A Miracle in the Garden of Gethsemane

On the night Jesus was arrested, Gethsemane was a place of intimidation. A sword-and-club-wielding crowd entered the garden with Judas leading the way. Then Judas gave the kiss of betrayal, cuing the arresting party to make their move.

But when they seized Jesus, things took a violent turn. Peter drew his sword and swung at the high priest’s servant Malchus, cutting off the man’s ear (Matt. 26:51; John 18:10). All Four Gospels report this physical intervention. And all four also report Jesus’ instructions to Peter: “Put away your sword.”

Only Luke’s Gospel tells us what Jesus did next for the high priest’s servant. He turned to the wounded man and “touched his ear and healed him” (Luke 22:51). A miracle, right there in the Garden of Gethsemane. A miracle, right in the middle of the armed crowd’s efforts to seize Jesus. A miracle, right there for the opposition to see and remember.

Did anyone in the crowd second-guess what they’d come to do? What was Malchus thinking after he left the garden that night?

Jesus was certainly no threat. In the face of hostility, he showed compassion when the opposite might have been expected. Surrounded by his enemies and accompanied by his wavering disciples, Jesus displayed strength and restraint, power and humility, authority and mercy.

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When Satan is Preying, Jesus is Praying

These words of Jesus disturb me, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat” (Luke 22:31).

The context doesn’t answer my questions, like “How did Satan present his demand?”  And, “Why should God grant what Satan demands?”  Also, “Why focus on Peter?  Satan had already entered Judas and tempted him to betray Jesus.”

After his ominous warning, Jesus shines a ray of hope, “but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32).

What does it mean for Peter’s faith to not fail?  I think Jesus means that Peter would not ultimately abandon faith.  His three denials didn’t constitute an abandonment, since he is a follower after Jesus’ resurrection (John 21) and ascension (Acts 2).

If Peter’s denials meant that his faith failed, then Jesus’ prayer went unanswered.  But the Son doesn’t seek what is contrary to the Father.  Besides, Jesus told Peter, “…the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:34).  Jesus knew that Peter would deny him.

By praying that Peter’s faith would not fail, Jesus was asking the Father that Peter’s denials would not lead him to apostasy.  And Jesus’ prayer was answered.  Peter, though weak in faith, did not abandon faith.  He was sifted, yes, but he was sustained by the intercession of Jesus.

We are too weak to sustain our own faith.  Rather, the strength and power of Jesus enables us to persevere in spite of our weaknesses.

Be encouraged, believer: when Satan is preying, Jesus is praying.