, Who is the Origin of all of God's creation, confirming the facts, testifying to the facts, before judgment is passed.

This is the real Son of God - born Jesus (the Anointed One), Who was there at the origins of God's creation.  This is the One Who faithfully redeemed this creation in order that it might again redound to the glory of the Father.

This is the One born a King, Who received that Kingship (and a Kingdom) upon faithfully completing His ordained, covenantal mission.

This the Warrior-King Who will one day bring peace to all the creation and to all men with Whom God is well-pleased.  And "peace" is Biblically defined as the right relationship with God.

This Man-Child has done these things and will do these things.  And that's why we celebrate!