April 24, 2011
The Things He Heard
He was there on a whim. He didn’t have to be there, it wasn’t part of his job but he had heard that something was going to happen, got caught up in the moment and there he was. He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As the mob broke through the trees in the garden to surround the group of men he pushed through trying to get a look at the one the High Priest was demanding be arrested. He wasn’t a soldier or a guard; he was just a slave, a household slave of the high priest, one who served the will and whim of his master.
He was there when his master Caiaphas had expressed his concerns to his colleagues about this young upstart from Nazareth, he was there when it was decided that Jesus would have to be stopped, he listened in on the negotiations with Judas, when the price for the betrayal of Jesus was set at 30 pieces of silver.
And now he was there for the big finale, when the entire plan was to come together. But he was just an observer and he wasn’t armed. Why would he be? He was just a slave, not a soldier or a guard. And besides neither Jesus nor the men he travelled with had ever been violent, it was Jesus who told his followers to love their enemies and to turn the other cheek. And so it was a complete shock when suddenly the big burly fisherman pulled out a sword and started swinging.
He saw the flash of the sword felt the breeze as it whistled by his head and then the pain, he was almost blinded by the pain. He had never hurt so badly in his entire life; he put his hand to the side of his head to cover his hurting ear except there was no ear to cover. And he looked down and there it was, his ear lying on the ground. And he fell to his knees clutching with one hand at the piece of him that was no longer a piece of him while with his other hand he tried to stem the flow of blood. It hurt, so bad. He wasn’t aware of all that was happening around him, all he knew was he had no ear.
And then someone reached out and touched him, and it was so strange, the pain disappeared, just disappeared. One minute it was there and the next minute there it was, gone. And it was replaced by the strangest sensation; he couldn’t explain what he was feeling. And under the hand that still cupped the side of his head, the flow of blood was replaced with, with an ear. And he opened his hand that had clutched at his severed ear and it was still there, it was the strangest thing, he had an ear on his head and an ear in his hand.
He was just a bit player in the Easter story; he is mentioned once here, is referenced once more and then just disappears. Have you ever wondered about this man, identified only as “A slave of the high priest”?
For years I have wondered “What ever happened to him? Was his life changed forever or just for a moment?”
This incident is recorded in all four of the Gospels and is the last recorded miracle of Jesus before he was crucified. You know the time line, the Last Supper had already taken place, Jesus had washed the feet of his disciples, had predicted Peter’s denial and Judas’ betrayal. Judas had left by himself and Jesus and the remaining eleven disciples have gone to the quiet of the garden and while Jesus prayed they slept.
And suddenly the quiet is shattered by the sounds of an approaching mob, the darkness is broken by dozens of torches and the small group is surrounded, Judas steps forward kisses Jesus on the cheek and one of the disciples lashes out with a sword and cuts off this man’s ear and Jesus reaches out and heals him, and by that I would presume he either replaced the ear with a new one or he reattached the old one, either way that is Uber Cool.
In all four gospels we are told that that the man was a slave of the high priest. But it is only in John we are told the name of the one who swung the sword and the one who lost an ear John 18:10 Then Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave. And maybe you are wondering “Why would Peter do that?” Well personally I think it was an accident, I don’t think Peter meant to cut Malchus’ ear off, I think he meant to cut Malchus’ head off, but lucky for Malchus Peter was a fisherman and not a swordsman.
Remember it wasn’t that long before that Peter had vowed that he would be willing to die for Christ.
But it is only in the Gospel of Luke that we read: Luke 22:50-51 And one of them struck at the high priest’s slave, slashing off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this.” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. If you remember your Introduction to the New Testament than you will recall that Luke was said to be a doctor and so it would be fitting that they one who had dedicated his life to the healing arts would be the one who would record this act of healing.
Perhaps in the excitement of the moment Luke was the only one who actually saw what had happened, or perhaps in the scale of the story the other’s had simply relegated it to a needless detail, to them it just wasn’t important enough to mention. But I would expect it was important to Malchus, after all it was his ear. But at that point he just drops out of the story, he is mentioned once more in the scriptures and that is only incidental. We read in John 18:26 But one of the household slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Didn’t I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?”
And that was it, nada, zip, nothing. We don’t see him again and we don’t hear from him again. Nothing, zip, nada. Malchus has this incredible life changing encounter with Jesus Christ and yet for all practical accounts he disappears from the story.
I’m sure that you can connect the dots and you understand that Because He Had An Ear He Heard That Jesus Was Crucified. We don’t know how big of an impact the crucifixion of Jesus had on the city of Jerusalem. We see it as being this incredible event that involved the entire city but probably not. Remember the Romans crucified people on a regular basis. The two men next to Jesus were just thieves but they were sentenced to die. It really wasn’t that big of a deal and there were no newspapers or local television coverage to advise people outside the centre of the city. I would suspect that there were probably those who knew Jesus who weren’t aware of the entire drama taking place on Golgotha that day.
But Malchus knew, he was there for the arrest and you can be sure that he followed the rest of the story. The death of Christ wasn’t just a story for the slave, it involved people he knew. His boss had orchestrated the entire event and he had come face to face with the one who was sentenced to die.
For most of us we know that Jesus was crucified and some part of us knows that was a bad thing but I don’t think any person in this room can fully comprehend the horror of that actual event. But Malchus knew, I’m sure that his boss Caiaphas was in the crowd that day to make sure that things went according to plan and if Caiaphas was there then his slave was there as well. And he heard the curses and he heard the nails being hammered home and he heard the screams of the condemned and the weeping of their loved ones.
He heard Jesus ask for water, he heard Jesus entrust his mother to the apostle John, he heard Jesus question God and he heard Jesus cry out “It is finished” and die.
And every person here today knows that Jesus Christ was crucified and died on a cross on Good Friday, there is no denying the historical accuracy of that statement. But the story doesn’t end there.
Because He had an Ear He Heard that Jesus was Buried. This wasn’t the natural conclusion of a crucifixion. Under Jewish law not even the body of a criminal could be left on a cross overnight but that law was more often than not obeyed in letter but not spirit. William Barclay writes in his Daily Study Bible “It frequently happened that the bodies of criminals were never buried at all, but were simply taken down and left for the vultures and the scavenging wild dogs to deal with. In fact it has been suggested that Golgotha may have been called the place of a skull because it was littered with skulls from previous crucifixions”
But that was not the case with Jesus, the question must have weighed heavy on the heart of Mary, what would she do with the body of her son, her home and his was still Nazareth which was a considerable journey from the capital of Jerusalem and the Sabbath was at hand with all the prohibitions on travel that came with it. . But a man named Joseph offered up his own tomb for Jesus to be buried in.
The story might have ended there but the priests, fearing that the apostles might steal Christ body in an attempt to fake his resurrection demanded that Pilate have the tomb sealed and a guard posted. And it was.
I wonder if at that point Malchus wondered why the one who had the power to heal his ear had been so powerless to prevent his own death?
But if he had any lingering doubts as to who Jesus truly was they were put to rest with the body of the carpenter. He might have been a good man, he might have been a great teacher, he might have been a miracle worker, , he might even have been a really good, ear-put-back-oner ,but he obviously wasn’t the son of God because now he was dead and now he was buried.
I don’t know how many times Malchus told the story about his ear that weekend. How often he told about the pain and the blood and that the miraculous healing but he certainly wasn’t prepared for what he heard on Sunday.
Because He Had an Ear He Heard that Jesus had Risen. The religious authorities were ecstatic.
The plan had come together just as they had envisioned it. Jesus had been arrested and with his death had been silenced, his apostles had scattered and his body had been buried. As a bonus the traitor Judas had returned the blood money in a fit of guilt. I am sure that Caiaphas and his cronies had been celebrating since the tomb had been sealed. But that was Friday and this was Sunday.
I suppose the resurrection could have happened quietly and beneath the radar but it didn’t. The priests were among the first to find out. The story is told in Matthew chapter 28. It’s early Sunday morning and the two Marys have gone to the tomb to finish the final preparation of Jesus’ body. But when they get there they discover they weren’t the first there. Matthew 28:2-4 Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.
Now you know the story. And if you didn’t know it before you arrived you heard it read for you earlier. The women are told that Jesus has risen and then they are greeted by the risen Jesus himself who tells them to go and assure the disciples that it’s going to be all right.
Now listen to this Matthew 28:11 As the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and told the leading priests what had happened. Wow, that must have been a downer. Talk about a swing in emotions. One minute they are on the top of the world and the next minute the world has crashed down on top of them. Because if the crucifixion and death of Christ had proved him wrong and proved them right the resurrection of Christ had proved them wrong and proved him right.
And as a slave of the high priest Malchus would have been right in the middle of the excitement. I wonder if he put his hand to his ear and considered the implications of what he was hearing.
What a roller coaster of emotions he had ridden over those three days. But here is the thing. We never hear from him again. Zip, nada, nothing.
You see, what he knew and what he heard wasn’t the important thing, the important thing was what he chose to do with that knowledge.
And we don’t know what his choice was. We don’t know if he chose to deny what he had heard and what he had experienced. Not all of it, just the miraculous parts. Maybe he had convinced himself that the wound he received wasn’t that bad and it would have gotten better by itself even if Jesus hadn’t touched him, maybe he was mistaken when he saw his ear severed from his head, maybe had just been a flesh wound.
And he wouldn’t deny the death and burial of Christ, he knew that happened, but the resurrection, that was a stretch. So maybe he had listened to the story of his boss and decided that the guards must have fallen asleep and the body of Jesus must have been stolen. Because the other option was just too enormous to grasp. And so he denied what he knew to be true.
Or maybe he didn’t so much deny it as simply ignored it. He had witnessed what had happened but he wasn’t ready to act upon it, he realized the implications that would go along with acknowledging that Jesus not only died and was buried but has risen from the dead. And if that was the case than everything that Jesus had taught and everything Jesus had said and everything Jesus had required would be true. And perhaps Malchus wasn’t ready for what that would mean in his life.
Because it would require a transformation, a total change in how he lived and how he loved. It would be almost like he had been born again. So perhaps Malchus wasn’t ready for that so he simply ignored it. And the further he got from the event the foggier it got, until he wasn’t even sure what had happened, and it very seldom crossed his mind.
Or Maybe He Chose To Act On It. Maybe what happened in the garden wasn’t a story in itself but was just the introduction to the story. Perhaps the slave of the High Priest became a child of God that day.
Remember John 18:26 But one of the household slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Didn’t I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?”
Maybe John knew the story because the man who was there told his relative, the man whose ear Peter had cut off, and that man, Malchus had told John. Obviously John knew Malchus enough to know his name.
Maybe John knew the details of the miracle in the garden because he had heard it first hand from the one who had experienced the miracle first hand.
The truth is: We don’t know what happened to Malchus, he quickly steps in and out of the story, a simple footnote and all we can do is speculate. At least on this side of eternity. And really it doesn’t matter much.
But what does matter is that on this Easter morning is that each one of us is in the same place that Malchus was two thousand years ago. We have heard that Jesus was crucified; we have heard that Jesus was buried and we have heard that Jesus has risen. We have all heard that, but what you have heard isn’t the important thing, the important thing is what you chose to do with that knowledge. We can choose to deny it? Today will you leave Cornerstone thinking “Well it’s a nice story but that is all it is, a story.”?
Or maybe you will acknowledge that Jesus lived and died and rose again, but you aren’t ready to do anything with it. And so you will choose ignore what you know is true, and you will ignore what you know God is calling you to do. Perhaps tomorrow will be the day, or perhaps your plan is to sow your wild oats, pray for crop failure and when the time is right than live for God. But we are told in 2 Corinthians 6:2 For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day of salvation, today, not tomorrow, not next week but today. Because James speaks the truth to us in the words he wrote almost two thousand years ago James 4:14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.
Time and time again Jesus echoes the words he spoke in Mark 4:9 Then Jesus said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
And so perhaps the reason you are here today is that not only have you heard about the resurrection, and you have understood the ramifications of the resurrection. That if the tomb was empty that you can’t deny it and you can’t ignore it because if the tomb was empty than Jesus was not simply a good man, he was not just a great teacher or a prophet he was indeed the Son of God. And so there are those here today who have not only believed in the resurrection but have acted on that belief.
Today we have come to not only celebrate the resurrection but to celebrate what the resurrection means for us. It means forgiveness, it means grace, it means a new life in Jesus. And that is open for each one of us today. As you celebrate this morning, I trust that you are celebrating the difference the resurrection has made in your life and if it hasn’t made a difference in your life it can.