SPOTLIGHT JESUS 5 of 8Listen
We’re going to be in Luke 22 this morning.
During the season of Epiphany,
we’ve been following Jesus around with bifocals lenses.
Whenever we follow Jesus,
wherever Jesus goes,
whatever we see Jesus doing,
we’re actually seeing two things simultaneously.
We’re seeing the truest, deepest nature of God being put on display
and we’re seeing the truest deepest nature of humanity on display too.
That’s what the church has (of course)
been saying about Jesus since its beginning.
The Creator has become one of his creation.
We don’t have to guess.
Jesus shows us what God is like—
AND Jesus shows us what humanity—what we—are meant to be.
Jesus sheds light on the deepest mysteries of the universe.
Where we’ve come from—Who created us—
AND ALSO what we’re made for—what we’re destined to be.
And that brings us to Luke 22 this week.
This is an account of Jesus
right before he’s put through a mock trial
only to then be tortured, beaten, and executed.
This is an account of Jesus being arrested.
(22.47-53) While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”
For the disciples this is a moment of chaos and confusion.
Their friend, their teacher, their rabbi,
the one they thought could be the messiah—the christ, the king—
and usher the rule and reign of God’s kingdom into the world—
Jesus is being arrested.
Their dreams are crashing down around them:
“It’s not supposed to be this way.”
And by the end of it, Jesus says,
“this is the hour when darkness reigns.”
It’s no wonder in the middle of all of this,
you find scuffles and struggles and fights breaking out.
In fact, in the middle of it all one of the disciples (v50)—
another gospel (John’s gospel) tells that it was Peter—
pulls out a sword and takes a swing at someone.
I hear the word “sword”
and I think “medieval Braveheart broadsword.”
But what Peter has is a “ma-chai-ra” in Greek
(where we get the English word “machete”),
and it was probably more like a dagger—it’s some kind of knife.
There’s some kind of struggle,
and Peter has a big knife and slashes a guy…
and he ends up hacking off the guy’s ear.
And in the middle of all of this,
Jesus cries out, “No more of this”
and then touches this fella’s ear (v51)
and heals him.
In the middle of all of this darkness
and chaos and confusion and violence,
Jesus heals this guy.
Jesus heals his enemy’s ear.
That’s a moment worth looking at.
But before we do, we might ask an obvious question:
“Why does anyone with Jesus even have a sword?”
I mean, that’s a reasonable question.
In the Sermon on the Mount
Jesus had taught his disciples to turn the other cheek,
to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute them.
Why on earth do they even have a weapon with them?
And the answer is
Jesus asked them to bring one.
If you look about a dozen verses before our text today,
we find Jesus finishing a meal with his disciples early that evening
and we hear a conversation going on between them:
(22.35-38) Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.
He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That’s enough!” he replied.
It’s at the instruction of Jesus that they have a sword with them.
And the disciples are like us:
they like themselves some Second Amendment.
Jesus says to grab a weapon, to take up arms—
and you don’t have to ask them twice.
Because they’ve got common sense.
They’re totally sensible.
They know you’ve got be packing
a proper self-defense.
We need a way to hurt the enemy—
to slash them, maybe even to cut a piece off.
But notice (v37) why Jesus wants a weapon in the group:
so that he can be “numbered with transgressors.”
“The Scripture says that I’m lumped in with the lawbreakers,
the outlaws, the lawbreakers, the villains—
so bring a sword.”
And it’s like one of the disciples (maybe Simon the Zealot)
has just been waiting for this moment
and opens up their cloak like a watch salesman.
“Someone ask for a sword, Jesus?
This tunic happens to have two.”
To which Jesus replies, “Good grief, that’s enough” (v38).
The sword—the dagger—
is for appearance only.
It’s like Jesus is planting evidence on himself—
giving people a reason to arrest him.
But in the heat of the moment
Peter decides to start cutting and slashing.
And it’s in this moment—
as an ear falls limp into the dirt and leaves,
that Jesus shines a spotlight
on what it means to be God
and what it means to be human.
Jesus reveals a God
who heals his enemies.
A God who loves his enemies.
This is the gospel,
by the way.
It’s really good news that God loves his enemies—the people who hate him.
In all their destructive, hateful violence,
God always already loves his enemies.
God loves his enemies.
God heals his enemies.
We never earn the love of God.
We never merit the healing of God.
Whatever it is you’re looking for from God—
love or mercy or forgiveness or peace
or direction in life or clarity about a situation
or some kind of healing—
I have good news:
Whatever you’re looking for from God,
you’re never going to earn it.
You can stop trying
to get in God’s good graces.
You can rest.
The gospel invites us to see what God is like:
God loves, God heals, God gives good gifts,
and it’s never because we’ve earned it.
God gives good gifts
not because we are good
but because God is good.
This is the one where Jesus replaces an ear.
The ear of his enemy.
Someone who is actively attacking him—
someone who is actively bringing darkness in the world—
someone who could not possibly be earning anything from God with their choices—
“Here’s your ear back.”
That’s what God is like.
“I give good gifts
not because of your goodness
but because of my goodness.”
That’s the gospel.
It’s really good news.
In all our guilt, in all our sin,
in all our shame, in all our darkness,
God gives us mercy.
Whatever it is you’re looking for from God,
you’re never going to earn it.
God just gives freely.
May that give you rest.
Look at Jesus—again and again and again—
and learn to believe this incredible news.
It’s not just incredible news,
it’s also a terrible, terrific invitation.
Because if this what God is like at the center,
then Jesus also shows us what it looks like
for a human being to reflect this image.
Jesus reveals the truly human life
that wants everyone healed—
And that right there…
that implodes most of our common sense about life.
Because most of us have got the same common sense—
we’re just as sensible as the disciples.
We all “just know” that
we’re going to find true life
when our enemies lose.
Maybe they’ll lose an ear,
maybe they’ll lose their job,
maybe they’ll lose custody—
and my goodness
I hope they lose the argument and their dignity
and hopefully they’re losing sleep too.
We all are sensible enough to know that
I’m going to find true life
when my enemy loses.
Because—good grief—she had it coming.
He had it coming.
“I feel no sympathy for you or your ear on the ground—
that’s what you get for making the decisions you’ve made.
“What did you think was going to happen?”
But where our instinct is to celebrate when some people lose,
Jesus’s instinct is to work for the healing of everyone—
We want them broken,
Jesus wants the whole.
Our instinct is to defend ourselves at all costs—
hacking and hurting and slashing to save ourselves.
is to heal those
wanting to hurt him.
Where we rejoice in the death of the wicked—
where we celebrate enemies getting what the deserve—
when we’re ecstatic when the axe falls
and a piece of them falls off with it—
Jesus is replacing that piece.
Jesus replaces an ear.
Jesus loves this servant of the high priest.
Jesus heals his enemy.
This servant’s name is Malchus, by the way…
…our enemies have names.
They’re people. Like us.
Broken people. Like us.
John is the one gives us Peter’s name—
he’s the disciple with the dagger.
And John gives us the name of the enemy: Malchus.
A lot of scholars think that this guy—Malchus—
was actually one of eyewitnesses—one of the actual sources—
that Luke and John got ther story from.
Peter told this story to gospel-writers
and evidently Malchus was telling it too.
I like the image of Malchus and Peter
both sitting across from John
telling the same the story.
“That was me…
Peter hacked my ear off,
but then Jesus gave it back.”
“While I was lynching Jesus,
he was replacing my ear.
“And that act of love—that act of healing—
that moment of giving while I was attacking Jesus—
I guess that’s why I’m sitting here talking about him.
“That love changed my life.”
Jesus—the truly human human—
knows that the Enemy will never
be defeated with swords.
Hatred is never overcome by more hatred,
cycles of violence are never stopped with more violence,
darkness is never pierced with more darkness.
Darkness is pierced with light.
Violence is stopped by a turned cheek.
Hatred is overcome by replacing an ear.
An early Christian leader
wrote to the church of Rome, saying:
“Overcome evil with good” (Rom 12.21).
Because that’s what it looks like to reflect God’s image—
that’s what it looks like to be truly human.
Jesus wasn’t exaggerating…
he was dead-serious about true life:
“Love your enemies.”
It begs the question,
“Who are our enemies?”
Who do we butt heads with?—
who are rooting against?—
who do we want to lose?
Before we could ever think about
loving them, working for their good,
wanting them to be whole,
before we talk about DOING anything,
Jesus wants to talk about our assumptions—
about what we believe deep down.
Will we let ourselves be opened to the idea
that true life—that true humanity—that deepest joy—
will be found if our enemies could be into friends.
Peter and Malchus tell the same story—
and mercy—not machete—is what brought them together.
That doesn’t mean
that we’re always going to feel
warm-and-fuzzy about our enemies.
It doesn’t mean that
we think what they’re doing is OK
or that we go along with it
or that we stay in a particular situation.
If you’re in a damaging environment—
in destructive patterns with other people—
God isn’t calling us to stay in destructive places.
True life looks like loving destructive people—
not staying in destructive patterns or destructive places.
But to truly love destructive people
demands an incredible amount of wisdom.
If you’re in an abusive relationship or situation
perhaps the most loving thing you can do—
for yourself, for the person abusing you—
is get out of it.
God isn’t inviting us
to keep having our bodies bruised.
But God is inviting us—calling us—
to have our hatred crucified.
There are parts of us that have to die
before we’re capable can receive God’s good gifts.
For as long as we keep clinging to hate,
we’re never going to have open hands
that receive true and lasting life.
We’ll never taste our full humanity
by inflicting pain on others.
True humanity looks like loving and healing everyone—
May we be opened
to the true and joyful life of God himself,
may we believe the good news that God heals his enemies
and gives good gifts because of his goodness,
and may we be granted wisdom on how to pierce the darkness,
on how to how to carry the cross of love,
and on how to hope for the healing of even our enemies.