The Garden of Gethsemane
After the apostles all pledged their allegiance to Jesus, they walked to a place where Jesus instructed them to sit while He took Peter, James, and John a bit further. The lord was “exceeding sorrowful, even unto death,” and told the three to wait there and watch on His behalf.1 He went further on and prayed, but instead of watching, Peter and the two brothers fell asleep.
When Jesus returned to find His three closest followers sleeping, His words were directed at Peter, whom the Lord apparently expected to show some leadership: “Simon, you’re sleeping? You couldn’t watch for even an hour?”2 By this point, the other two apostles apparently had awakened, because Jesus said, “You all watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.”3 But after the Lord went away to pray again, Peter’s weakness took over and he again went to sleep with the other disciples.
Jesus didn’t wake them the second time He returned, but when He came back the third time, He sarcastically said, “You sleep now, take your rest. Enough! The hour is come! Look, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up; let’s go! Look, he that betrays me is at hand.”4 Then Peter and the rest of the apostles stood and took their place by Jesus’ side as Judas and a band of Roman soldiers, as well as many Jewish officials came to arrest Jesus.5
Peter watched as Judas came forward and gave Jesus a kiss, and then saw the armed men make their move to grab Jesus. It’s at this point that Peter, standing beside Jesus, unsheathes his sword, and with amazing accuracy (or perhaps just lucky dodging on the part of his target) slices the right ear off of a man named Malchus, a servant of the high priest.6 While Jesus probably appreciated the show of loyalty, He told Peter to “Put up your sword,”7 and “Allow this to take place.”8 Then Jesus touched Malchus’ ear and healed him, effectively counteracting Peter’s actions.9 It was soon after this, all the disciples realizing that Jesus wasn’t going to fight—nor let them—that they all ran away and left Him alone with His captors.10
-Bradley S. Cobb
1 Matthew 26:38. Jesus told these three men to “watch,” but He didn’t mean “watch me while I pray.” He meant to watch for anything that might happen (specifically the arrival of Judas and the soldiers he would bring with him).
2 Mark 14:37. It is worthy of note that Jesus calls him “Simon” once again, which appears to indicate disappointment in him; or at the very least, showing that Peter was not living up to his divinely-given name of “Rock.” The fact that all three were sleeping, but that only Peter was chastised, shows that Jesus expected more of him than the others.
3 Mark 14:37-38. Verse 37 has singular pronouns, showing that Peter was being chastised; while verse 38 has plural pronouns, showing Jesus speaking to the three disciples.
4 Mark 14:41-42. The NET Bible says, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough of that! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us go. Look! My betrayer is approaching!”
5 The word “band” in John 18:3 refers to a cohort, a collection of 600 Roman soldiers, though it is occasionally used to refer to as many as a thousand, or as few as 200 (see NET Bible notes, Barclay’s Daily Study Bible notes on the passage). Matthew and Mark call this group it a “great multitude” of armed men (Matthew 26:47; Mark 14:43), which may have included some of the Jewish temple guard.
6 Matthew and Mark tell us that the attacked man was a servant of the high priest. Mark is the one who informs us that the disciple with the sword was standing by Jesus. Luke tells us that it was the right ear that was cut off. John is the one that gives us the identity of both the attacker and the attacked: Peter and Malchus. John 18:10.
7 John 18:11.
8 Luke 22:51. The word “suffer” (KJV) means “allow.” Jesus spoke this to the disciples—primarily Peter—telling them to let it happen. After all, Jesus had told them several times previous that He was going to be betrayed, taken, and killed. If the apostles fought, they were fighting against God’s plan.
9 Luke 22:51.
10 Matthew 26:56.