7 Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” 10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. 11 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:7-11, New International Version).
I was not always a slave. I grew up as free as anyone. I was born in Antioch and lived there through my early life. I was obedient to my parents all of my growing up years. They were proud of me. I remember one day hearing my father bragging about me to his friends. I heard him say that one day I would be a good husband and that I would have much to bring into a marriage arrangement.
My father was a large man with large muscular arms. He was a blacksmith. He made things, many very important things where he had his tools, hammers, an anvil, heavy duty tongs, an furnace to heat the iron before he started working on it. Occasionally he would talk about how he wanted me to be a blacksmith too. My mother would say, “Don’t forget, Malchus is smaller in stature like my family. He would have a difficult time working as a blacksmith like you.
As I came in one afternoon my father and my mother were speaking in quiet tones. When I walked in I assumed my parents were discussing what line of work I would be expected to learn. That discussion seemed to happen almost every day. My father, as I said, a blacksmith, believed I needed to come and visit his shop and start an apprenticeship. I would learn to be a blacksmith from him. That was what was expected. It was also not what I wanted to do. I had thought he was going to demand I come and learn my life’s work.
I had known men who had apprenticed under my father. All of them had the same story to tell, Dad was a blacksmith second to none. He was a teacher that was second to last, if not last. Dad was a horrible teacher.
I wasn’t wrong but that wasn’t the first thing he brought up. “Malchus,” my father said, “I have made an agreement with Phillip the stone mason. You will marry his daughter Mara. She, like you, is an only child. She will inherit all her father’s property. Well, it really means, when her father dies, you her husband will inherit all his property. When I am gone you will inherit all my property. Mara is a pretty girl and well connected. This will be good for you and the arrangements are made. Because you will inherit both properties, you can apprentice under either of us.” And there it was. I was to get married and settle into my new job and make my parents and Mara’s parents, grandparents.
This news did not please me. First of all, I didn’t want to get married to Mara or anyone else. I didn’t want to be a stone mason or a blacksmith. I wanted to be a soldier and in watching and listening to the soldiers I encountered, it is not easy to be a solider when one has a wife and children at home. Of course I had told my father my desire to be in the army. He just kept saying, “If and when they need you, they will come and get you.
I did not want to wait to be drafted to enter the army. And the closer my wedding date came, the more I was uncomfortable with the who idea. And, it wasn’t just for me. I had to be a soldier and Mara deserved a husband who would be at home.
The wedding was coming soon. After a blow-out argument with my father where he refused to even listen to me, I came to a decision. I went home and packed my things. I was far from the city by the time my father came home that evening. My only regret I had in leaving was that I was unable to see Mara and tell her this was not about her.
After a few days of wandering, I found the King’s army and became a soldier. I worked hard and listened well. I was told that if I continued to work hard and followed the instructions I would soon be a leader of men.
It did not take long for my father to figure out where I had gone and what I had done. He was not a stupid man. He was a stubborn man. He came and told me he was taking me back home. When word of my father’s demands of me reached the general, he sent for me and told me if I were to abandon the army now, I would likely die because of it. When I heard the iron in his voice and the steel look in his eyes, I knew he was not joking.
I told the general I wasn’t going anywhere he did not order me to go. He told my father that he didn’t want to send Dad to prison but if he didn’t leave, he would do exactly that.
I it wasn’t the last time I would hear from my father but I knew I had a break for a while. My father did leave. When we returned from fighting, when winter was about to set in, I would see him again. Sure enough, when we returned, there he was. It continued as the seasons changed. He was not giving up. Though Mara had indeed married, my father was still insisting I take over the family business. He died disappointed a few years later.
In the spring the army headed back to the field again. We encountered the Roman army and a skirmish ensued. I had just gotten an advancement. I was commanding 25 foot soldiers. The Roman army seriously outnumbered my small unit. At the end of the battle there were six men including me who were the only survivors and the Romans carried us off to be slaves.
After two days of forced march we entered Jerusalem. I am still not sure exactly what happened but the next thing I new, Caiaphas, the high priest became my master. I was a slave. I am not sure what I have done that put me in such a great place. I was slave to the high priest. For whatever the reason I knew I had a special spot.
Caiaphas discovered I had great hearing. I was always listening. I had also become a student of people. I knew when someone had something for everyone in their back pocket. Caiaphas had become a wealthy man. People offered him a lot of money for me to come with you.
Caiaphas had gotten word that the Roman army unit was to our front. We were going out to have a quick skirmish with the Romans. The intent was, we will beat them and take out some of the most brilliant strategy I have ever seen. They did it. They won the battle. The war was going to be a different manner.
Once I was given to Caiaphas, he gave me authority over his other slaves. We would let the wander and when we would find one, we exploded it. Fire crackers didn’t really help much. She was unable to do as she hoped. At the end of the day I was still in the employment without talking to him first.
Caiaphas remained happy with my work. I would investigate, watch, and listen. Then I would go and report back to Caiaphas. He was always happy with my reports. I would hear him say, “Out in the city Malchus, you are my ears.” I would go out and watch and listen and then report back to Caiaphas.
He had me watching Jesus for days. I would keep my distance but I was there when he rode into Jerusalem on the donkey. Just so I would blend in with the crowd, I too was waiving palm branches. I took off my cloak and placed it in the road. I wasn’t crazy about a donkey walking on my cloak but I also didn’t need to get caught.
The crowd was going crazy over him. People had come from all over town. Some came from out of town and all of them wanted to get close to him. They wanted to reach out and touch him. They were shouting “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” They were shouting about him being the Messiah. I didn’t get it. I heard someone say that he was the son of a carpenter. Now people were calling him a prophet and Messiah.
I ran back and told Caiaphas. He wasn’t happy about any of what I saw. He didn’t take it out on me but I wasn’t about to do anything to make him want to punish me. I might die as mad as he was. “Go back out and watch him again tomorrow and tell me what you see.”
I was out the next day. So was Jesus. I saw him overturning tables and chairs and chasing merchants from the Temple grounds, yelling something about how they were a den of thieves.
There was one disciple who seemed different from the rest. I found out his name was Judas. We just talked but on Wednesday he followed me back to the temple without me knowing it. I later saw him in a room with the door opened. Caiaphas and the other priests were talking about Judas and then giving him money. Then he was gone.
The next night Caiaphas told me to go with his temple guards out to the Garden of Gethsemane. I would get as close as I could. I could hear nothing. We made our way through the garden and from a distance I could see Jesus praying and his disciples sleeping.
Then things started to happen. Jesus got up and woke up the others. Before I knew it, the soldiers surrounded Jesus and I was forced into the middle of the pack. Everyone who was there knew I was to meet with Jesus but they never said that they knew what was going to happen to him.
Suddenly Judas appeared and walks up to Jesus and kisses his cheek. Then the soldiers close in. Peter and the rest close in tighter around Jesus.
Suddenly, before I even knew what was going on. The glint of light on steel reflection caught my eye. I turned my head to look and I turned it just in time to miss. I would have been dead. The sword didn’t miss me entirely. When I turned my head, the sword just missed . Instead, Jesus’ disciple, the one they call Peter cut off my ear.
I didn’t feel pain for the first few minutes after seeing the sword flying in my peripheral vision. No pain meant, I had no idea Peter had cut off my ear but after several seconds I started feeling blood running down the side of my head to my neck. When I reached up and touched the side of my head, I ran my hand over where my ear had been only seconds before, as I felt I knew my ear was gone.
I was suddenly in the worst pain I have ever experienced. Jesus bent down, picked up my ear and taking my head in both hands he held the ear in place with one hand and kept my head from moving with the other. Just as quickly as it came, the pain was gone. Jesus removed his hands.
I saw them take Jesus to see Pilate and then Herod and then Pilate again. I sat in stunned silence, watching as they made their way back to Ciaphas and the High Council. I saw them crucify Jesus. As I watched I truly believed Jesus was murdered by the High Council.
I wrote down my memories of the events. I feel certain that there is more others remember that I do not. This is how I remember it. I feel certain my memories are from the understandings of a disciple years later. But after I saw my ear cut off and reattached in a matter of ten minutes, how could it not be?
When Caiaphas died I was given freedom. And now? Now I observe people in action. I tell them what I see and how Jesus made a difference in me. I know he can make a difference for them too.
Seeking the Genuine,
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved