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The Apostle John detailed the incident during the trial of Jesus as follows: And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so? (John 18.22) During the June 2001 election the punch was big news for a few days. This assault on Jesus would be of no interest to the crowd. They wanted his blood. They wanted him crucified. There are two prior assaults to which we can make reference, which shed light upon this incident so that we can relate them to the case of Jesus. They are the cases of Shimei and Malchus.
The case of Shimei is reported as follows in 2 Samuel: And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came. And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial: The LORD hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the LORD hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man. (2 Samuel 16.5-8) This was no egg throwing prank but an intensely malicious attack upon David and his office as the Lord's anointed. Shimei was casting stones at David and his servants. One of David's soldiers had a proposal for solving the matter at a stroke. Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah unto the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head. (2 Samuel 16.9) This proposal in no way commended itself to David as his reply revealed. And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so? And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him. It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day. And as David and his men went by the way, Shimei went along on the hill's side over against him, and cursed as he went, and threw stones at him, and cast dust. (2 Samuel 16.10-13) This non-retaliation on the part of David had to do with his realization of his own sin in the case of Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite. David recognized his sin was the greater transgression and he needed to reflect upon that and to commit the situation into the hand of God.
The case of Malchus arose as a result of the chief priests sending its illegal posse intent upon the unlawful arrest of Jesus. The Saviour had done nothing wrong. His whole life was perfect. His enemies' malicious attack resulted in an impetuous reaction on the part of Peter in defence of His Lord. Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. (John 18.10) The Master did not in any way approve of this action. Peter's response was hazardous, unnecessary and inappropriate. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? (Matthew 26.52-54) What Peter had done detracted from the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. Luke records the instant kindness of the Saviour. He touched Malchus' ear, and healed him. (Luke 22.51) Jesus had not come to destroy but to save. He did not expect to be delivered. He was not intending to escape from his enemies and the cross. He had come to die because sinners need a substitute. They needed one to die in their place and to rescue them from the awful consequences of sin. The mission of Christ was to atone for sin, to cover sin and to secure the forgiveness of sins.
With these two cases as the background we can better understand the Saviour's response to the assault upon him. The facts are as follows. Jesus had spoken the truth. The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine. Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said. (John 18.19-20) This was perfectly good evidence under all the circumstances. There were plenty who could witness to what Jesus' teaching had been. The result of speaking thus was that Jesus was subjected to this terrible abuse. And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so? (John 18.22) Jesus' response showed that he had the inner resources for non-retaliation, even in his own self-defence. He could have said, 'depart from me ye cursed' and by a word sent this sinner, and the priests along with him, rocketing into Hell; but he did not. It would have been just but Christ showed wonderful forbearance in addressing the conscience of the man. Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me? (John 18.23) We are the ones who are evil not Christ. He does not need us but we need him. He has the resources for holiness and life and these two things are inseparable. The key issues before the nation are truth, holiness, justice, forgiveness. The pound verses the euro debate is important but what difference will it make to you in 2070? The blood of Jesus Christ is currency not only for time but for eternity. It cleanses from all sin. True faith in him brings new life and salvation forever. Hence his exhortation to the complacent affluent:
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. (Revelation 3.18)