a meditation for good friday

a meditation for good friday

When the disciples who were with Jesus saw what was going to happen, they asked, “Shall we use our swords, Lord?” And one of them struck the High Priest’s slave and cut off his right ear.

But Jesus said, “Enough of this!” He touched the man’s ear and healed him

Are you surprised that they were armed? A crowd, led by Judas, arrived at the Mount of Olives to arrest Jesus, and his disciples asked him, “Shall we use our swords?”

I can’t imagine that Jesus and his disciples went about the countryside of Galilee — teaching and healing, worshipping in the synagogues and depending on the hospitality of friends and strangers — I can’t imagine that they went about armed with swords!

But, at least on this occasion, in Jerusalem, they had their swords with them. I am sure they were anticipating trouble. They knew what Jesus risked by coming to Jersualem at all, and what they risked by coming with him. They had come with him, probably reluctantly and against their own better judgement, but they weren’t going to be caught unprepared!

So they were armed that night, and when the Temple posse arrived, they asked Jesus, “Shall we use our swords?” One of them didn’t wait for an answer, but raised his hand and struck the High Priest’s slave, cutting off his ear.

A hand is a powerful instrument. It may be used to strike … or to caress, to hurt … or to heal. One of the disciples (another of the gospels says it was Peter) raised his hand to hurt, but Jesus raised his hand to heal.

Luke’s gospel is the only one to mention this detail. All of the gospels include the account of a disciple cutting off the ear of the High Priest’s slave with a sword, but the rest keep the focus of the story on the disciples’ misunderstanding of the situation, on the contrast between their readiness to resist and Jesus’ non-resistance. Only Luke remembers that Jesus raised his hand and touched the man’s ear and healed him.

Luke remembered the High Priest’s slave. Jesus remembered the High Priest’s slave and healed him.

How? Luke’s account doesn’t say. Did Jesus put the detached ear back in place? He certainly could have. He had restored sight to blind people, set lame people walking, cured people of terrible skin diseases, and even brought a widow’s young son back from death.

So he could have. But did he? Luke only says that Jesus touched the man’s ear and healed him. He doesn’t say, “healed it.” Did Jesus restore the ear or heal the wound or something else?

The important thing, the thing Luke makes it a point to mention, is that Jesus healed him. Jesus healed the High Priest’s slave, the poor slave of the one who was out to get him … just as Jesus had healed a crippled woman and a leprous Samaritan and a blind beggar and the servant of a Roman soldier and the son of a widow and a woman who pushed her way through a crowd just to touch the edge of his cloak.

These are the people to whom Jesus raised his hand … to heal! Not just “his” people, but people who, like him, were despised and rejected.

A hand is a powerful instrument. Your hand is a powerful instrument. It may be used to strike or to caress, to hurt or to heal.

Will you lift your hand, like Jesus did, to heal the wounds of those who are despised and rejected? By building a house or serving a meal or writing a check? By offering a hand to comfort the one who grieves or offering a hand to welcome the one who is lonely and scorned?

Because, you see, the small things a hand can do are powerful, too. You don’t have to reattach a man’s ear to heal him. Just reach out your hand …

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