Chapter 18:1-11 (ESV) - When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
Question to consider: Why did Peter cut off the guard’s ear?
After Jesus prayed for the disciples and all who would believe in Jesus because of them, the time had come for Jesus to be betrayed and arrested. The other three gospel accounts describe the guards hiding outside of the garden until Judas came in and kissed Jesus. John skipped that part and focused on the arrest. What was translated “I am he” kind of takes the force out of the incident. There was no "he" in the text. Jesus instead invoked the covenantal name of God when the soldiers proclaimed that they had come for Jesus of Nazareth so it was probably more like, “I AM!!!”
The guards drew back and fell to the ground because everyone who comes face-to-face with the living God falls to the ground in fear. If fear was not their motivation, there would have been no reason for them to let the disciples go just because Jesus commanded them to do so.
The other gospel accounts weren’t specific about who cut off the guard’s ear, but John provided the details that it was the apostle Peter, and that the guard’s name was Malcus. In Luke’s gospel, we learn that Jesus restored the man’s ear before submitting to the guards.
Even though Jesus told the disciples multiple times that He was going to go to the Father, I don’t think they were able to process what that meant. I think Peter heard Jesus saying that He was going to be murdered because the disciples would abandon Him. Jesus may have put a positive spin on it by saying He would go to the Father and send the Holy Spirit, but Peter took it as a personal challenge to prove his loyalty to Jesus. Peter thought he was keeping Jesus from being murdered when in fact, Jesus willingly submitted to His enemies to fulfill His mission.
It’s possible that Peter thought this was all a test from Jesus to prove that he had the courage to stand with Him in the new kingdom. It’s no different than someone today vowing to do big things for the kingdom of God. The gospel is not about what we can do for God. It is about what Christ has done for us. Our pursuit of holiness should not come from a desire to earn God’s favor. We are clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ and are the adopted children of God. Our good works are the fruit of God’s Spirit working in us to conform us to the image of Christ.
We may battle against the flesh and earthly temptations, but even that is only temporary, for one day Christ will perfect our faith, and sin and death will be a thing of the past.
Dear Lord, thank You for willingly submitting to the cross. May it stir up in us a desire to know You more and more so that the things of this world lose their desire. Amen.