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."
John 18:10-11 (ESV)
Malchus was part of the high priest's body of servants. He had probably been in some of the meetings where this troublemaker named Jesus had been discussed. After all, Jesus was a problem for the religious leaders of his day. Malchus approached the garden in search of Jesus along with the others who carried torches and swords. He was sure that Jesus was another rabble-rouser who would be quickly exposed and dispatched. Nothing good had been said in the meetings. Jesus was a threat to Israel's very existence! If he were taken seriously, the Romans would certainly come down hard on all of them.
Peter had not fully understood the kingdom of God as defined by Jesus. He was still fighting with swords to subdue the enemy. In the midst of the confrontation, he took a swing at the servant of the high priest who probably ducked to avoid being separated from his head. The short sword cleanly sliced off the ear. It fell to the ground. This was more serious than Malchus had anticipated. It had cost him something precious. The thoughts rush through his mind: "Why me? This was not supposed to happen. This is just another misguided zealot that had to be stopped. The soldiers get paid for this kind of danger, not me. Now I am maimed for the rest of my life. I will be disfigured and disqualified for many things in my profession."
Then the unexpected! Everything moved in slow motion. There was a hush in the garden. Jesus bent over and picked up the severed ear and replaced it as before. (Probably while glancing at Peter with a "What are you doing?" grimace.) Now what was Malchus going to do? This enemy had surprised him. He had been encountered by mercy. It messed with his mind. It didn't fit with the way he usually thought. It was stronger than swords and more transforming than political power. He would have to rethink everything he thought he already had nailed down. The next few hours would be confusing to him. How could he join the crowd in crucifying the one who acted in love toward an enemy by restoring his ear?
Whatever happened to Malchus? We don't know. He is a picture of many, like Saul of Tarsus, who encountered a different Jesus than they had previously expected. As a result, he gained a new ear. We follow in that line also. When we have been touched by mercy, other arguments don't seem to hold.
Jesus was displaying the power of the kingdom he came to inaugurate. He expressed a love that changes the heart while others were relying on the earthly powers of religion, politics, and the sword. His kingdom is still the only hope of lasting peace in the individual and the community. It deserves our attention and absolute loyalty.