Malchus the Slave, a story for Holy Week (part 1)

Rousted out of bed in the dank midnight, he fumbles into his robe and follows as he’s ordered.  He didn’t quite catch why it was that he was part of this group.  Now as they wind their way up the hill, the torchlight flickering on the path is not enough to prevent stubbed toes and stumbling over rocks.

Olive-Grove2 (1)They’ve been commanded to be silent, so any injury produces no more than a close-lipped grunt.  Some pebbles roll away from their passing, but there is no other sound. He tries to glance before and behind without tripping. It appears that all the household slaves are here, as well as Caiaphus’ armed guards, and some others he’s seen in the Temple courtyard.  A variety of swords and cudgels swing from beefy fists.  But not from his. He is not permitted to own a weapon.  Where are they going?  It  looks like a grove of olive trees.  He can see the outline of their twisted shapes against the moonlit sky.

Up at the head of the procession, a man he doesn’t recognize has stopped.  There is a huddled group of figures under the trees.  One of them looks like…yes, that carpenter he’s heard about, the “miracle man.”  His master hates this man–is that why they’ve come?  To…what?  Capture him?  Kill him?  Surely the High Priest wouldn’t stoop to such…well, then again, maybe.  Malchus can remember some other harsh words, raised voices in the counsel chamber.  But this seems more…extreme.  Why so many of them against this paltry band?

What’s going on now?  They’ve caught up with the front of the line, and begun to circle around, surrounding the carpenter’s little group of followers.  Now there’s a forward movement, and he feels himself shoved from behind.  Some signal must have been given because the tense silence is broken by cries, shouts, and curses, with the clang of steel and thud of clubs.

“Watch out!” cries someone behind him and he ducks instinctively, feeling a rush of cold fly past his face.  He stares down at the bloody object at his feet.  What—?  A trickle of blood drips on his foot. Whose–?  His right hand comes up shakily to touch…nothing, a ragged flap of wet skin dangling from his head.

No more noise. Torchlight shivers.

Inside his head, waves wash up on the shore of Lake Gennesseret near his boyhood home.  Home, yes, let’s go there, go there and rest, lie down and feel my mother’s hands again, soothing and healing every little hurt.  Mother?

“Peter!!”  “Where are you?”  “Judas, why–?”  “What’s going on? Where are you taking Him?”

The clamor of confusion bursts to life again, exploding in his ears like… what?  His eyes search the ground even as his right hand gropes his head and feels a perfectly normal ear, dry and whole.  Who touched me?  In front of him, a voice rings out which stops all movement as if turning it to stone.

“Am I leading a rebellion that you’ve come out with swords and clubs to capture Me?  Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest Me there.  But thus are the prophets’ words fulfilled.”

torchlightThat seemed to galvanize the leaders, and they bound Him roughly with cords around His wrists.  A whisper of fleeing feet betrayed the band of His followers who didn’t stay to be treated the same way.   But none of the crowd gave chase.  Instead they turned back toward the city, moving faster now and making no attempt to hush their feet or voices.  Raucous laughter at foul jokes rose up around Malchus as he walked blindly on behind the prisoner.  What just happened?  Did I dream it?

to be continued…

2 responses to “Malchus the Slave, a story for Holy Week (part 1)

  1. And the tears flow down my face…..replaced only by the awe and joy of the story’s ULTIMATE conclusion…

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