Palm Sunday reads; a reflection on Malchus; Lenten reading


A few years back, my parish asked me to do a presentation for its young adult group on “Palm Sunday in History and Scripture.” I provide it here for your edification.

Also, check out this article for a brief primer on Palm Sunday.

Finally, the always interesting Bp. Barron shares his reflection for the day:


And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. (Mt 26:51)

One of the bystanders drew his sword, struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear. (Mk 14:47)

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. (Lk 22:50-51)

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. (Jn 18:10)

Each Gospel mentions Malchus, albeit briefly. Only John spills the beans on who committed the act and who the victim was. Only Luke (why only the good doctor, I wonder) mentions Jesus healing the casualty of Peter’s apparently haphazard attempt at defense of his Lord.

I’m endlessly fascinated with characters introduced in the Gospels in one episode never to be heard from again. Thing of Simeon, Anna, the widow dropping her last pennies in the temple treasury, the rich young man, the Samaritan cured of leprosy, the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, Simon of Cyrene … I could go on and on. Whatever happened to them? How did their encounter with Jesus change their lives? If they were around and heard of Jesus’ death (and Resurrection) what did they make of it all? Even though we will likely not know the answers this side of eternity, such reflection and meditation can be a worthwhile endeavor.

When the person with the cameo in Scripture is named, it is usually presumed that the reason for identification is that that person was well-known to the Christian community being exposed to the evangelists’ writings and maybe even a leader in one of those communities. Was this the case with Malchus? We don’t know. But it is not difficult to imagine this was a life-changing event for this slave of the high priest Caiaphas. Some questions to consider surrounding the incident and its recent aftermath:

What was Malchus’s disposition coming into the Garden of Gethsemane? Did he know of Jesus? If so, even though he was following orders, did he believe it was just to arrest Him? Was the slave surprised by the attack on him and did he try to defend himself? What was his reaction to the healing? Did he make others aware of it? Did he try to defend Jesus or at least question the whole process? Did he stay on the scene and go with the captive Jesus as He was marched out of the garden? What was his involvement in the subsequent trials and the Way of the Cross? What did he think of Jesus’ death and stories of His Resurrection?

Again, we don’t know any of this. I would hope that he would immediately have made others aware of the miracle (after all, it would be quite difficult not to acknowledge the pain of the attack and the shock of the healing, although we can imagine there was quite a tumult at that moment), but that would have required more than a bit of courage with this mob thirsting for blood. I would guess that at least some of them would have witnessed past miracles Jesus performed so maybe they would have not been very moved by the most recent one. But, whatever Malchus did or did not do that fateful evening or the following day, I believe it is a good bet that he eventually grew bold in sharing his unique story as a follower of “the way.” He would have been one of many eyewitnesses (consider my partial list above) who certainly would have been “celebrities” (so to speak) in those early gatherings of Christians, asking to repeat endlessly his encounter with Christ and undoubtedly never tiring to relate his story.

We also must not fail to consider Jesus’ lesson for us at the beginning of these events and all the way to the cross and beyond. He always focused on others, even though we weak and fallen humans would not blame Him if he were self-absorbed as this unjust arrest and subsequent farcical trials unfolded. He heals an aggressor, He focuses on the crying women on the way to Calvary, he acknowledges the “good thief” on the cross next to Him and ushers him t heaven, he forgives his tormentors, he takes care of the future needs of His mother. All this done in humility. What a (difficult) example to follow, but one we must strive to emulate.


The Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ by Alban Goodier. Lenten reading just finished yesterday. Superb. See my review here.

The Ear of Malchus (L’oreille de Malchus) (c. 1886-1894) by James Tissot

Have a blessed Holy Week.

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