i am malchus

Posted: April 11, 2018

from an email i sent to some people at church:

Last night, like every night, Rehema and Selah asked for a bedtime story. Usually it's a story of rescue or victory from the life of King David or one of the Patriachs. Maybe a retelling of one of Jesus' parables or an account of one of his miraculous signs. But since yesterday was Maundy Thursday I retold a story they already knew (despite knowing that they would would constantly interrupt and finish my sentences... anyway): Jesus sharing his final meal with his disciples before his betrayal and arrest. You know the one: the upper room, the announcement of a betrayer, the sleepy disciples on Gethsemane while Jesus prayed, the kiss, the soldiers.

Usually when I tell these stories I try to think like a toddler and anticipate their questions. But sometimes my preemptive thinking leads me down certain rabbit holes that I try not to make too big a deal about in the story so they won't ask me.

Anyway when I was telling the story of the soldiers coming to arrest Jesus, I couldn't leave out the random tidbit about Peter cutting off the right ear of the high priest's servant (John identifies him as Malchus). But as soon as the words left my mouth, I started wondering... what's his story? Malchus came with the soldiers to arrest Jesus, loses an ear to Peter and then this Jesus who they're capturing heals him right there. What does he make of this encounter with Jesus? What does he think about when he goes home that evening? Maybe he converts? Maybe he doesn't. The bible doesn't give us too much detail but every Gospel account mentions him.

Anyway, if you're up for it, would you consider telling the story of Malchus? No more than 500 words. This is not a research essay, just an imaginative exercise.

I don’t understand.

This was supposed to be the night — the night where our fears will be put to rest and peace restored among us. Which of us can deny the chaos we’ve seen at the temple and in the marketplace? But my heart is unsettled like an upset stomach.

We've been dealing with this trouble maker for a while. Usually these guys disappear into the wilderness with a handful of followers; no one hears of them again. They don’t bother us; we don’t bother them. Rome let’s us be, and everything is fine. This one is different.

I thought my lord, the high priest Caiaphas, and the other leaders ran him and his followers out of town a few weeks ago. But he’s back! And people say he’s even bolder than before! Some say a dead man now walks in Bethany. Lies! Or so I thought. I don’t know what to believe anymore.

My lord says he’s a danger to the people — our people. He’s turning the eyes of Rome against us. The crowds are too big. They chant sedition! Why should all our people suffer because of this foolish fringe group?

It was good we were able to buy off one of his followers. Surely those that don’t follow Torah — who break Sabbath — will perish. Our God led him to us; he delivered our enemies into our hands! When our man arrived under the cover of night, we set out at once for fear the crowds would prevent us from God’s work in the morning. They are like sheep who do not understand the burdens laid upon the shepherds like my lord. My lord says the man will start an uprising. He’s leading a rebellion! But that’s not what I felt earlier in the garden.

When we got to the garden, we believed God was going before us: his watchmen were sleeping! There was still sleep in their eyes when we captured the man and I had hoped the evening would end quietly. But maybe it was their drowsiness that made those peasants so erratic.

The loud one cried out and his voice was louder than the shofar! I thought ha! now his followers show their master’s true teaching! I wasn’t prepared when he went for my head. I’m still alive, but I had lost an ear. I saw it on the floor! And a stream flowed down my cheek and dripped from my chin. I thought myself dead — I should have been! How could a mutilated man serve the high priest? But then the man spoke I started to wonder about those stories the people say, that he could calm raging storms with a word. I began to wonder if this was the only way I would ever meet this man and look into his eyes — or rather have him look into mine.

I had come to arrest this man, but he welcomed me and healed more than my ear.

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