Malchus. He was the slave of the high priest. Simon Peter cut off his ear in a rash moment of frenzied reaction when the priests and guards came with Judas to arrest Jesus. Simon Peter went a little off the deep end, drew his sword, and cut off Malchus’s ear.
As I read the Passion narrative in John, I can’t seem to get beyond this incident. Jesus knew what was to happen to him. He had been trying to prepare his disciples for it for quite some time. But Malchus, he was just brought along to attend to his master, and next thing you know, some crazed disciple of this so-called rebel zealot rabbi was cutting off his ear. I can’t help but wonder what ever happened to Malchus. Possibly more than any other character in the narrative, his life drastically changed by this happenstance occasion, this unforseen run-in with the renegade Jesus-followers. The story tells us that Jesus told Simon Peter to sheath his sword. But we don’t know what happened after that to Malchus. Did he recover? Did he bleed to death? Did he want to learn more about this Jesus who stayed his disciple from inflicting more pain? Or did he rage for the remainder of his days about the insane heretic who cut off his ear? Matthew, Luke and John tell the story of the slave. Only John gives him a name. Only Luke tells us that Jesus healed this slave of the high priest.
I’m not sure why I am so taken with Malchus’s story. Maybe it is because Malchus seems to represent the very kind of people Jesus had just instructed his disciples to serve, those enslaved by the established political, religious, and social hierarchies. Those with little power. Maybe it is because Malchus has no choice but to be there.
We hear sermons on the role of Pilate, the treachery of Judas, the pompous misguidedness of the high priest, Caiaphus, the generosity and bravery of Joseph of Arimathea. But we never hear sermons of the plight of Malchus.
I wonder if Malchus would have called that Friday “good.”
Christianity is a beautiful religion. But sometimes in its zealousness to defend its beliefs, its traditions, and sometimes its fears, Christianity has left casualties in its wake. Today, I pray for all those, like Malchus, injured by people of faith or hurt by the institutional Church. I pray for those good Christian people who have,possibly, made some uniformed, thoughtless, self-centered, fear-driven decisions and who have acted rashly. I pray for myself. For the times I have been like Simon Peter, lashing out with my own metaphorical sword in the dark of night. I pray for the patience and the peace to stay my own instinctual reaction to those who appear to threaten me or who appear to threaten my own deep-seated beliefs. I pray for forgiveness and I pray for healing.