March 7, 2018
“A Sermon Dialog with Malcus”
Rev. Chris Matthis & Michael Zehnder
Ascension Lutheran Church, Littleton Colorado
Crossroads. They are there for all of us. We may move along from day to day easily, walking in the sunshine, enjoying the view, feeling at peace. And then it comes. A crossroad. A choice point. There we stand, frozen to the spot. Which way now? Right? Left? Straight? What waits down each of those choices? Which way does our heart call us to go? Which makes sense? Which is God’s way?
The answers aren’t easy. A crossroad can bring daunting spiritual pain. And it can bring us to our knees. It can even bring us to destruction.
Tonight we have an expert on the crossroad. He saw a choice that changed his life. Please welcome Malchus, guard and servant for the high priest in Israel.
(Malchus arrives. He is dressed in casual clothes or biblical costume. He walks with some hesitation.)
P Can you tell us something about yourself?
R I am not an important person. I was never one to call attention to myself. I was a simple servant and guard in the service of the high priest. It was not a glamorous job. I got along. I did my job. I don’t really deserve to be in the spotlight. The only thing I have to tell is how my life changed by a simple act of kindness.
P You were an important character in the story of Jesus. Can you tell us about that?
R I remember seeing Jesus that night in the garden. But I had seen him before. I went with the Pharisees and other leaders many times when they questioned Jesus, when they were looking to find something to use against him.
P How did you feel about that, about the way they approached Jesus?
R I didn’t mind at first. It was easy to go along with them to find Jesus. In a way, it was better than standing around in the council or slaving for the high priest at his house.
P But your attitude changed?
R I heard Jesus’ answers. I saw how he dealt with people in need. It began to trouble me that the leaders were so dead set against him. I didn’t see anything wrong in what he did or said. I guess they thought he was some kind of a threat. Certainly, the word got around that his followers wanted to make him a king, to start a revolt, to kick out the Romans.
P And how did you feel about that?
R I certainly had no love for the Romans. They oppressed us, treated us like slaves. But I wasn’t sure what would happen to my job if Jesus’ followers were successful in putting him on some kind of a throne. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.
P And yet you went with the religious leaders to arrest him there in the Garden.
R It was my job. What could I do? I had to go along. We were expecting trouble. We knew that at least some of his followers were armed. They were feeling threatened and we were pretty sure they would resist.
P Were you afraid?
R Afraid? No. I was trained as a guard by the military. I knew how to protect myself. I knew how to strike with a sword, if it came to that. I lived in that kind of world. In my world you stood up for yourself, you struck back if you were assaulted, you struck first if you had the chance. I lived in a world where it was every man for himself. I knew Jesus. I heard him speak, but I thought that when it came down to it, he and his followers would fight, and I was ready. And yet something happened that night that changed me. As I expected, one of Jesus followers, I heard later it was Peter, lashed out with his sword and cut off my ear. And I was ready to strike back. That’s what I knew. That’s how I lived.
P And yet you stopped.
R Jesus held up his hand. I thought he might call on the rest of his followers to strike. But his voice was quiet, gentle almost. I could not move. Jesus reached out his hand toward me. I thought he was going to grab me or hit me. Surely I would have in his place. But with great care he simply touched my ear and instantly it was healed.
P And the touch changed you?
R He touched my ear, but in a more important way he touched my spirit. Here was one who had the power to strike back, to respond the way I was trained to respond, and yet he chose to heal, to care, to love, if you will. Suddenly I saw my life in a different way. It was like a light went on in my spirit. I saw someone live in a way I could not understand.
P Tell us about the light.
R In an instant I looked at my whole life. I saw each time I took advantage of another, struck another, hurt another person. I saw the struggle my life had been and the choices I had made to get ahead, at least as I saw it. And suddenly it all seemed dark and empty. I saw a different way to live.
P And how has it changed you?
R I’m not much good as a guard anymore. I can’t wield the sword in my hand or the hate in my heart anymore. I saw a way of compassion, of love and I make different choices now.
P Is your life easier now?
R Easier? No. In some ways it is harder, but I find the face of Jesus in my eyes when I am tempted to ignore the needs of others, to strike back when I am hurt, to get revenge when I am insulted or injured. I see the face of Jesus and he calls me to make a choice of compassion and mercy. I know this. In Jesus I am forgiven that dark past and called to a new life. I know that Jesus went to the cross for me, he healed me by his death and resurrection, but he did not only heal my ear, he healed my heart.
P What message would you leave with us?
R I’m nobody important. I don’t have a great speech to give you. But I know this. When we are tempted to live by the ways of the world, when we are tempted to live in the darkness, we can make a choice to follow the way lighted by Jesus, a light that comes from the truth that we are healed and whole in him. In him we can dare to live in love. And that’s the most important message.
P As St. Paul said in his letter to the Colossians: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
R That’s it. That’s the life is found in Jesus’ touch. That’s the life I pray for you.