There are thousands of people discussed in the Bible that are never named. There are hundreds of people in the Bible that are named frequently, perhaps even considered ‘main’ or ‘supporting’ characters in the stories. But I’m always intrigued by those who are only mentioned once. The story about Malchus is mentioned in all four gospels, but only once is his name given. And in that same chapter he’s actually mentioned twice for two different purposes. What is it about this man?
First, the story. Jesus is about to be arrested. This is the beginning of the most important story of the Bible. If you look at the entire story of the Bible as one big story, this is the climax. Without the arrest, torture and crucifixion of Christ, we have no salvation. Although Jesus understands the importance of this moment in time, His disciples do not. In fact they are terrified. And Peter having a quick temper of sorts, responds with violence. “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?'”
This story of Peter responding and cutting the ear off of one of the servants is recorded in all four Gospels, yet John is the only one to mention his name. In many translations, his mention is even in parentheses like here. Then he’s even brought up again as part of the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus. “One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’ Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.” (v 26-27)
These moments in the Gospel story are vital parts to the story. The arrest of Jesus was necessary and had to happen as it had been written. And Peter’s denial of Jesus was also vital as Jesus had predicted it for Peter.
Both of these parts to Malchus’s story are required for validation. His name being added to the arrest story gave a way for people of the time to validate the actions in the garden. There was a named person to ask. Luke even records that His ear was healed, “But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him.” (Luke 22:51) No doubt this miracle shaped Malchus’s view of Jesus, perhaps even becoming a witness himself. It’s even possible that since John was written last, the name of Malchus was now known by other Christians.
The second time he is mentioned is when Peter’s denial of Jesus is fulfilling what Jesus had told Peter the night before. This moment was also vital to prove to Peter that Jesus knew of these events and was ready for them. He was aware of them and knew He had to go forward and take the cup His Father had given Him. This is a turning point for Peter who would eventually be the ‘rock’ that Jesus would build His church.
So Malchus (although before reading this blog you were probably not aware of his name) is a vital part in the climax of the biggest story in history. He’s barely known, practically a footnote in the story, but vital to the big picture none the less. Is there a Malchus in your life? Are you a Malchus in someone else’s life? Know that you could be. Be aware that even a tiny moment you have in someone’s life could be a Malchus moment for them. Always be ready to be used by God, even in the tiniest of ways.
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