Science Hill Community Church
Jesus' Last Miracle
Jesus’ Last Miracle
Whenever I reflect on this scene of darkness in the Garden of Gethsemane, many other scriptures spring to mind. I think of the very first Garden mentioned in the Bible, the Garden of Eden, and how a devastating choice that humanity made there became the reason for the devastating choice that Jesus now has to make here. I think of God’s covenant with Abraham on a dark, starry night, when God promised that his children would be numbered as vast as the stars, and that it was going to be through his descendants that the whole world would be blessed. I think of the twenty-third Psalm, and of how God always goes with us, even through the dark valley of the shadow of death. Perhaps the most appropriate vivid connection I draw with this scene is that from the first chapter of John: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
Jesus said of Himself that he was the light of the world. Last week we heard how Jesus brought light into the darkness of the blind man Bartimaeus. Today we see how in the Garden, and at the cross, Jesus brings light into a world full of darkness.
After all, that’s what Jesus has consistently done throughout His ministry. In a way, this scene is the entire gospel message in miniature. Jesus brings moral clarity into a land of confusion. He brings order into a universe of chaos. He brings life into the stillness of death. The many miracles that we have studied this Lent have all been flashes of light in a dark place. So it is with this miracle.
Many Bible scholars know that Jesus’ first miracle was the transformation of water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. But what was His last miracle? There are probably a number of ways to answer that question, but it appears to me that Jesus’ last miracle before His death on the cross was the healing of the right ear of the high priest’s servant during His arrest in the Garden.
At first it strikes me as almost mundane, trivial even, that Jesus would expend any of His precious energy on this most sacred and holy nights to heal the ear of an enemy. It hardly seems worth His time and effort. But let’s look more closely at this miracle of healing. For this is a special night - a time when, in the span of just a few hours, dozens of prophetic scriptures in the Old Testament will come to pass.
Jesus will be betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver.
Before the day is over, Jesus will pay the price for the sin of humanity.
His disciples will desert him.
His cloak is to be gambled away.
His hands and feet are to be pierced.
He was given vinegar to drink.
None of His bones are broken.
He will cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
He will be buried in the borrowed grave of a rich man.
But first, right now, at this frozen scene in the Garden, THIS is the moment, THIS is the battle, when Jesus surrenders himself to the forces of darkness. And in the middle of this fateful hour, Jesus STILL reaches out in love and compassion to work one final miracle of healing.
Peter, the disciple who is only moments away from denying even knowledge of Jesus, panics. He grabs a sword and recklessly lashes out at the mob in an ill-fated attempted defense of Jesus.
Is Peter wrong? Is he wrong to want to protect his Lord? I don’t think so. But notice that Peter’s first reaction was to strike out with a weapon of war rather than to pray or simply stand with his master. Remember, this is Peter, the one who couldn’t even stay awake to pray with Jesus for an hour, and yet now he was willing to fight, actually he was willing to wound and probably even kill for Jesus. But Peter still wasn’t ready to die for him.
How like us Peter is. I don’t think Jesus is as interested in Peter, or in us, fighting militarily for him as much as he is interested in Peter, and in us, struggling for him spiritually. To revert into our fallenness and to strike out with violence is not Jesus’ way. So I can understand Jesus’ abrupt halting of the fight and His stern word of correction, “No more of this!”
Death upon the cross is the role that Jesus came to fulfill, and He is intent on following his father’s will to the uttermost. Jesus will go and do everything that is required to fulfill His father’s will. He is willing to go and do what is required to be the ransom for our sin. But as far as this business of tending to the casualty of one of His enemies…
I have to confess that if it were me, I might feel a tiny bit of satisfaction that one of the people who had come out in a lynch mob in the middle of the night to illegally arrest me was left with a disfiguring gash and a scar to show for it. Serves him right! Let him suffer! He got what he deserved. But this attitude, also, was not Jesus’ way
There is no requirement or obligation laid upon Jesus that he had to heal this man, yet he did. Can you imagine for a moment how comically frustrating this must have been to Peter? Here he was, valiantly fighting away for his Lord, clumsily though successfully lopping off a piece of his enemy’s body. And here was Jesus, the one he was trying to protect, putting his enemy back together. You’re never going to get ahead of the game this way, if God keeps putting your enemies back together again!
What is Jesus doing here? What’s He showing us? What’s He teaching us? What is the meaning in this miracle? I believe it is that Jesus puts His words of love, even love for enemies, into action. Jesus’ disciples had heard Him say, firsthand: “I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you.” (Luke 6:27)
Losing an ear can be quite a handicap. We remember Mike Tyson for his infamous ear-biting escapade. It was widely reported that Saddam Hussein cut the ears off of suspected traitors. In the Middle East, such a disgrace would ruin your life. It’s embarrassing and humiliating to lose an ear, but you can survive it.
Yet Jesus wasn’t satisfied to let this injury stand and let this servant merely survive. Even though this man, this servant of the high priest, came to Jesus as an enemy, Jesus wanted to see him restored and healed. You see, in this episode in the Garden, Jesus cannot help but once again let His character shape His actions. That’s always the story with Jesus, isn’t it? He is light, He is love, that’s who He is. And He hasn’t been deceived here. He knows what’s coming. He knows what awaits Him. He knows precisely what hour it is - when darkness reigns. But the question is when darkness reigns, what do you do? When darkness reigns in your life, what do you do with your light? Do you cover it? Do you dampen it? Do you dim it? Do you deny it? Or do you let it blaze forth in all its glory? Do you continue to be light though all the world around you be darkness?
That’s the path Jesus chose. He was light, and He wasn’t about to let the pressing darkness of that moment extinguish or even dampen His light. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Jesus’ ministry was all about mercy, and compassion, and forgiveness, and love, and cleansing, and healing. When He came face to face with the high priest’s servant and saw the ear sliced and the blood flow, He didn’t hesitate, He didn’t turn away, He didn’t ignore, He didn’t shrug. He healed. He stood before a broken, hurting man, even an enemy, and He did what Jesus always does. He brought healing and wholeness into his life. That’s what Jesus does. And if that’s what Jesus does to one of His mortal enemies who came to arrest Him, how much more, how much more, will Jesus pour out His love and forgiveness into your life?
As our Lord does, so must we. As His followers, we must do what our Lord does. As Christ forgives, so must we. Jesus said that He was the light of the world, and He also said that we, His followers, were the light of the world. We have that light inside us. And we must continue to be the light even in the darkness, especially in the darkness.
Paul explained the love and mercy of Jesus this way in Romans: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly, very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die, but God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
While coming to arrest Him in the middle of the night, the servant of the high priest still experienced the forgiveness of Christ and the healing of Christ. This act of healing mirrors Jesus’ own words from the cross which, in truth, may actually represent the real last miracle in His life before He died, when He said, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” To summon love and forgiveness from the depth of his soul even as He was being nailed to the cross, that is indeed a miracle of power, and of love, and a triumph of the spirit.
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