Lessons from minor characters in the Easter story

The vital message of the Easter story—the victory of resurrection and the immortality
of Life—is at work in the world today through the ever-present Christ, Truth. 

You’ve probably heard of the headline names—Jesus; his disciples (especially Peter and Judas); Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest; and Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. But what about Malchus, the high priest’s servant whose ear was cut off by Peter; Pilate’s wife, who warned her husband that Jesus was innocent; Simon the Cyrenian, who carried Jesus’ cross; and the Roman centurion and his fellow soldiers, who nailed Jesus to the cross? A closer look at these minor characters in the Easter story can reveal something significant about the impact of Christ on all of us today. 

Recently, I asked myself about those seemingly insignificant figures in the story as recorded in the Gospels. How might the momentous events of Jesus’ trial, crucifixion, and resurrection have altered their lives and thinking? What of Malchus, who is named only in the Gospel of John (see 18:10) but referenced in the other three. His ear was cut off by Peter in an attempt to defend Jesus from the soldiers arresting him. What might he have felt when his ear was restored by the Master? What moved Pilate’s wife to warn her husband to have nothing to do with the chief priests’ plot against Jesus, whose innocence was revealed to her in a dream? 

And what was it like for the centurion and those Roman soldiers on duty at the crucifixion? They came from a completely different culture, worshipped many gods, and may have felt like disinterested spectators once they had put Jesus and two criminals on their respective crosses. But when they saw the earthquake that followed Jesus’ final cry, they said, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54).

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