An Unexpected Separation

Malchus, relieved to be back in his room and exhausted from the lack of sleep the previous night, looked forward to lying in his bed and relaxing awhile before dinner. These thoughts vanished when he heard a knock on his doorpost and a guard summoning him, "Caiaphas wants you to come immediately to the Great Hall." Malchus splashed some water on his face from the cistern before going down the path.

Thinking that Caiaphas may have heard about the torn curtain in the Temple, he tried to review in his mind the exact circumstances that led up to the event. By the time he arrived at the Great Hall, the guard was waiting for him and ushered him through the massive door. Six men were standing beside Caiaphas. Malchus’ heart began to pound as Caiaphas rose to his feet. "Yeoman, Haman told me that he saw my niece Rachel in your arms last night. Is this true?"

"Yes, sir."

"As you well know, I have studied Jewish law all of my life, and it is clearly written in the book of the law that a Jew can not marry a Gentile. It is going to cost me to lose you, but it would be worse for a man in my position to have his niece marry a Gentile such as you. What would people think?

"My hope, of course, is that you will leave peacefully with Captain Hiram and his sailors, for I am selling your incomplete time of service to him. Hiram will find a place a great distance away, where your yeoman services can be used by another. Now, for the sake of all involved, I hope that your leaving will be peaceful. If not, Hiram's sailors will have to restrain you. And if you should manage to return, then I will have to send Rachel to a place where you could never find her."

Malchus, surging with anger, wanted to blurt out, "I'm a Roman citizen, and should your niece want to marry me, it would be my decision alone." But because of his deep concern for Rachel, he held his tongue. With nothing more he could do, Malchus, feeling numb from head to toe, walked away with the captain and his men. Caiaphas motioned for one of his men to go with a sailor to gather Malchus’ belongings. In a short time, Malchus, Hiram, and his men were on the road to Emmaus, where they would spend the night before the final leg of the trip to Joppa to board ship.

In the meantime, Rachel had tried all day to put Malchus out of her mind, but she couldn't. All she could think about was seeing him last night. She had hoped maybe she would get a glimpse of him on the compound, but she assumed he was busy at the Temple with the Passover sacrifices. It had been an eerie day with near darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour. After the sun had finally returned, she could hardly wait for sunset so that she could hear first hand about Malchus’ encounter with Jesus.

Excitedly she finished her work in the kitchen after dinner and hurried the servant girls along so that they would finish up early. Then she ran to her room and put on her white tunic covered with the purple robe that she had worn for her first meeting with Malchus. Her hair, which usually fell over her shoulders, was loosely twirled in such a way that small pieces fell from the twirl gently framing her face. "This evening will be special," she thought as she reached the flat rock just behind the grove of olive trees.

As she looked out over the valley, feathery colors of red and purple touched the horizon. She could hardly wait to see Malchus' face. His square jaw line always made him look so handsome and courageous.

As the reddened sun sank behind the hill, the sound of locusts seemed to get louder and louder, and she began to wonder what had happened and where Malchus was. "Why hadn't he come? He had always kept his promises before. Why would he break them now? Maybe he had been detained at the Temple. He wasn't at dinner. Had he forgotten? Maybe he was so tired that he fell asleep in his room. It had been an exhausting last few days."

"Maybe," she thought, "I should head back to the compound." Then just when she was ready to get up, she heard footsteps approaching. Her heart quickened as her thoughts continued, "It must be Malchus. I’ve been all wrong. He probably had been detained. He hadn't forgotten or fallen asleep. He was true to his word."

Anxious to see him, she turned her head in the direction of the sound of the approaching footsteps. But instead of Malchus, she saw her mother bent over with one arm crossing her chest as she neared. Instinctively, Rachel ran to meet her and put her arms around her. When her mother didn't speak, Rachel pulled back from her and began to search her eyes for any clue as to what could possibly be wrong, then began to gently shake her, "Mother, what is it? What has happened? Why are you sobbing so deeply?"

"Rachel," Ruth finally managed to say, "Malchus has been taken away."

"Taken away!" Rachel exclaimed, "Taken away to where?"

"That's the problem," said Ruth. "No one seems to know."

"Not Hans or Elmo or Clement? No one knows?"

"That's right, no one but Caiaphas knows."

"Caiaphas? What does he have to do with it?"

"Everything. Apparently he heard that you and Malchus were seen together last night, and he is concerned that Malchus has plans."

"Plans? Plans for what? Anyway, who does he think he is? My father? He doesn't know what's best for me. Besides that, he has no right to interfere in my life like this."

"Now, Rachel," Ruth said trying to calm her a bit, "Caiaphas has given us a roof over our head and provided us with food since your father died. He does take seriously the fact that he must assume your father's place according to Jewish law."

"Mother, I'm tired of hearing about the Jewish law and what it says," protested Rachel. "I want to see Malchus again. If I can't see him or be near him ever again, then why live?"

"Rachel!" Ruth exclaimed, a bit surprised at the depth of her daughter's feeling for Malchus. "I know how you must feel, but, regardless of what happens, we must hold on to life. It is all we really have."

"I know mother, but it hurts too much. I loved Malchus with all of my heart, and now he is gone. I just don't know how I can go on without him. He had become such a part of my life."

"And mine too," added Ruth. "Come near me, child."

With that, Rachel laid her head upon her mother's shoulder and began to sob, quietly at first then more deeply. Ruth, feeling her daughter's loss and remembering her own, quietly raised her face and voice to Jehovah making a desperate plea, "My God, why Malchus too? I just don't understand."

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