Jesus won my heart not by force but by fascination. Note to self. Do what Jesus did!
We’re not given enough information to know what happened to Malchus after his assault and healing in the garden. Did he become a follower of Jesus or simply go on his merry way wondering what all that was about? If he did come to Jesus what did the trick? Was it getting his ear back or was it something else?
Granted, healing people is always a better evangelism technique than hurting them! Where Peter showed what he could do with a sword, Jesus demonstrated what he could do with a touch. Definitely an improved method of outreach! But, still, was his healing touch sufficient to convince Malchus to repent and become a disciple?
I’ve heard people say, “If we just had more miracles, evangelism would be easy. People would come to Jesus by the boatload!” Let me be clear, I believe miracles are available to us today. I’ve seen them and experienced them myself. At his discretion God still heals people and sometimes it really helps influence people to come to Jesus. The Holy Spirit has not taken a two thousand year vacation and locked up his gifts in a safe deposit box until the Millennium. But it’s my observation that while miracles aid to authenticate the good news they don’t guarantee a favorable response in the heart of a pre-Christian. Miracles don’t always bring people to the Father’s table.
I imagine that if Malchus did fall in love with Jesus something more than his healing would have closed the deal. Jesus’ miracles did confirm his God-ness, but more than that they displayed his heart of compassion. They showed not just what he could do, but the way he was (is).
Remember, we’re not just trying to convince people that God is big and strong. Our mission is to make as many friends with and for him that we can. His miracles may win people’s awe but not necessarily their allegiance. Wowing people isn’t the same as winning them. Pretty much anyone who believes that a Creator exists is already convinced of his omnipotence. He’s also omnipresent and omniscient but it’s not those divine characteristics that save us per se. I didn’t decide to follow Jesus because I came to believe he was everywhere, knew everything, and could do anything. Those facts came to me later.
Not to downplay the importance miracles or of right thinking about God, but we want more for people than for them to simply give intellectual assent to certain facts about him. If believing the right things saved us, then all we have to do is take a class and pass a test on theology.
As wonderful as divine miracles and good theology are, they don’t produce saving faith. They might create a spark of interest in God. But the human predicament is more about the heart than the mind. Coming to God is more volitional than intellectual and it usually takes more than a physical miracle to bring the will around. Only one of the ten healed lepers turned back to thank his Healer and to get acquainted with him. The other nine went on their healthy, merry, but unrepentant way.
After Lazarus was raised from the dead, instead of putting their faith in Jesus, his detractors put a hit on Lazarus. When Jesus was raised, those who saw it, instead of repenting, made up a story about it.
It’s something deeper than outward observation, an inward wonder that engenders one’s courage to trust God for salvation. Miraculous wonders have their place and may capture someone’s interest, but interest, at best may produce a fan and not necessarily a follower of Jesus. My guess is if Malchus started following Jesus that it was more about Jesus’ compassion than his clout. He saw that even if his disciples weren’t exactly model citizens at least Jesus was a Man with a heart.
What Jesus did for an “enemy” was a far more effective apologetic than the sword-swinging aggression of Peter. Compassionate service wields a power to affect people in ways that antagonistic tactics do not.
Malchus was there as part of the posse to arrest Jesus, beat him up, throw him in prison, and nail him to a cross. While Peter did his Lancelot imitation on a man he perceived as a threat, Jesus saw him as a man in need. Being more concerned about Malchus’ welfare than his own he reached out and made him well. He wasn’t showing off for the crowd but showing his heart toward one man.
On Golgotha Jesus stopped dying in order to welcome a thief into his kingdom and in the garden he paused his arrest to heal an enemy. That’s how God makes friends.
Authentic Good News tellers can be identified by the same spirit of sacrifice. Jesus showed us how to go to the back of the line in order to put others ahead. “Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus,” wrote Paul from a Roman jail. “In humility value others above yourselves.”
If I’m right, it wasn’t Jesus’ preaching or even his power that would’ve fascinated Malchus most. The Lord of glory pealed back the veil and revealed his humility. In my experience the true seeker is more attracted to his meekness than his miracles. He said as much when he urged the “weary and burdened” to come to him on the basis of his “gentle and humble heart.”
Next, we’ll talk about how and why Peter got his sword to begin with…