I am Malchus, servant of the High Priest Caiaphas. When a job needs to be done, quickly and quietly, Caiaphas taps me.
I became a servant because I owed money I could not pay back. I was put into a debtor's prison and then sold. I knew the only hope I had for freedom was to do the jobs I was assigned and to do them well. I passed from master to master, always selling for a higher price. One day, my master told me I was going to a new master, someone close to the very top. I was brought to Jerusalem and entered the service of Caiaphas.
Caiaphas' family were the elite. His father-in-law, Annas, was the real power. He was more politician than priest, always jockeying for position, always jealous for more power. I was supposed to serve and not hear, but I could not help but overhear the news that would flow through the household.
Before long, because of my size, I became the enforcer for the family. When they needed someone to shut up, I was sent to "persuade" the talker. Occasionally, something more than words was needed. After I broke a few bones, people got in line.
A recurring topic of conversation for the past few years was Jesus of Nazareth. According to my master, he was another hot-head who thought he was the Messiah. But I heard other stories when I was out in town. People said he healed the sick and drove out demons. He came to Jerusalem a few times, and I was sent by my master to blend in with the crowd and find out more. I only saw the man teaching, nothing more. It was teaching like I had never heard. He claimed to be the "light of the world" and the "bread of life." I did not understand his meaning, but even I had to admit there was something about his teaching that drew me, that made me want to know more.
Though a Jew, I was not a religious man. Working in my master's house convinced me that religion was just a scheme to manipulate people. Something about Jesus, however, told me he was not interested in religious power. He spoke of God as "Father." Whatever he was, I knew he was not a hot-head radical.
It was the start of Passover week when Jesus came to Jerusalem the last time. Crowds gathered and sang songs hailing him as the Messiah. I reported all this to my master. With every report, I could sense he was more rattled, unnerved almost.
On Wednesday before the feast, I saw my master talking with a man I recognized as a disciple of Jesus. I saw my master hand over a bag of money. I did not inquire about the transaction; I would find out soon enough if it concerned me.
Late Thursday night, my master called to me. When I came to him, the disciple of Jesus was with him again. My master said, "Malchus, go with this man, Judas. Take some men with you; there may be trouble. Judas will show you where Jesus is. Seize him, and bring him to my father-in-law's house." I gathered a force of men: a few temple guards, a couple of other servants and a few acquaintances who always seemed to be lurking near the High Priest's home, including my cousin.
Judas led us to the garden called Gethsemane. The full moon shone on his face. Streaks of red marked his face as if he had been bleeding. His disciples were gathered around and looked like they had just awakened. Judas told us he would kiss Jesus as a servant would kiss a master. I knew it would be a kiss of betrayal.
Judas did kiss him, and we stepped forward. From nowhere came a flash of metal, and I felt pain as I had never felt before. I put my hand to my head and realized in shock my right ear was missing. Then I looked down and saw it: my ear, in the dirt.
One of his disciples, a man I had seen before, was holding a sword. The men with me surged forward, but Jesus stopped them. He seemed to radiate power. "Put away your sword," he commanded Peter. "Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"
I fell to my knees, in agony, screaming from the pain. Then Jesus leaned down, picked up my severed ear, and he put it back in its place. When the ear touched my bloodied head, there was a power I had never felt before. It was warmth and light. The pain stopped. Jesus looked me in the eye, he smiled, then he helped me to my feet.
I reached up with my right hand, just to make sure. Had I imagined it? Was my ear really torn off? I felt the pain. I saw my ear on the ground. It was real, I'm sure of it. But now my ear was back on my head.
The other men took hold of Jesus and led him off to Annas' house. I trailed behind, bewildered. When I got back to Caiaphas' house, I saw them bring Jesus in. Others were gathered. I decided to stay in the courtyard in case there was trouble. There was. Around the fire, heated conversation arose. Then I heard clearly my cousin's voice, "Didn't I see you in the olive grove? You are one of his disciples." Another voice spat out an oath, "I tell you, I don't know the man." A rooster crowed in the distance.
There were many comings and goings last night. Now it is Friday, and I hear Pilate, persuaded by my master and his allies, ordered Jesus to be crucified. He is hanging on the cross, just outside the city walls. I do not know what to make of this. He seemed more irritant than rebel, more teacher than general.
But I cannot deny that I saw my ear severed and now it is back on my head. Now I hear perfectly. Whoever this man is, he has a power greater than any power I have seen. I cannot help but wonder: If a man can heal an ear, is there anything too hard for him to do?
Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.
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