Good Friday Meditation: Servants, Sound, and a Sword

Two servants served two high priests, one we know and the other not. Both are prominent, one obstinate. Their work was to serve and serve well. One traveled miles, and the other just outside the city. Late one Thursday night, they ran into each other on a night like this. 


Sounds brought them together. Varying frequencies, decibels, and instructions filled their ears. These servants heard different messages. The day was long. The city expanded like a belt at the end of a buffet. The crowds filled the streets and swelled to six times the average size. But now, in the middle of the night, it contracted while the masses slept. 


The Seder, also known as the Passover meal, consisting of lamb, herbs, wine, reading, and prayer was finished. Each servant attended to the orders of their masters. Both carried out their respective missions. Their objectives diverged. One heard about an evening arrest and went with authorities to procure a villain. He approached a rabble-rousing, blaspheming, devilish fiend for punishment. Meanwhile, the other servant followed his master to a private prayer meeting in a secluded olive grove. One interrupted the other at an ordained moment, and their worlds collided under torchlight and betrayal. 


The high priest, Caiaphas’s servant, Malchus, met the great high priest, Jesus’s servant, Cephas, or Simon Peter—Malchus, meaning king, and Cephas, meaning rock, faced off. Peter would boldly lash out but ashamedly run away and deny knowing the one he protected. While the other was not a king but a temple servant doing his master’s bidding. He did what he was told. 


John the Apostle recorded this: 

So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” (John 18:3–4, ESV)

Both servants heard this question, and Jesus knew what would happen. He predicted it. It was the cup of suffering that he was to drink. “Whom do you seek?” 

“They answered him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth’” (John 18:5, ESV). 

They were looking for a carpenter’s son, a Nazarene from a no-name town. But this man before them was more than a tradesman. 

  • He worked with souls, not saws. 

  • He cast out demons, not crafting chairs. 

  • He cut to the quick with words, not the chisel. 

  • He hammered out evil, not buildings. He was a great physician, Good Shepherd, and light of the world.

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am he’” (John 18:5, ESV). 

Before the world existed, he was. He always existed. He always will exist. There never was a time when he was not. “I am he.” He created all things, and by his word, he held and still holds the universe together: the chairs we sit on, the ground we stand on, and the feet we walk on are held together molecularly by his will. “I am he.” With a word, he stilled storms, banished demons, fed thousands, gave sight to the blind, opened deaf ears, released mute mouths, stopped bleeding, healed paralytics, and even raised the dead. Nothing could hold him back, shut him up, or take him down. If he were arrested, it would be on his terms and in his time. He said to those with the power to incarcerate and harm, “I am he.” 


The sun rose and still rises because of him. The moon shone and shines because of him. The stars sparkled, and even now, they sparkle because of him. He sustains all life and ordains the future. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. “I am he,” he said.

“Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:5–6, ESV). 

The words of Jesus struck trepidation in the hearts of his captors. Who is “He” who acknowledged himself so clearly and fearlessly in the dark? He does not cower at them dragging him away to prison. He will not shrink back, turn back, or step back. “I am he.” They had lost their guts and had no courage. They dropped to the dirt. 

“So he asked them again, ‘Whom do you seek?’” (John 18:7, ESV). 

The sounds of his words reverberated through the atmosphere, filling their heads. The temple guards mustered courage and gathered strength. They remembered their task and made their mission known to him. 

“And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth’”(John 18:7, ESV).  

They were looking for Jesus of Nazareth—not Jesus the Son of David, Son of Man, Son of God, not the Savior, Ransom, Lord, Master, Teacher, Prophet, Priest, or King, but Jesus of Nazareth. Someone once said, “Nothing good comes from Nazareth.” But whoever said that was dead wrong.  

“Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he’” (John 18:8, ESV). 

“I AM,” a name not pronounced in the Jewish Bible nor spelled in Hebrew with vowels for fear of taking God’s name in vain. They call it the tetragrammaton. It is the form of the name of God and a sin to pronounce. Jesus revealed himself as the same. He is the great I AM. He was making this association with God the Father that the religious viewed as blasphemy. Yet, he and the Father were and are one. They are of the same substance while different persons. How? Mystery. Though incidental at the moment, it was incendiary and offensive to his captors. Jesus continued,  

“So, if you seek me, let these men go” (John 18:8, ESV).  

Beyond letting them know they were talking to their future prisoner, he asked for his friend’s safety. 


Why? Why did Jesus care about his followers as he looked at his impending execution? Why did he want his disciples to have safe passage out of the Garden that night? John tells us: 

“This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: ‘Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one’” (John 18:9, ESV).

In a few hours, Jesus would save lives, souls, and the church. He knew his followers would build a future community of faith that we enjoy here thousands of miles away thousands of years later. However, his little band of brothers needed to survive that night and took the opportunity before them. They scattered and ran. But not everyone. Judas stayed behind because he was the one to betray his friend for a few bucks with a warm Middle Eastern greeting. He was the one who handed Jesus over to his killers. Seeing this, Peter’s temper got the best of him. John went on to write: 

“Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus)” (John 18:10, ESV).  

One servant collided with another. A short sword, likely one of defense, pulled from the side of this impetuous fisherman raised it and struck.  


The metal, forged from some unidentified mine and meant to cut, did its job. Was it used in fishing or agriculture? Was it for protection? Was it meant as a threat? Was it a sign of machismo? We don’t know its purpose besides what it did that night. But we know Peter used it to separate Malchus’s right ear from his head. Peter, not a fighter or killer, missed a death blow, jeopardizing his and his friend’s role in history.  

“So Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?’” (John 18:11, ESV). 

Jesus healed Malchus’s ear, and the healed arrested Jesus. He must drink the cup of suffering that his Father would give. It was part of the master plan. And Peter fled. Later, he snuck back before a fire and trial and denied ever knowing Jesus. Jesus would die a gruesome death that Good Friday, and we reflect on the harder side of this. Jesus had to die to forgive our sins. That was God’s plan before time began. 

“This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: ‘Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one’” (John 18:9, ESV).

Peter would not be lost. He would repent and find forgiveness. God loves him. As we consider the darkness of death and hope beyond the grave, Jesus lost none of his. Good Friday allows us to ponder the cost of salvation. He didn’t lose us children of God either. We can be weak, prideful, selfish, and shocked full of sin. But the good in Good Friday comes to us like an out-of-control freight train barreling love right at us through the price of God’s one and only Son. God’s love is a warm fire on a cold day, a hug from a family member, a smile on hard night. He wants us to be honest with him, repent our sins, and rely on him and follow him. Let us continue to pause to think of the reason for Jesus’s death and the cost of our forgiveness. We will continue to sing. But as we do, consider each word. Mull over the events from 2000 years ago. Let us reflect.

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