This is the final piece of this “Winning Malchus” essay. We’ve hiked the peaks and valleys of our Christian methods of helping people find Jesus. Though there is no right method, there is a right manner, a good heart.
We pick up the story after Peter lopped off the ear of a guy named Malchus in the Garden of Prayer. No way to win a person to Jesus really. Mercifully, on his way to jail, Jesus corrected his misguided act of violence. Nevertheless…
All was not lost. Later that very night Jesus the Merciful gave Peter the Impulsive an opportunity to redeem himself when one of Malchus’ relatives approached Peter in the high priest’s courtyard and asked, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” In other words, “Aren’t you that guy that attacked Uncle Malchus and chopped his ear off? What the *%#@ is wrong with you? If that’s how you Christ followers roll I want nothing to do with you guys! From now on stay away from me and my family!” Not exactly the response we look for in our evangelistic efforts.
This was Peter’s second chance to win Malchus – this time through his nephew. How cool it would’ve been, instead of denying that he had even been there, had he responded with something like: “Yeah, I was there. I totally screwed up and I regret it. I’m the one who should be going to prison and a cross instead of Jesus. Did you see what he did for your uncle? Give him a chance and you’ll find out he’s amazing!”
Oh, well. Second chance wasted and the rooster crowed! The divine appointment with Malchus’ nephew passed him by. Been there.
But thanks be to the God of many chances! Over time the Spirit transformed Peter from rash swordsman to wise ambassador. Through trial and a bunch of error he learned humility, the kind that is required for sword-carrying friendship-making ambassadors.
By his breakfast meeting with Jesus on the beach Peter was still as hangdog as a man can be. With his heart aerated by failure he was fresh out of bluster. Remember the conversation?
Do you love (agape) me? asked Jesus.
I like you (phileo) a lot.
Shepherd my sheep.
Sure. Wait! What?
The people I love are my sheep and I need you to look after them for me while I’m gone. So, do you really love me?
I thought I did but since I’ve been such an idiot and denied you, now I can only say that I like you.
Good enough for now, give tender care to my little lambs. (WFT – Wiget’s Free Translation)
They go on like that for a bit and then Jesus busted out with how Peter could transform his humiliation into humility. Problem is, it would entail a dying. It always seems to come to that. A cross is the essential experience to crossing over from humiliation to humility, the kind of cross that we are required to carry around with us for ready access for daily dying. More from Jesus’ sermon on the shore – again in WFT:
When you first started following me I let you get away with a lot of self-reliance and impetuosity, but if you want to graduate from spiritual kindergarten you’ll have to learn to unclench your fists and stretch out your arms, continually ready for crucifixion. You will no longer get to go where you want, do what you want, say what you want, or even be what you want. You will have nail your independence to the cross. And this, believe it or not, will glorify God!
Humility, the prerequisite for radiating God’s love, requires dying, which is why so few pursue it. “Stretched out arms” for crucifixion are in the ready position for loving invitation to friendship with God and with us. The cross is the best of all pulpits!
This same apostle – yet not the same – could, in good conscience, exhort:
Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. 1 Peter 3:15 (The Message)
We do our best witnessing when we do it with “the utmost courtesy,” which is pretty hard to do while swinging a sword!