“And one of them struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said in reply, ‘Stop, no more of this!’ Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him.” (Luke 22:50-51)
Jesus had just finished praying on the Mount of Olives when a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests came to arrest him. The Gospel of John says that the servant’s name is Malchus. (John 18:10)
Imagine if you are Malchus. You have accompanied a group of soldiers, probably at the request of your master, the high priest. You come in the dark of night across the Kidron Valley separating Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives with torches and weapons. Your task is to arrest Jesus whom you have been told is an enemy of the Jewish religion and Israel. One of Jesus’ followers attacks you with his sword, cutting off your ear.
Then this Jesus, your supposed enemy, reaches out and touches your ear and it is fully healed. One moment it is hanging there, bleeding, about to fall off, and the next moment it is completely restored. One moment your adversaries are acting as you would expect adversaries to act, and the next moment Jesus, the object of your arrest, is reaching out to you, not to do you harm, but to undo the harm done by one of his followers.
How can Malchus not be affected? It had to be life changing. Since John identifies him by name in his Gospel, it is likely that Malchus became a follower of Jesus and was familiar to John and the people for whom he wrote his Gospel.
As with Malchus, Jesus is always ready to reach out to us. In the most unlikely of circumstances, he is there, always inviting, ready to heal or respond to a need we have not anticipated. In the ordinary and extraordinary, he is there. Whether it is to open our life to him for the first time, or to go deeper in our relationship with him, he is present.
Like Malchus, I had an unexpected encounter with Jesus many years ago when a priest at a healing mass invited us to imagine that we were alone with Jesus and to give to him any need we might have. For whatever reason I imagined that I was on a country gravel road south of Kansas City, Missouri on the way to my wife’s grandmother’s farm. Jesus was standing there.
I asked him if he would take away some disorder in my life and he did. As a result, I invited him into all areas of my life, including my professional life, and my life has never been the same. If you ask my wife, she will tell you that from that point forward, all my priorities began to change, as I sought God’s will in each area of my life as a husband, father and an attorney for a large oil company.
Are you willing to be surprised by an unexpected encounter with Jesus?