Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Thoughts About the Ear Story

Happy Easter ! I'm going to get a little theological -- or something like that. This is a mixture of a little bit of my thoughts and a large dose of the campfire talk given by my wonderful Assistant Program Director at camp last summer. (So not my ideas originally and not told as well as by Jabo, but here's my thoughts).
File:Caravaggio - The Incredulity of Saint Thomas.jpg
Not only risen, but also genuinely open to poking as well as doubting.
Caravaggio's painting of St. Thomas -- I've got a serious crush on Caravaggio as well, I love his paintings in Rome.
On Good Friday when Jesus went the Mount of Olives, he asked the disciples to pray for him. Instead they fell asleep. The disciples remind me of what Vonnegut says about Lot's wife "But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human." It is such an honestly human failing to fall asleep and not be there when a friend needs you, I love them for their simple human weakness in the midst of such eternally significant events. 

Though I suppose the betrayal of his closest friends snoozing instead of praying with him is nothing compared to the betrayal of Judas. And here's where the story really gets good. Before you even get to the arrest, trail, crucifixion, or resurrection of Jesus there is the gospel story of redemption in a nutshell. After the kiss on the cheek, the other disciples are not pleased with the guards arresting Jesus; Luke 22 gives the story in two sentences:

"50And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. 51But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him."

The gospel of John gives the names for these characters: the sword-welder is Simon Peter and the high priest's servant was Malchus.

As their rabbi, Jesus would be legally held responsible for any offense committed by his disciples. Just like a modern accomplice to a crime, the rabbi would face the same degree of guilt as if he had swung the sword himself. Because of Peter's actions, Jesus could legally and justly be found guilty in the Roman courts of attacking the chief priest's servant. In that moment both Peter and his Rabbi Jesus were guilty.

But then Jesus touches the ear and it is healed. Good as new. Now Peter is not guilty of maiming the servant, because Malchus is no longer inured in any way. Jesus shared Peter's guilt -- and then he erased it. Completely removed the guilt and the crime.  He didn't just keep Peter from suffering the punishment. Jesus actually erased any cause for punishment. He completely healed Malchus and offered Peter a better way.

It's justification: taking Peter's guilt as his own and giving Peter freedom from it.  It's real-no-holds-barred-forgiveness. Malchus was completely healed and made whole again. We're not offered a life where things are easy or fair, or where doing the right thing results in good things happening. But we are given a life with our ear reattached, we are made whole and complete with forgiveness and justification beyond out wildest dreams. That's the good news of Easter. Pretty sweet. Buona Pasqua!


  1. so good :) Jesus is pretty amazing. I vaguely remember seeing a monologue somewhere of Malchus, I remember it being powerful but don't remember where I saw it.

  2. Indeed :) That's be interesting to see something written about Malchus