An imagined story of Good Friday
"The servant’s name was Malchus." John 18:10
The servant's name is Malchus. I am not dead yet, rather, far from it. I don't know how others felt when they were healed but the inside of a miracle is a place of light and clarity beyond any new dawn. The complex weaving of skin only reflecting the myriad unravelling of thoughts and memories below the surface. Paths of life's story being made straight.
My name is Malchus. Named by my mother. Her bedtime tale that I was named after the appearance, in Jerusalem, of regal scholars from the East. Magi seeking a king who had not yet been born. A slave herself, she had stood holding a lamp as the temple priests and scribes argued amongst themselves; no-one wishing to tell Herod that the prophecy was not for his line. When I was born just a few days later, I became her little 'king'. That's what Malchus means. I didn't thank her for it. Growing up in slave quarters I learnt what my real place was. In response to the insults, I grew up silent and sly; listening for the opportunity to get my own back on my persecutors. In time, the prefect qualifications for a servant attending the inner circle of priests. Eventually, as the 'ear' of Caiaphas, I would wander the city streets and market-places, listening for whatever gossip, scandal or hint of rebellion might be worth knowing. Valuable insights brought reward. And what of those who suffered? What of them?
It was after Jesus had caused the riot in the temple. I had heard the rumours but he seemed just another countryside rabbi out of his depth in the city. Though I had obediently carried back whatever I learnt. Caiaphas told me not to come back this time without an answer to this 'problem'.
I found some of his followers sat outside one of those inns which appear as no more than sailcloth canopies over trestle tables whenever there's a festival. As I slowed, I noted that their discussion was fired by anger. Sensing an opportunity, I sat down nearby, there was barely a glance from the men. I recognised Peter and Judas as two of his closed friends. The younger man, John, seemed distressed by their conversation. The words 'loyalty', 'trust' and 'faith' were being thrown to and fro. Words that, spoken in anger, are music to my ears. When Peter stood up and hissed 'You were never one of us.' before dragging John away, I knew I had my man. I waited until their backs melted into the crowd then shifted my posture. From my own persecuted childhood I was able to say with enough conviction, how I understood what it was to hear 'not one of us'. It was a risk, but it was enough. Some say it's hard to get men to talk. Believe me, all it takes is an ear willing to listen, especially through anger and tears. After a while, a few solicitous words was all it took for me to bring the 'answer' to Caiaphas. Judas, disillusioned and distressed, found a legitimacy in treason.
It wasn't my usual role to accompany the guard. Judas wasn't altogether to be trusted if his wits returned and there could be more evidence to be gathered. As we entered the garden I automatically drifted towards the back of the company. Jesus spoke without fear, as though he had written the encounter himself. I moved forward to hear him interrogate the guards. Peter, less composed, jittered like a hooked fish, his hand hovering over the pommel of a short sword, desperate to act. When our eyes met, there was immediate recognition and reaction. The blow knocked me to ground, the pain exploded in my head and the taste of blood filled my mouth. The darkness was a sickening whirl until a hand touched my face and then held my head. Despite the roaring, angry voices, I was touched by a sublime peace.
I watched the rest of the scene play out through veils of consciousness, helpless to act as my saviour was dragged away by the melee. Only the young man, John, took a moment to stop and mark my healing. He gestured that I should stay where I was.
I couldn't bear to move. The sounds of anger gave way to the sounds of the night; the rhythm of insect calls and whispering leaves. I recalled the wonder of my mother's voice speaking of the true king who was foretold and for who I was named. Felt sorrow that I was part of the betrayal whilst knowing myself healed and forgiven. Amongst all the fury of the world, I lay like a child with my ear against the dewy earth, listening to the heartbeat of the divine.
My evidence was not given at the high priest's house. It wasn't needed. The lies were enough.