“Master, to whom would we go?”
(Peter, 1st century)
Imagine a slave being given his freedom. Now imagine that same slave telling his master, “No, Master, I love serving you! My place is here with you. May I stay?” When the novelty of Christ wore off on His audience and His popularity waned, particularly when it dawned on them that His mission was not to come and make us feel better about ourselves but to make us holy, He watched a steady stream of “wanna eats but not wanna bes” walk away from Him and hitch a ride onto the wide road. We’ll just find somewhere else to take our business to, they sniffed.
When nary a soul remained He turned and saw His ragtag band of wannabes (save one) standing pat. “I’m not going to make you stay, fellows,” He offered. “You may leave anytime you wish.”
I can visualize Peter grouping The Twelve together in a sort of huddle and the subsequent whisperings, sometimes strained but mostly quiet and orderly. Then, I see as the small clutch of disciples breaks and they watch as Peter approaches the Master. “Lord, we’ve talked about it and pretty much all of us agree: where else could we go? You have the words of life. May we stay with You?”
In the Old Testament, when a slave of Judah was granted their Jubilee pardon, and one decided to stay put in his master’s household, he (or she) would place their earlobe against the doorpost of the master’s house and with a hammer and awl, the master would open a bloody hole in that part of the ear and after inserting a gold or brass or silver ring, the slave was his for life. By choice.
I take you now into the Upper Room on a melancholic Passover evening in Jerusalem’s first century, not too long after the aforementioned conversation. There we find thirteen men lounging around a table laden with the customary lamb, the herbs, the wine, with Jesus as its head. Judas is on one side and John is at His breast. The arrangement is quite telling. At Jesus’ back is Judas. At His front, near His heart, is the beloved disciple. Now, don’t miss this: John’s earlobe is pressed against the Master who has called himself in John’s gospel—and in his gospel alone—the Door. The picture is too good to miss. Here is John, by choice through intimacy, intentionally making himself the Master’s bondslave.
I’m not sure if this was ever attempted but I wonder what it would say of a slave if he or she was to tell their master, “Not just this ear, Master, but my other one as well. I want everyone to see, from all angles, that I belong to you and desire Your reign over me.” I could see an impetuous Peter, a doe-eyed John or a decisive Paul doing just that.
That’s freedom’s cost: a bloody ear. So how free do you wanna be?
One ear or two?