Sermon Series: “Relentless Grace” Part I ~ Malchus, Servant of the High Priest ~ January 05, 2020 ~ Luke 22:47-51
Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you do not deserve. Justice – getting what you deserve. Mercy – not getting what you deserve (you got away with it). Grace is getting something you do not deserve. Grace is completely unmerited, meaning there is nothing we can do to be worthy of or to earn God’s grace. That’s why it’s called amazing.
So, the beginning of this new year, I am starting with a sermon series to remind us of God’s Relentless Grace, and I begin with a story in the gospel of Luke. Let me set the scene a little bit. Jesus had just shared the Passover meal with His disciples; He walked to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives; He asks the disciples to keep watch while He goes off to pray. Sadly, when He returns, He finds them all fast asleep. He says, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray so you will not give in to temptation!” Then, our reading this morning. Would you please join me in the unison prayer as we prepare to study the Word of God? Let us pray together.
Lord, upon the pages of this book is Your story. It is also our story. Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, our minds that we may understand, and our hearts that they may be transformed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
“Get up and pray so that you will not give in to temptation!”
But even as Jesus said this, a crowd approached, led by Judas, one of the twelve disciples. Judas walked over to Jesus to greet him with a kiss. But Jesus said, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”
When the other disciples saw what was about to happen, they exclaimed, “Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!” And one of them struck at the high priest’s slave, slashing off his right ear.
But Jesus said, “No more of this.” And he touched
the man’s ear and healed him.
May God bless the reading and our understanding of His holy and inspired Word.
Betrayed with a kiss. You know, a kiss was, and still is, the traditional greeting among men in certain parts of the word. Perhaps in Europe you’ve seen men greet each other with the three-cheek kiss thing. It started with the greeting of a holy kiss, back in Jesus’ day. isn’t it interesting that something as intimate as a kiss was also the agreed upon signal to identify Jesus? How ironic that a gesture of greeting becomes a means of betrayal?
Now, why? Why did Judas do what he did? At the beginning of this chapter, verses 3 and 4, it tells us.
Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one
of the twelve disciples, and he went to the leading priests and captains of the
Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them.
Okay, so Satan was involved. But before we just run off and blame Satan, there’s something important that we really need to know about Satan. The name “Satan” comes from the Hebrew “Ha-Satan ( שָּׂטָן )” which means, “The Adversary.” Satan is God’s chief opponent. In superhero language, he’s God’s arch enemy. Jesus tells us in John 10 that Satan’s purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy – not just stuff, but people. To steal their joy. To kill their hope. To destroy their obedience.
In Revelation, the apostle John tells us something else about the story of the fall of Lucifer. He writes:
This great dragon – the ancient serpent called the
devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world – was thrown down to earth
with all his angels.
The one deceiving the whole world. So, Satan is also not just the adversary, but the deceiver. And there is a difference between lying and deceiving. Adam and Eve are in the garden, right? They’re given one rule. That shows what luck we have following ten rules. We can’t even follow one rule! Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you do, you surely will die. Satan, in the form of a serpent, comes to them and says, “Go ahead. Eat from the tree. You won’t die!” Was he lying? They ate from the tree. They didn’t die. At least, not how I expected it. I was thinking it would be more like a Disney princess film, where you eat the poison fruit and you die! But that’s not what happened. They eat the fruit, and they still lived. What they discovered was prior to that disobedience, they were going to live forever. They were going to be immortal. But after disobeying God, they discover that now, from dust we came, from dust we shall return. They were going to die – eventually.
So, Satan didn’t lie to them so much as he deceived them to get them to do something that he wanted them to do. Adam and Eve had a choice. They didn’t have to listen. As do we, every single way. We don’t have to listen to the one who’s trying to steal, kill, and destroy us. It’s not as easy as just saying, “The devil made me do it!” like Geraldine from the Flip Wilson Show (for those of you who remember Geraldine from the Flip Wilson show). “The devil made me do it!” The rest of you will have to google Flip Wilson, Geraldine.
As Satan is attacking us with temptation, we still have a choice. You see, one of the most misquoted Scriptures in all the Bible I think is this one: has anyone ever said to you, “God never gives us more than we can handle!” That’s not in the Bible. That is a misquote. God frequently gives you more than you can handle, am I right? Moses was standing in front of the Red Sea. I think that was more than he could handle. Lazarus was DEAD! That’s a little bit more than you can handle. God frequently gives us more than we can handle. What the Scripture actually is, is from 1 Corinthians 10. It says:
The temptations in your life are no different from
what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation
to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out
so that you can endure.
1 Corinthians 10:13
So, God never allows the temptation to be more than we can stand – we just don’t listen. Adam and Eve didn’t have to eat; they chose to. We never – no one ever – sins by accident. “But Lord, I was just lying on the ground, and the fruit fell off the tree and into my mouth!” No. They knew what they were doing before, during, and after they did it, and we know what we are doing before, during, and after what we do. We have a choice. God gives us a way out if we will listen to it.
So, in a similar fashion, when Satan entered into Judas, I am betting that Satan didn’t just tell Judas, “Kill Jesus! Kill the Messiah!” and then Judas comes up like a zombie – “I need to kill the Messiah!” I don’t think that’s what happened. Judas was a believer. He was! He followed Jesus for three years. He listened to Him preach. He saw with his own eyes the miracles. He saw Lazarus come back from the dead. He saw three fish and five loaves of bread feed 10,000 people – firsthand. He was a believer. He may not have been the best disciple. The Bible says that Judas, who was the treasurer of the group often stole money for himself – but who among us has not sinned? He or she here this morning who is without sin may cast the first stone.
Judas was a true believer. So, how does Satan get a true Jesus follower to betray someone that he believes is the Messiah? He does what he does best. He deceives. You see, I don’t believe Judas wanted Jesus dead. Why do I think that? Because Jesus ended up dead, and how did Judas react? He tried to give the money back, and he committed suicide. Why? If that was the goal that you wanted, your mission came true. Why would you kill yourself? You see, I don’t believe Judas wanted Jesus dead. I do believe that Judas, as a believer, having seen the power that Jesus had was getting a little frustrated that Jesus would not reveal Himself to the powers that be – whether it be the Sanhedrin, the Romans, or whoever – and just make it clear once and for all: “I am the Messiah, watch this!” He didn’t like Jesus’ approach. He thought, “If I can corner Him. If I can get Jesus arrested; if I can force His hand, I can get Him to reveal who He is.” But that’s not how it went, is it? No. When Judas discovered that Jesus was going to be put to death, he was not happy.
See, Satan wanted Jesus dead. He deceived Judas into completing the task – helping complete the task – without telling him that was what was going to happen, that was what might happen. He deceived him. “Just get Him to get arrested, and He will crack. He will show everybody who He is.” That’s how Satan works. That’s how he works in our lives. He deceives us. Go ahead. No one’s looking. Go ahead. No one will know. And he gets us to sin.
Now, the other disciples saw what was about to happen here in the garden, and they exclaimed (we know from one of the other gospels that it was Peter), Peter shouts out, “Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!” Now, this is an interesting situation because Jesus had just finished telling them to arm themselves. Verse 35 it says:
Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you out to preach the Good News and you did not have money, a traveler’s bag, or extra clothing, did you need anything?”
“No,” they replied.
Something’s changed. “But” means something has changed or is about to change.
“But now,” he said, “take your money and a traveler’s bag. And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one!”
Sell the clothing that’s going to keep you warm at night and buy a sword.
“For the time has come for this prophecy about me to be fulfilled. ‘He was counted among the rebels.’ Yes, everything written about me by the prophets will come true.”
Jesus knew He was going to be executed as a rebel. Jesus knew that the disciples and His followers were going to be treated as rebels, were going to be hunted down as well, and that they were going to have to defend themselves.
“Look, Lord,” they replied, “we have two swords among us.”
“That’s enough,” he said.
You see, regardless of what you may have been taught, God is not a pacifist. He really isn’t. Have you even read the Old Testament? There is blood on every page. There are wars. There are murders. There are rapes. It’s a very violent book. Not His doing, but God is not a pacifist. Moses, as I said, is standing there at the Red Sea. The Lord parts the Red Sea, and the Israelites pass to the other side on dry land. And then He waits until the Pharaoh’s army is in the middle of the Red Sea, right? Then He crashes the sea back together again and wipes out Ramses’ army. Pacifist? I don’t think so.
It’s perfectly okay to defend yourself or your family; but violence should never be a Christian’s first option. Notice how I said, “defend yourself.” We are a people of peace. That should always be our first, second, third options; however, on occasion, we may have to defend ourselves. Did you see in the news, just about a week or so ago about the church in Texas? A gentleman walks in with a shotgun, pulls it out, shoots and kills two members before one of the church members of the security team pulls his firearm and shoots him dead. Two people dead, three including the shooter. But, two members of the church died. How many would have, if he didn’t have a sword? A sword in the first century, not a sword in the twenty-first century. Sometimes we need to defend ourselves, and that’s perfectly okay.
So, what happens here? Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords! Peter asks the question, but he doesn’t wait for the answer. He’s impatient. He figures he knows best. Jesus isn’t reacting the way he wants Him to. Boy, that sounds a lot like Judas. So, he knows what to do, and Peter acts. He doesn’t ask. We do that all the time. We pray, and pray, but if we don’t get the right answer that we want right away, we figure we know best, and off we go. Sometimes God takes a while before He answers; and sometimes the answer is “No.” We don’t always want to hear that, but God answers every prayer. There are three options: “Yes,” “No,” and “Not now.” And you’re going to get one of those three.
He is supremely patient with us. Sometimes we are called to be patient as well. Peter asks the question, but he doesn’t wait for the answer. He just acts. Sometimes we don’t get the answer we want. Jesus had just prayed, in verse 42. Jesus had just said:
“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me.”
Jesus didn’t want to be beaten. He didn’t want to be whipped. He didn’t want to be nailed to a cross. Who would? He’s in the garden, pleading, “Lord, if there is another way to complete this task, please, let this cup of suffering pass from me.” He gets His answer; it’s not the one He wants. But He says:
“Yet, your will be done, not mine.”
God tells Him there’s no other way. Blood sacrifice was needed to atone for sin, and that blood sacrifice would be the Lamb of God. So, Jesus knew He needed to be arrested. He needed to let God’s plan play out. So, He stopped. No, Peter, this is God’s will. As hard as it is, this is God’s will.
And then He does something else, right? He touches the man’s ear and heals him. Now, the apostle John tells us in his gospel that the man’s name is Malchus. Malchus was a servant. Some translators use “slave,” as it says here, a high priest’s slave; others use “servant.” Malchus was not a soldier. He was not a Temple guard. He was really an observer. More than anything, Malchus was a spy for his boss, Caiaphas, the high priest. His job was to report back to Caiaphas. “How did the arrest go? Who did what? Did Judas earn his reward?” It’s safe to say that Malchus was not a Jesus fan; and there’s a part of me (I don’t know about you), that’s cheering Peter on! “Yeah! Take off his ear! Take off his other ear! Get his nose while you’re at it! Wipe these guys out! They’re coming after us!”
But His will is supposed to be done. Not mine. Jesus knew these people hated Him. He knew they were threatened by Him. He knew they were arresting an innocent man; but He had compassion for Malchus and healed him. That is grace. Malchus did not get what he deserved; Peter was giving him what he deserved! He got what he didn’t deserve – grace.
Why? Why would Jesus do that? Well, I suppose for the same reason, after Roman soldiers flogged Him with a lead-tipped whip, mocked Him, put a crown of thorns on His head, nailed Him to a cross, and then gambled for His clothing, HE prays, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” He receives what he does not deserve – grace. That’s what sinners receive when they believe in Jesus.
You see, sin is uncomfortable sometimes, for people to talk about. It’s described in the Bible as the transgression of God’s law. 1 John 3 says:
Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin
is contrary to the law of God.
1 John 3:4
And we all sin. I know, because I’ve heard it many times – there are too many people who believe, “As long as I do more good things than bad by the end of my life, I’ll be fine!” That’s not how it works! You’ll remember, back when I was doing my evangelism sermons, the good person test. Most people would say, “I’m a good person.” Do you all think you’re a good person? I think I’m a good person, generally. Well, let’s put that to the test! Let’s use God’s Ten Commandments as a rubric here. (Please don’t raise your hands).
Has anyone in this room, within the sound of my voice, ever told a lie (no matter how small it was, no matter how big it was)? Has anyone ever told a lie? Well, what does that make you? A liar. One of the commandments is, “Thou shalt not lie.”
Has anyone ever taken anything that wasn’t theirs (whether it was a penny from your mom’s pocketbook, a pen that was attached to a chain at a bank, or maybe you didn’t give back the extra change that you got from a retail clerk because it was in your favor)? I don’t know, have you ever taken anything that was not yours? That is stealing. “Thou shalt not steal.” If we have done that, what does that make us? Thieves.
Have you ever hit your thumb with a hammer, or closed your hand in a car door, or tripped and fell, and you blurted out something – someone’s name, the initials are J.C., or G.D.? If we take the Lord’s name in vain, that’s called blasphemy. Have you done that? You’re a blasphemer.
Here’s one that gets everybody. Jesus says that if you look at someone with lust, you’ve already committed adultery with them in your heart. Is there any red-blooded American male in this room this morning that did not wait with bated breath for the Sports’ Illustrated Swimsuit Edition (because that’s a sport, right)? Ladies, you’re not exempt. Ask my wife how she would react if I introduced Shemar Moore!
When I was younger, for Christmas I asked for Olivia Newton John. My mom said, “The record?” and I said, “No. Olivia Newton John.” I didn’t want her to come sing with me. If we look at someone with lust – hey, I hate to say it, but there is a huge problem in our culture with pornography. That’s nothing but looking at someone with lust. If you look at someone with lust, you’ve already committed adultery with them in your heart.
So, by our own confession, we are lying, thieving, blaspheming adulterers at heart – and that’s only four. There are six other commandments staring us right in the face.
We all fall short of God’s glory. It doesn’t matter if you’ve broken four, or more, or less. The number is insignificant. The Bible says:
For the person who keeps all of God’s laws except one is as guilty as a person who breaks all of God’s laws.
So, it doesn’t matter how many. One? If you’re going to do one, you might as well do all ten and have some fun! (No, I didn’t say that. I take it back).
It also doesn’t matter which one. I hear this a lot: “Well, at least I haven’t killed anybody!” like that’s the most important one. No, it doesn’t matter whether we used a lead-tipped whip and beat Jesus, or we used His name in vain; there is no such thing as grading on a curve. For any former Roman Catholics here today, there’s no such thing as venial and mortal sins. It’s not true! A sin is a sin is a sin is a sin. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you break God’s laws, if you’ve done something, if you said something, if you thought something that God clearly said not to do, we are sinning.
However, if we confess our sins to God and believe in what Jesus did on the cross, like Malchus, servant of the high priest, we will not get what we deserve either. Because Jesus is all about grace. He is grace personified. Jesus died for us all. He went to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins – all four of those commandments we broke. He paid for Malchus’ sins; for the Roman soldiers’ sins; for Peter’s sins, who denied he even knew Him three times. He paid for yours. He paid for mine. None of us will receive what we deserve. We will all receive what we do not deserve – grace.
Grace justifies us before a holy God. Grace actively and continually works in our lives, because you know what? I’m going to need grace this afternoon, and tomorrow, and Tuesday, and all week. Grace. And let me be clear – I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done. The only thing holding you back from receiving God’s grace is you. Tell God what you did. That’s called confession. He knows, but He wants to hear it from your lips. Confess to the Lord what you have done. Ask Him for forgiveness. I promise you; He will give it to you. It’s what He lived for; and it’s what He died for. So, just ask, and it shall be given you. Seek and you will find that our God is an awesome God, for He is more than willing to give us what we do not deserve – grace. We are reminded of that every month by this table. God sent His Son, that His body would be broken, and His blood shed for the forgiveness of our sin; to offer us grace. Would you pray with me?