Summary: Malchus was only a bit player in the Easter Story but his life was changed forever with this one encounter with Jesus.
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.