This is the first story I originally wrote as a stand-alone, not at that time anticipating the compiling of a book of short stories in this format. A Life Transformed was first published in the Pentecostal Testimony, the magazine of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. That was, I believe, back in 1997. I then submitted it to a contest which I did not win. Both venues required a different number of words, so I added to it and shortened it accordingly. For the magazine, I had to cut it in half. For the contest, I had to almost triple the word count from the magazine edition. For this book, I have taken it back closer to the original number of words. I have not yet done the final editing, so if you, my reader, see anything you feel is an error in spelling, grammar, punctuation or in story content or flow, please feel free to leave a comment below and I will take it into consideration before I publish. This story sat for a while before I decided to choose other obscure people in the Bible and to create stories around them. Now I am nearing the time when I can publish the whole collection in my next book, The Lives of God’s Poor and Obscure” A Collection of Short Stories. See my last post to learn more about this book.
A Life Transformed
It’s true. What they say of Him is true. I feel it. I know it. Because of this I am compelled to write an accurate record of my story so that others can believe, too. What I have to share is also important for the benefit of my children and their children after them.
My name is Malchus. Though it means, in my native Hebrew language, king, counselor or ruler, I am but the servant of the High Priest. Yet in a way I am a ruler in my own household: counselor to those I love dearly and for whose well-being I am fully responsible. My history is not exceptional. Born of Levite parents, Malchijah and Miriam, I have five brothers and three sisters. I am the oldest. I grew up in a strict Jewish home where my parents taught me to worship and fear God Almighty. Father constantly talked of the laws and commandments of God so that I became familiar with them at an early age. A good provider, he followed the Law faithfully. I was circumcised according to the Law and participated in all the feasts from the time I was of age. Mother was a wonderful, kind woman. An ancient proverb describes her exactly: An excellent wife is the crown of her husband. She complemented my father in every way so that they were as one being. Mother was a strong influence in my life both by her teaching and her example. Though she died several years ago, I still miss her.
When I was but a young boy, my parents betrothed me to the daughter of friends. As I grew into maturity, I watched this child grow and blossom into a beautiful young woman and eagerly anticipated the day of our marriage. Rachel has been my wife for several years now, and we have five children. My oldest son is my pride and joy. A handsome boy, full of life, he can be mischievous at times, but I am sure he will outgrow the youthful pranks. We have recently begun making arrangements to betroth him to Rebecca, the lovely little daughter of Joseph and Sarah, long-time friends of our family. I pray that when they do marry, they will be as happy and content as Rachel and I have been. May God bless them and grant them many children.
As a servant of the High Priest, I have faithfully served Caiaphas from the time I voluntarily bound myself to him fifteen years ago. Since the Romans took over the rule of our nation, they have appointed our high priests. Although they are still taken from the line of Aaron, now only those who are of political importance are chosen by Roman officials. Thus, sad to say, the spiritual quality of that privileged calling has now declined in favor of political power. I am sure God is very saddened by it all.
To begin my story, I must refer to a most amazing occurrence. One night, on orders from Caiaphas, I accompanied a large number of people gathered up by the chief priests, scribes and elders of Israel into a garden where we were to arrest a man named Jesus. One of His disciples, Judas, son of one Iscariot, promised to point Him out to us. He had come to the rulers a short while before with an offer to hand his Master over to them. They paid him the sum of thirty pieces of silver in advance, proving precisely how much they wanted to be rid of Jesus. I wondered, when I heard the rumor of this arrangement, why a man should be so anxious to betray his own Master and friend. I suppose some men are willing to do anything for enough money, but still, I thought it strange. Jesus taught openly in the temple and in public places, yet we had to have someone identify Him. And the multitude of men it took just to arrest one unarmed Man with a handful of mostly unarmed followers was inexplicable.
I had seen this Man from time to time at a distance, and heard snatches of what He spoke to the people. The leaders of the temple considered Him a troublemaker. The Pharisees and elders were so jealous of their exalted positions in Israel they could not bear to see so many enthusiastic supporters of One who had risen from obscurity. After all, He was only a carpenter’s Son from Galilee. No one of any significance ever came from Galilee. During the great Exile, this area was repopulated by a colony of heathens now looked down on as less than nobodies. But I, in my brief encounters, saw no real harm in Him. He certainly seemed to be popular with the common people.
This Jesus reportedly had healed many people from physical ailments and cast out demons. One day I even heard that He had raised a man named Lazarus from the dead. Nonsense, I thought, obviously a mere exaggeration spread by overzealous followers. But the rulers plainly took the incident seriously.
Numerous times the chief priests had tried to snare Him in His teaching, but no one succeeded. I often heard the rulers plotting, then reporting their failures. They sent different people to question Him, and some even pretended that they believed what He proclaimed. But with great wisdom, Jesus knew exactly how to reply to them. I heard the reports they brought back to the rulers. After the Lazarus rumor, the leaders stepped up their campaign to remove Jesus. They even plotted to kill Lazarus because many more people turned to Jesus because of him, and Lazarus himself was becoming very popular.
However, the first time I saw Him up close was on that unforgettable night in the garden called Gethsemane. A large group collected on the way to the garden that night after Judas informed us that this was to be the night. We first crossed the brook Kidron under a clear ebony sky alive with stars which silently spoke the wonders of God. From the south, a gentle warm breeze refreshed us after the heat of the day. The soft rustle of leaves in the olive trees was soothing, in deep contrast to the distressing undercurrent of our mission.
We entered the garden to find a number of peaceful, men with their leader. Their faces painted a picture of sadness overlaid with lines of worry and fear. Three of them actually looked as if they had just awakened from sleep. Judas approached and kissed Jesus—the sign agreed upon to identify Him. How hurt his Master must have been. I observed the face of this Man closely for a few moments. Heavy beads of sweat, thick as blood, coursed from His forehead down His cheeks into His beard. I will never forget that voice as Jesus spoke so clearly, calling Judas “Friend” and asking why he had come. He then reminded the multitude that He had taught openly in the temple and asked why they had not arrested Him at that time. No one responded. Subsequently He made a rather curious statement: Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?
Astonishing! I remember wondering who He meant by His Father. And angels? Twelve legions of them? This was simply too much to fathom. But I will never forget His voice. So gentle, yet it came forth with so much authority that no one dared answer Him. In fact, after He spoke those words, we all fell backwards to the ground. Our legs had no power to hold us up. Again He asked the same question. Never once did He deny that He was the Jesus we had come to arrest. He had but one request—that we allow His disciples go safely. At that, all of His followers ran away. One young man had obviously, on sudden impulse, decided to follow the group into Gethsemane. He had nothing but a linen cloth wrapped around him. As he ran off, some of the men grabbed at him, snatched the cloth from him and left him to continue running naked. Had it not been such an intense and tragic occasion, I would have been overcome with the humor of the situation, although I suspect that the young man in question would not have considered it humorous.
But I must return to the most important part of my story. Even with all the unusual happenings that night, I should not have remembered it so vividly had not what I am about to tell you happened. I stood there in the front of the group, near some of Jesus’ disciples, when suddenly I saw the flash of a sword in the torchlight as it flew past me. I felt excruciating pain on the right side of my head. Looking down, I saw my ear—my ear!—lying on the ground at my feet. I instinctively put my hand to the side of my head and realized that blood was gushing out. I was in a state of shock. But that wasn’t even the most startling thing. As I was attempting to grasp the meaning of the whole situation, Jesus spoke to the man named Peter and rebuked him for having tried to defend Him. Most amazing of all, Jesus then put His hand where my ear had been, told me I wouldn’t have to suffer any longer, and wonder of wonders, when He removed His hand, my ear was perfectly restored where a moment before there had been nothing but a gaping wound. Hallelujah! Praise God. I couldn’t believe it. It was like a dream except the pain had been all too real, and the bloodstains on my robe were there to confirm it. I have never since had so much as an earache.
How could this Man perform such a miracle? Perhaps the stories that I had heard and put so little faith in had indeed been true. Perhaps I had been wrong. Now it was conceivable to me that the rulers were wrong in arresting Jesus, a Man who did not even try to defend Himself. This was an appalling mistake. How could this Man—about to be arrested, thought of by religious leaders as seditious, deserted by His friends—have enough compassion on a mere servant, a man He had never seen before as far as I know, to perform such a miraculous healing? Where did He get His power? Could it be that God actually was with Him, and that He had been wrongly accused? It frightened me to even think of the implications. Accusing God? Eliminating God’s Man? I could not comprehend the consequences of such an act. And it was our spiritual leaders who were responsible for this terrible thing. What is to become of our nation now? Our history has shown us just what God has done to Israel when our people refused to serve Him only. We are already ruled by Rome. Will we again be exiled to a strange land? When will our people learn to wholly devote themselves to Almighty God?
The Pharisees and elders were so anxious to dispose of Him that they put Jesus on trial before daybreak. While they were in the house of Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, two of His disciples followed Him to watch the proceedings. One of them—I later learned his name was John—appeared to know the High Priest and brought in the other one—Peter, the one who had chopped off my ear. He stood and warmed himself at the fire along with the soldiers as though nothing unusual was about to take place. Three times the servants insisted that Peter had been with Jesus. Three times he denied the fact. One of my relatives happened to be there and told me these things. Simeon was in the garden and saw Peter use his sword, yet Peter denied to his face even knowing who Jesus was. Soon morning dawned, and a rooster crowed. Jesus turned around and looked at His disciple. Simeon said His look was full of compassion. Moments later, he watched as Peter ran out, his face contorted as if in anguish. Someone later told me he saw Peter crouched close to the wall weeping bitter tears.
The next day, after Caiaphas had sent Jesus to Pilate, the governor appointed by Rome, crowds gathered outside the Praetorium, the governor’s palace, screaming, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” The chief priests and rulers of the Temple had incited them. How amazing that people could so quickly change sides. One day they were praising the Man, hanging on His every word. The next day they were clamoring for His death. Pilate examined Him. He endeavored to save Him, but finally gave in to the crowd’s demands and handed Jesus over to the Roman soldiers, but not before he ordered Him to be whipped with metal-tipped leather thongs. I could not bear to witness as the barbs shredded the flesh on His back to expose muscle and bone. As if that were not punishment enough, even for a genuine criminal, the soldiers then took pleasure in mocking Him. They threw a purple robe over His bleeding body, handed Him a reed as a scepter, and wove a crown of horrible thorns which they forced down on His head. They began to beat Him about the head with reeds.
After ripping the robe from Him, they tied the rough wooden crossbar to His shoulders and forced Him to carry it to the hill Golgotha, the place of execution. Such cruelty in men is inconceivable to me. Jesus walked farther than I would have imagined possible under those conditions, but He finally fell to His knees and could proceed no further. All this time He spoke not a word. A soldier then summoned a spectator from the crowd to carry the burden the rest of the way. The crucifixion itself was too gruesome to even record here. The memory haunts me still. Some women gathered close by Him weeping, and His mother knelt at the foot of the cross with the disciple named John. I did not hear the conversation, but it must have been nothing short of heartbreaking for them all. Curses were shouted, and many voices mocked Him. The soldiers, as usual at these executions, cast lots for the clothing they had stripped from His body.
Though He had to be in excruciating pain of soul as well as body, Jesus never verbally abused His tormentors in return. I heard Him say, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” What love. What tenderness.
Victims of crucifixion experience a slow, cruel death by suffocation, but Jesus, after a comparatively short time, said with a strong voice, “It is finished,” and then died as if He had complete control of the Spirit leaving His body. I marveled greatly at this at the time, but since that day I have learned that, in reality, He did freely give His life. And He had power to take it up again when He rose from the dead three days later. After He died, a terrible, ominous darkness fell over the whole area and the ground shook as if in sympathy. It frightened us all. It must have been the judgment of God. What is worse, the thick veil in the Temple which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the building was torn in half—from the top down to the bottom. How could this be?
I remember the commotion the elders made when they tried to cover up the fact that Jesus rose from the grave. Of course, they refused to believe it, and paid the guards to keep their mouths shut about what they actually saw. They spread the rumor that His disciples had stolen the body while the guard slept. Though they did not believe in Jesus, they were not willing for the public to learn what the guards could have told. Our rulers were more concerned about their own positions with the Roman government than the welfare of our nation. Why could our leaders, men who should know the signs of the times, men who have studied the prophets, not understand that this Man Jesus is the promised Messiah?
Though I did not at first believe either, after what transpired personally and what I saw during that Passover, I now must believe Jesus is the Son of the living God. My mind can yield no room for doubt. He is the Messiah. I have since heard many accounts of believers who saw Him after He rose from the dead. Our people have always been taught that two or three witnesses prove the case, and there have been many more than two or three who have seen Him. Now that I believe, I am thankful that my family, too, have believed in Him. I pray that whoever reads this document either now or in the future, may come to know Jesus in a personal way. He is truly the gentle, loving Savior Who came into the world to show us the Father, to die for our sins and bring complete salvation to all who will believe and trust in Him.
The priests and elders of Israel have ordered that anyone who professes to believe in Jesus must be put out of the synagogue. Some have already been denied the privilege of entering the Temple, but many are afraid to publicly proclaim their faith. Great persecution may await those disciples of Jesus who are not afraid to testify to what they believe. We may even have to leave our beloved land. But as I have undertaken to write this account, my faith has increased even more, and I now realize I am compelled, along with my wife Rachel, to publicly confess Jesus as our Savior. I know not what the consequences may be. I may even die for my faith. Only God knows. But one thing I do know: my God will keep me and strengthen me for whatever is ahead. Glory to His name. Amen.
I, Malchus, sign this document in affirmation that all that is herein written is true and reliable. May God bless all who read and lead them to a right relationship with His Son, Jesus.
Malchus, Jerusalem A.D 37
Well, there it is. I hope you enjoyed the story. This is the first of an even dozen stories which will appear in my next book The Lives of God’s Poor and Obscure: A Collection of Short Stories. If you would like to find out more about my other two books, click here for Look for the Rainbows: A Journey of Spirit and Heart, and here for Shadows in My Valley.
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