“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls.” Proverbs 11:30
This is part of a larger essay that I call: “Winning Malchus.” In the last couple of posts, I’ve been talking about the meeting of Malchus’ ear with the sharp edge of Peter’s sword. As was his trend, on his own way to prison Jesus fixed Peter’s mistake and gave back the high priest’s servant his ear. But the lesson stands. In our interaction with not-yet-Christians we should be more like Jesus and less like his hotheaded disciple. If we want to win Malchus rather than wounding him we must seek the same kind of heart attitude of Jesus.
A good witness who wishes to appeal to a deep part of another person has to come from a deep place in him/herself, deeper than just a verse-filled head and a clever tongue. To speak to the heart it takes a better heart – the downloaded heart of Jesus. The kind of heart that wins the hearts of other people is a humble heart.
Peter didn’t start out with that kind of heart and failed, to put it mildly, to communicate good news in the garden. Somehow he got the idea that his job was more about defending Jesus with his weapon than demonstrating him with his way of life.
The last miracle that gentle Jesus performed he did for the sake of a member of his arresting posse. Jesus, who was born in a barn, couch-surfed throughout his itinerate ministry, borrowed a donkey to make his “grand” Jerusalem appearance, and let mere humans nail him to a cross; that same Jesus bent down, picked up Malchus’ bloody ear and tenderly reattached it. No fanfare or drumroll. He just knew the guy would need that ear if he were going hear the Good News and cared enough to quietly repair what his disciple had ruined.
Peter entered the garden that night with a self-reliant heart. Seeing this, Jesus afforded him and his two colleagues the opportunity to obtain the Father’s heart and avoid an epic blunder in the garden by joining him in his final Prayer Meeting. Remember, brothers James and John were no humbler or any better at charming people toward Jesus than was Peter. They showed their proud hand earlier when they made a bid to edge everyone else out for the top two seats in Jesus’ kingdom. These were the same brothers who also volunteered to incinerate Samaritans with fire from heaven. Peter’s weapon of choice was a sword; theirs was lightening! Neither are tools of the evangelism trade.
Happily, eventually schooled by the Spirit, all three exchanged their weapons for invitations. Peter realized that the lovingly wielded Spirit’s sword is to be preferred over a soldier’s blade. And the Sons of Thunder learned to love their enemies rather than cremate them!
One reason Jesus brought his inner circle into the garden that night was so they would experience a fellowship with the Father that would fortify them against falling. (Sorry for the alliteration, just the preacher in me coming out.) “Watch and pray,” he told his narcoleptic disciples, “so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Praying – real praying, not just prayer-saying – steels us against succumbing to the temptation to take matters into our own hands. Peter in particular seems to have had a proclivity for an “impulse control disorder,” the therapy for which Jesus prescribed was an hour of flesh-denying, spirit-strengthening prayer.
In one hour the three of them nodded off – three times! What happens when we drowse instead of casting our fears and cares on God? We retain our fears and rely on our swordsmanship for protection and the advancement of the cause of Christ. Prayerless Christians have been known to be some of the most reckless ones.
Jesus asked them if they could just “wait” for one hour. Of course, his plan was that they would pray while they waited, but sometimes it’s just the waiting that we need in order to postpone some of our self-styled strategies. Even if we can’t seem to pray for an hour it might be good if we just paused for an hour once in a while, if for no other reason than to reduce our frenetic heart rate. Problem is, we’re not patient or pensive enough and therefore rush our efforts to promote God’s kingdom in our own ways. The kind of praying he prescribes is a waiting kind of prayer.
Knowing what was coming, Jesus gave Peter and his cohorts the opportunity to get their hearts in the right place. Had they “waited for an hour” their willing spirit would have won over their weak flesh and Peter might’ve acquired the spiritual strength to keep his sword in its scabbard! Instead, he napped through prayer and woke up swinging!
Anyone else been there?
The next post on where Peter finally did acquire the kind of heart that wins, rather than wounds, people…