16 May, 2011

The Faith Entry: Character Study on Malchus


Yup in the Bible, there's four Gospels which is basically four biographies on the life of Jesus. The Gospels were named according to their respected authors: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Malchus was in all four Gospels, however his name is only mentioned in John. Even an avid Bible reader would have to look up the name of Malchus. So who is he? He was one of the servant of the high priest responsible for the arrest of Jesus. Jesus was arrested on grounds of breaking the traditional religious law which was taken serious by the Jews, not so by the Romans who were actually in power. Hence why the members of the priestly order made the arrest and not the Roman soldiers.

So what's so significant about Malchus who was only mentioned by name in one of the four Gospels?

He got his ear chopped off during the arrest. But immediately after it was chopped off, Jesus healed him.

Sunday service last evening at Mission Bay Community Church discussed Peter's role in starting the church. Why the topic of Malchus crossed my mind was due to the fact that Peter was the guy who chopped his ear off. Like Malchus' name, Peter was specifically mentioned only once out of the four accounts. Coincidentally or maybe not coincidentally they were both specifically mentioned by the same author: John. (They were not mentioned by name in the other three accounts)

Now say what you want about whether or not you believe in the Bible or whether nor not this incident actually happened as it was described. The reason why this story crossed my mind during the discussion last Sunday was because as an actor, Malchus would make an interesting character study.

In all four accounts there were probably four lines max describing the specific incident. A group of religious vigilantes came to arrest Jesus (Malchus being one of them) One of Jesus disciple (Peter) attacked one of the members of the arresting mob with a sword by chopping the right ear off, (Malchus) Jesus rebuked both the arresting crowd AND Peter for his impulsive action, then in only ONE Gospel with less than a line describing it, Jesus heals him. End of story.

So how would that make Malchus such an intriguing and interesting character study with so little that was said?

An actor who's trained learns about concepts such a "character memory, backstory, motives, objectives." As actors, we speculate and interpret what those backstory, objective, and motives are, then combine them with our own inner core being and experience and intertwine it all together.

So this is what we do know about who Malchus is:
1) Was the servant of the high priest
2) Was there as part of the crowd to arrest Jesus
3) Was attacked and injured
4) Had his injury healed immediately by Jesus
5) Arrested Jesus anyways afterwards

In putting backstory together, one could study Jewish customs and religious beliefs along with Roman history. They could study what exactly the duties a servant to the high priest were. Was a servant allowed to marry or not marry and if so, what was his relationship to his wife and family. This is all interpretive because with less than a four line description, no one really knows. The actor makes choices and brings that to the table. (Hence the artistic side of acting)

With motive and objective, one could tie backstory along with the kind of relationship he has with the high priest, with Jesus, with other members of the temple. What motivated him to be a part of the arresting crowd? Was he convicted that Jesus deserved to be arrested, or was he merely following orders from the high priest? Was he in line for another position in the temple, and his participation in arresting Jesus would earn him "brownie points?"

What was his reaction when his ear was chopped off? What was his reaction when he was recovered? What was his reaction as he arrested Jesus? Was he present through the entire process of the arrest and trail, and if so, what was he feeling knowing he was healed by the man he arrested?

As you could see, there are just endless choices after choices to pick and choose from in portraying this guy. And it's fun. What's there to present is this fleshed out human being with all the contradictions and complexities to him all from just four little lines from four different accounts of a biography.

What's this to do with faith? Lots. Let's say I'm an atheist, and out of desperation I pray for some kind of out of this world, highly unlikely million to one long shot miracle and it happened. Then afterwards I continue to state my case as an atheist while chalking up the miraculous incident as merely a "coincidence." Was that similar to Malchus? Maybe, maybe not.

In December of 2006, I was VERY CLOSE to losing my left hand to a scheduled amputation. Surgery and antibiotics were not affective in treating this mysterious hand infection and I was facing the very high possibility of "celebrating" Christmas of 2006 without my left hand. (Surgery was scheduled on Dec 23) I contacted every friend I knew who had a strong belief in the power of their prayers. Two of them actually showed up to the hospital with oil that was consecrated by their elders to pour into the cast of my left hand. (I had one surgery done already) My sifu who was a regular practitioner of hay gung (ch'i kung) came that same day and performed some energetic passing over the cast. My friend upon hearing about my hospital stay met her "group reiki circle" with a photo of me and my left hand circled. This all occurred on a Sunday. The next Monday morning, the examining doctor did his morning checkup on my hand and rushed out to get the supervising physician. The supervising physician commented, "finally your system accepted the antibiotic treatment, you can go home today." Now a lot of factors came into play and anybody could choose any factor. 1) It could've been the prayer and the oil 2) Could've been the reiki and/or ch'i kung 3) my body did finally accept the antibiotics after 11 straight days of taking them intravenously, and because I did not have health insurance the doctors were willing to release me to avoid any unnecessary medical procedure. I've not doubt in my mind it was a miracle.

It wasn't even more than 5 days after I was released from the hospital that I was sulking about having to spend Christmas in the cold Bay Area and not in warm Southeast Asia.

The point is our "inner Malchus." We may attack our respected spiritual dogmas for one reason or the other, and if we received some miraculous benefit, we quickly forget and return to attacking our dogma.

Oh humanity. How complex and funny we are.

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