—An account of Jesus’ arrest as told by the high priest’s servant, Malchus
The past 24 hours have been disturbing, terrifying, wonderful. It started with an order from Caiaphas the high priest, Caiaphas the puppet of Rome, Caiaphas whom I serve. “Malchus, do this! Malchus, do that!” And of course, I must do as I am told. I am the puppet of a puppet, here to carry out his dirty work. And this was the dirtiest job I’ve ever been given.
My orders were to pass on the high priest’s instructions to the captain of the temple guard, go with him and his men to seize Jesus, and take Him to the judgment hall. We had done this sort of thing before when we’d arrested other rogue teachers, but this time something in me resisted my orders.
Months earlier I had heard Jesus speak, and I tell you, no other man spoke like He did! “Love your enemies. Do good to them that hate you.” Now that is a message you don’t hear often! With everyone else it’s “an eye for an eye.” The zealots want their country back. The religious fanatics want their religion back. The crooked merchants who have been out-cheated want their money back. It seems everyone wants revenge. Jesus was different.
Caiaphas wanted us to arrest Jesus in the dead of night because he was afraid there would be a riot if the common people were around to see it. Jesus had done many miracles, and most people loved Him. In fact, the crowd called for Him to be their king upon His entry into the city just a few days ago.
The idea was to find Jesus in the garden where He went to pray, take Him by surprise, and arrest Him before He could escape. But when we got there, it was like He knew we were coming for Him and was waiting. Judas Iscariot did what he’d been paid to do and pointed out Jesus from the group of a dozen men. What a way to betray his leader—with a kiss!
We could have saved the temple treasury the 30 pieces of silver that the chief priests paid Judas, because before we could say or do anything, Jesus asked us, “Who are you looking for?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” I answered.
“I am He,” Jesus said. His presence was so overpowering that all of us who had come to arrest Him fell to the ground. “Who are you looking for?” Jesus asked again.
“Jesus of Nazareth,” I repeated as I struggled to my feet.
“I have told you that I am the one you are looking for, so let these others go,” He said, pointing to His disciples.
But one of them—the one they call Peter—didn’t want to leave without a fight. He drew a sword and swung. I dodged and thought he had missed, but then I felt a sharp pain and blood gushed from the side of my head. My ear was gone! I dropped to my knees and clutched the wound, trying in vain to stem the flow of blood. My clothes became a red-soaked mess and I began to lose consciousness.
Suddenly a brilliant light engulfed me. Someone called my name. It was Jesus, kneeling over me and covering my wound with His hand. I felt a warm tingle. The pain stopped. Jesus’ eyes were full of love. He didn’t say a word, but I knew then that He was my friend, not my enemy. I also knew that I would be all right—but what would happen to Jesus? I had played a part in His arrest, and now I regretted it.
“Put that sword away,” Jesus said, turning to Peter. “He who lives by the sword will die by the sword.”
I think some of the guards were as surprised as I was that Jesus could have enough love to heal His enemies. Some may even have wondered, like I did, if He really was the Son of God. Not the captain of the temple guard, though. He never doubted his orders. He jerked Jesus to His feet, and a moment later they were all gone.
Alone in the garden, I contemplated the miracle that had just taken place. My ear was restored perfectly whole, but my blood-soaked robe and skin were proof that something amazing had happened. How could the others have dismissed that miracle so quickly? How could they have been so callous?
Back home, as I washed the caked blood from my face and arms and changed clothes, I couldn’t shake the thought that I had just been an accomplice to a horrendous crime.
I ran to the high priest’s palace to see what would happen to Jesus, and found the place filled with people. News of Jesus’ arrest had spread quickly.
“Where is He?” I asked one of the guards.
“The trial has begun. Caiaphas is already convinced that this Jesus fellow is guilty of blasphemy. He will pass judgment quickly. Jesus doesn’t have a chance,” the guard answered matter-of-factly.
I kept feeling my ear. There was no pain, no damage. I ran my fingers over the spot, but couldn’t even feel a scar. How could that be?
Then that thought came back, even stronger than before. I’m responsible for this! I felt like I was the one on trial. He healed me. He showed me love and mercy. Now He is surrounded by wolves crying for His blood. What have I done?
The guard was right. Caiaphas and the chief priests were quick to pass judgment, but they didn’t have authority under Roman law to condemn Jesus to death.
I followed as Jesus was taken to stand trial before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. Jesus’ accusers were a bit like we were in the garden—nearly bowled over every time He spoke. They knew Jesus was no ordinary man.
“I find no fault in Him at all,” Pilate declared after his interrogation. But when he saw that the crowd had been incited by the priests to demand Jesus’ execution and were about to riot, he called for a basin of water and washed his hands, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just man. If you want Him crucified, you see to it!”
Then Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified, and the whole garrison of Roman soldiers gathered around Jesus. They dressed Him in a scarlet robe and put a crown of thorns on His head. They spit on Him and mocked Him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” Then they put His own clothes back on Him and led Him away to be crucified.
I was pushed along by the crowd as it surged through the narrow streets of Jerusalem until we came to the hill called Golgotha—“the place of the skull”—just outside the city. By the time I pushed my way to the front of the crowd, the soldiers had already nailed Jesus to a cross and hoisted Him up to die like a common criminal. His face and body were splattered with blood, like mine had been in the garden.
In my mind I traveled back several months, to when I had heard Him tell a crowd, “I have come to seek and save the lost.”
Even though I was sure He wouldn’t be able to hear me over the noise of the crowd that had gathered to watch Him die, I called out to Him, “I am lost, Jesus. Forgive me for what I did!”
Then He looked straight at me with the same love in His eyes that I had seen in the garden. I knew I was forgiven. It had been a miracle when He healed my ear, but an even greater miracle when He healed my heart.
A moment later, Caiaphas arrived to taunt Jesus and gloat over his victory. He was so different from Jesus—so filled with hatred and malice. “If You are the king of Israel, as You claim, come down from the cross! Then we will believe. You trusted in God—let Him deliver You now!”
The sky turned dark, the wind blew, thunder shook the hillside, and Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” Even as He hung there dying, He forgave His executioners.
Now I know what I must do. I must find some way to serve my new Master out of love and gratitude.