Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Malchus: an encounter with grace.

In Leviticus 14:14, instructions are given for the cleansing of those suffering leprosy; they are to be anointed on their right ear lobe (and right hand and foot), with the blood of a spotless lamb. Earlier in Leviticus (8:23) Moses also anoints Aaron for priestly ministry with the blood of a ram on his right ear.

Amidst all this gory detail, I am continually drawn to the powerful imagery of Leviticus. I sketched a right ear lobe in my journal many years ago, pondering what it meant that an ear be anointed. Surely, this speaks about the necessity of listening and truly hearing?

The right ear appears again in Luke (22:47-53). Malchus, a servant of the High Priest is sent with a band of others to arrest Jesus. He is employed (or perhaps even coerced?) to do the dirty work of the Jewish leaders.

When Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss Malchus and the band of men move forward to grab and bind Jesus. One of the disciples asks "Lord, should we strike with the sword?", but before he has time to answer, Simon-Peter, loyal but impetuous, strikes out in Jesus’ defence, cutting off the right ear of the man closest- Malchus.

Jesus rebukes the use of violence against the very people who are about to send him to a violent death. As a powerful sign he picks up the severed, bloody ear, and brings healing to Malchus with a gentle touch to his right lobe.

Healing comes through the spotless lamb, ready for the slaughter.

I imagine Malchus stepping back from the commotion.
Touching his re-created ear.
Taking in the unfolding scene with a new perspective.
Looking across at the man who healed and anointed him.
Listening intently.


*This was my contribution to a Lent devotional booklet put together by GCBC around the theme of Encounters on the Way to the Cross: Losing our Lives to Find Them. PDF booklet available for download online. Also listen to and download beautiful songs which were written by others as part of their reflection on the theme.

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