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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 75 – John 18:10

There wa a brief clash of swords – which must have been a dangerous business in the dark. As a result one of the temple servants loses a bit of his ear. We read, “Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)” This leads to the rebuke by Jesus of Peter who was acting, true to his usual nature, with unwanted impetuosity.

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me.”

The most extraordinary thing about that statement is that John has told us what the name of the wounded man was. Very few people, except the apostles and a few of the closest women to the group, are named by John or any of the other Gospel-writers. John names some apostles, some women, Nicodemus, Lazarus and Joseph of Arimathea. Elsewhere we hear about blind Bartholomew but that is about it. Why then do we know the name of Malchus?

There would seem to be only two possibilities:

1) John, or the person who may have told him all about what happened that night, knew his name because they were obviously closely acquainted with the members of the senior households;

2) Malchus was a well known person later in the story of the early church, and although he must have been distinctly old by the time John was writing was sufficiently important to merit this mention.

Of these only the second would seem at all likely. Why would John mention the name if Malchus was only a servant in the governor’s household 40 or 50 years earlier? He would be of no importance to John’s original readers and the fact that Jesus healed his ear was only one of many such healings. No! It is a safe guess that Malchus became a Christian and of sufficient stature in the very early church to be mentioned by name. What are we to make of that?

Two things come to mind: first, that no one is excluded from the fellowship of the Kingdom and therefore of the church. They weren’t in those early days and they should not be now. There can be problems in some cultures, where if any stranger comes into a church meeting there is always a concern that they may be a spy sent in to see who is involved. It is impossible to set down any guidelines as to what should be done in such cases. The people involved can only use their best wisdom in what they do – but they must be careful not to exclude any genuine person.

The second thing is this: it is you and I who must ensure that no one is excluded who should not be. It is a difficult trap – the closer the fellowship in a particular meeting of the Lord’s people the easier it is to overlook the stranger, the incomer, the new convert. It is so easy to let them stand round the edges of the group while all the close friends talk together in a close knit huddle. Only by having some whose duty it is to lookout for such people is it possible to make sure that all are drawn into the centre of the fellowship. Watch out for it in your church. It will be surprising – and good – if you cannot see it happening.

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