One of those who were standing by drew his sword, and struck at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear.
Sweet Honey prays
must I do to others
before they do to me
in this reversal
any following news
loses its goodness
no choice but to remain
one step behind
even threatening hell
cannot get ahead
of a reptile brain
cutting off ears
doesn’t assist in hearing
a different drum
The Greek suggests the sword-drawer is known—literally, “a certain one”. In Mark’s time of writing it may be too early to reveal who this is. When John’s story is finally written we learn it was Simon Peter (in all the glory of both his names and parallel with his denial that a Messiah would suffer and die), again coming to an impetuous, authoritative, and incorrect conclusion that a violent resistance to repression was the only way to go.
Jesus has on multiple occasions used imagery from Isaiah regarding those who cannot or will not hear a wider option for human relationships. To cut off the ear of “one who cannot hear” (one enslaved to sustaining the current power imbalance) is a less-than-useless action.
Mark records no response from Jesus to either Judas’ betraying kiss or to this side action of swordplay. In contrast, Matthew has Jesus teaching, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword” and Luke has Jesus saying, “No more violence,” and healing the identified “right” ear. John not only has Simon Peter being the sword-wielder but hurries Jesus to announce what Mark won’t get to for another two verses—the “fulfillment of scripture”.
Readers with an acquaintance of all four gospel stories can note how this scene plays differently in each author’s retelling and reveals a portion of the context in which they write. This is also encouragement for Readers to reflect on what this response might mean for their time and place.
Imagine the confusion here in dark. Wright200 concludes:
The church is called to live in the middle of this great scene: surrounded by confusion, false loyalty, direct attack and traitor’s kisses, those who name the name of Christ must stay in the garden with him….