Malchus stood at his post watching the crowd as Jesus spoke. How he wished for simpler times. His mind drifted back to his childhood, and visions of watching his father stand exactly where he stood, guarding the priests; however, then the enemy was from without: the Romans. Today, the trouble lay within, among their own people. Who was this Jesus of Nazareth, and what did he want?
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out… for they know his voice.”
Malchus knew about sheep, every Jewish family knew about sheep and shepherding, it was their heritage. So, why was he telling them something they already knew?
Jesus looked into the souls of every person, knowing that many did not understand, and praying that his Father would open their ears and hearts. He knew his next statement would drive some of them further away; but he prayed that the Father would also use his words to lead others to the truth. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
“What is he saying?” one of the priests whispered, loud enough for all to hear.
Jesus continued. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
“Why doesn’t Caiaphas stop him?” another priest hissed. Malchus had thought the same. He looked across the courtyard and into the faces of Jesus’ followers. Their eyes were full of peace, comfort, and joy. Looking back to his religion’s leaders, he only saw anger and hatred. So divided! And on which side are you? The voice seemed so real that he turned, half expecting to see someone speaking to him; but there was no one there.
Jesus paused for a moment, seeking the face he knew he would see again, under very different circumstances. “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.”
Malchus gasped as the Master’s eyes fell directly on him.
“What does he mean? He speaks as though…” But the priest could not even utter the thought. He sounds as though he is the Son of God!
“He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?” shouted one of the elders.
“These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?” pleaded one of his followers.
The murmurs grew more intense and at the signal from his leader, Malchus and the rest of the guards moved forward, dispersing the crowd. Insults were hurled at Jesus and his followers as they quietly left the courtyard. Only sadness could be seen on their faces. No anger. No hatred. Only compassion. Just like their leader, Malchus thought.
Months passed and the crowds only grew in number. Malchus often found himself among the guards who accompanied the priests to hear Jesus of Nazareth. He often wondered if they followed him out of envy or curiosity. Certainly, there was a lively spirit at these gatherings—nothing like the solemn rituals of the Temple. Yes, he saw truth in many that came to keep the Law, but too many of the priests seemed to look upon their position as an elevated place of prestige instead of a position of service to the people.
Now, Malchus stood at his post once again at an entrance to the outer courts of the Temple. The population of Jerusalem swelled to three times its usual size during the Passover season, and passions ran high. Just yesterday, Jesus had ridden into the city on a donkey, and the people strewing his way with whatever they could find: palm branches and even their cloaks. They welcomed him as a king, and the Jewish leaders were nearly mad with indignation, seeking a way to destroy him.
Malchus watched as the money changers busily exchanged coins and sold doves and animals to the out of town worshippers; a cacophony of voices and sounds filling the air. His mind once again had wandered into a daydream when suddenly a commotion to his left brought every sense into sharp focus. From his elevated position, he could see tables turning over and animals scattering, causing people to scream as they pulled children to safety. Coins clattered to the floor, and merchants scrambled to retrieve them, amid shouts and angry voices. However, one familiar voice boomed out above the rest, causing the commotion to nearly stop as though everyone were frozen in time.
“It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” People halted in their steps, looking to the One who had spoken. His eyes were like flaming swords, and in his hand was a leather lash. The air settled, and above the ethereal scene, a brace of doves cooed and found lodging on the wall. That quickly, Jesus’ countenance changed. The switch fell to the floor, and he walked on, passing right in front of Malchus and looking into his face. That’s when Malchus noticed the tear running down Jesus’ cheek.
Later that evening, as Malchus shared the accounts of the day with his wife, a heavy burden fell upon his soul. “I don’t understand the man,” he nearly shouted. “He speaks of peace and yet nearly causes an uprising wherever he goes.”
His wife, Gallia, listened quietly. Dare she share her heart with her husband, a guard of the priests? She took a breath and ventured to do so. “But is it his followers that cause the riots?”
Malchus looked at her for a moment, consternation knitting his brow. Slowly, he shook his head. “No. The anger and hatred comes from our leaders, Gallia.”
He looked around as though someone might hear him, even though they were alone in their house. “When He speaks, He speaks with authority, as though He truly is…” He hesitated, “… as though He is the Messiah!”
The couple sat in silence, each deep in thought. Once again, Malchus shook his head. “Something is happening, and it can’t be stopped.”
Gallia looked at him in astonishment. “What do you mean?”
He looked at her, his eyes intense. “I don’t know, but the priests and elders are meeting as we speak. When I left, one of His followers had just left, jingling a pouch of coins in his hand and laughing.”
An abrupt knock at their door caused them both to jump. “Malchus, come quickly!”
He went to the door and opened it to find Enan standing there in full uniform. “You must come. We are needed.”
Malchus turned to look at his wife, and headed out the door.
* * *
The air was thick and the night dark, as Malchus followed the others to the garden. He had been told very little, and when he questioned the captain, he was cursed and told to follow orders. Everyone was on edge as they crept forward, led by the one who had jingled the coins. Malchus recognized the place: the Garden of Gethsemane, a usually peaceful place; but tonight, it seemed dark and full of demons.
“There he is,” whispered Judas. He fingered the leather pouch in his pocket, once again thankful to be rid of the whole lot of them. Dreamers! He had better things to do than to care for the sick and the poor!
As Jesus turned to see Him, Judas tried not to look into those eyes—eyes that could see straight into a man’s soul!
“Master,” he exclaimed, and drew close to kiss Jesus. As he pulled away, he licked his lips, tasting blood. Looking up at the face speckled with blood, the inevitable happened. Even through the darkness, he could see the look of anguish and pity in the Master’s eyes, as the devil laughed in his soul.
At once, the soldiers moved forward, taking Jesus.
“No!” shouted Peter, rushing forward with his sword just as the soldier passed by Malchus. He put forth his hand to stop the giant, and Peter turned on him with the sword. Malchus turned away, but not before the sword sliced down the side of his face.
Malchus cried out, as the other’s rushed forward. He felt his head, writhing in pain.
“Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword,” Jesus commanded. He turned to face Peter as He spoke. “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?”
The only sound to be heard was Malchus’ whimpers. Jesus’ eyes of compassion turned to him, as he knelt down and did His work, touching his ear and healing him. Instantly, the pain was gone. There was no more blood. Malchus lifted his hand in astonishment, and his gaze met with Jesus. Messiah! The thought raced through his mind, and when Jesus saw it, he smiled.
Rising to his feet, Jesus turned to face the armed men. “Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.” The soldiers shifted their feet, guilt halting their process, if only for a moment.
“Take him,” shouted the captain. “You bunch of useless women.” Malchus watched as they led Jesus away, the disciples scattering like lost sheep. Lost sheep. That’s who I am. The thought broke his aching heart, as the words of the Messiah came into focus.
I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
He stood alone in the silence of that sacred spot, looking down the path where they had taken Him. They did not need him to do their evil deeds. “Thieves and robbers,” he whispered fiercely. “You have stolen the truth from our people!” It all seemed so clear. “We did not hear you because you had nothing to say.” Anguish broke upon his soul, and he fell to his knees and wept.
“Oh Father. He truly is your Son!” The words came in torrents, his heart breaking as he fell prostrate on the dewy earth. He reached for his ear, the one that had felt the Master’s touch. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and go in and out, and find pasture. He repeated the words over and over, as God’s truth broke through the darkness of his soul. The words Jesus had spoken washed away the guilt and shame, and peace came in its place, as his soul was freed by the Master’s touch.