On Malchus’ ear…
Not sure how it went down, but here it is, as promised…
It was a peaceful night, or should have been. Each step along the kidron valley took them further from the slumbering city & its few noises. In the distance a dog barked, an ass huffed and clattered in its paddock. Somewhere on a street corner a drunk with floppy speech and slurred feet was snarled at by a Roman sentry, and slunk home hugging the walls and shadows.
In the olive grove the leaves took on a blueish hue from the moonlight and hissed in a warm breeze blowing in towards the city. Their shadows in the moonlight threw freckles on the faces of Jesus and his friends – as if camouflaged against some unseen hunter. Soon the hunter was seen though
Squeezing in through the crumbling gap in the old stone wall they poured like a tide of crimson and steel. One, two, ten, a hundred…twice that invading this peaceful place.
Swords bumped quietly on the thighs of those who bore them, feet tramped, and soft orders were passed down the line – like stealthy hunters. Flaming torches and swinging lanterns banished the soft blue moonlight, like crashers at a party. Old trunks which had looked sculpted and liquid in the moonlight now seemed twisted into a grimace in this harsh and flaming light. The religious ones were there too – holy men more used to the temple than the real world. They seemed dwarfed by this display of military might all about. There was a glow to their faces though – like naughty boarding school boys let out after hours. There was a frisson of excitement to be out here, on the hunt, after all.
To know the vermin was caught was one thing, but to SEE it, to SEE the look on his face – that would be something else again. They did not need to wait
Stepping out from the shadows, striding into the ring of torchlight like a ringmaster owning the stage,Jesus faced down the huntsmen and asked what they wanted. “Jesus of Nazareth” they answered – a title as belittling as it was dishonest. He was no more from Nazareth than these soldiers were from Palestine. His roots grew from a different place, his heart beat to a different tune. In a voice which seemed older than the rocks beneath their feet, whose sound seemed to reach out and brush the stars spangled on the night sky so high above he said simply “I AM HE”.
At the sound of those ancient syllables “I AM”, the company sank to their knees – as if floored by an unseen shockwave. To the priest and his men it was a sound as ancient as the temple they served and the God for whom it was built. To the Captain and his guards it was just more voodoo nonsense from this troublesome territory. Again he stepped forward and challenged his quivering hunters. Was it him they wanted? If so, he insisted, then his followers should leave as safely as they had come.
At that moment one of his more burly followers separated himself from the crowd. His hands were hard and calloused, their surface worn by handling fishing nets for year after year. His face bore the hard baked sheen of many hours under the sun. A sword hung awkwardly at his waist, looking like it really belonged to someone else. Unpractised, he swung it wildly at the hunters and caught one of their party on the ear
It stung. Oh how it stung. When I clutched my hand to my face it was slick with blood straight away. ‘Why not one of the soldiers’, I wailed inside? ‘Why not one of these fighting men with their swords and breastplates’? ‘Why not one of the priests with their glow of other-worldly pride to protect them?’ ‘Why me’, was my last thought as I sunk onto the cool rocky ground. People told me afterwards that Jesus stepped into the torchlit circle one more time before they bound him and took him. He rebuked his burly man for hurting me so, somehow fixed my ear to my head, and then disappeared into the night with the hunters like their trophy – bound and chained like a prize stag for the banquet.
The thing is, I hear better since then. I hear better, and I see better than I ever did. Since that night I can hear the sound of God’s voice when others hear only noise. When some think he only whispers in the sky’s beauty or the bird’s flight – to me he shouts. When some claim they hear him in the priest’s droning words, I wait until it’s over to hear him in the quiet place.
I see differently too. That night I saw the brightest of torches and the angriest of flames eclipsed by the artless brilliance of God’s son. That night I saw might and power reduced to sheepish compliance. That night I saw the pomp of authority and the aggression of armour floored, quite literally, by two words from Jesus. And I saw weapons blunted by the sharpness of words. Even as my eyes dim with the passage of time, I see clearer with each passing day.
And what of touch and taste and smell, you may ask? Whenever I run my fingers around the edge of my ear I can feel the scar where it was reattached – it’s not a perfect join. And I am grateful for every bump and pucker in the skin I can tell you. Every time I run my fingers over them it reminds me that wholeness can be found where things are broken. Every time I feel this ugly, uneven line it reminds me that a new life is marked but not defined by the old one
And taste? Well, the taste of power doesn’t matter any more – I can tell you that. Once it made my heart swell with pride to be seen with the most powerful men in the city. Now it matters little. Since the touch of Christ the simplest things taste the best, and I know the finest things will be a taste acquired in heaven. I’ve no appetite for richness here – in food or clothes or anything else.
And the smell of heaven is the one thing I look for the most. Occasionally I catch a whiff of it at the special moments…a brush with the sacred. But I know I must wait until I breathe my last before I can fill my lungs with its scent. Since that night everything is different. Malchus was my name – but it hardly matters now. My name could be Sharon or Gregg or Martin – it wouldn’t be important. The touch of the fearless messiah; the touch of this simplest hero – that is what makes you different. The name you are born with lasts only for a while. The touch you are saved by lasts forever.