Monday, December 8, 2014

John 18:3-8

The light of distant torches flickered through the canopies of distorted olive trees as the disciples squinted into the darkness down the mountain. The sound of clinking armor plates and strapped scabbards echoed up the trail to where Jesus and His followers had stopped to pray. Every time that Jesus and the disciples had been confronted up to this point, they had simply walked away through the midst of the crowds and escaped. Confusion must have set in for the disciples as Jesus descended the trail towards the troop that carried torches, swords, and clubs. Estimates place this force of guards and soldiers at 200 or more men, fully armed and ready for serious resistance.
Jesus had brought with Him a group of common laborers, fishermen and a tax collector. If this was going to turn into a fight, it seemed apparent to all those that were there that night, which side would be victorious. As the troop approached, the disciples must have been completely perplexed to see one of their own, Judas Iscariot at the front of the group. Perhaps they tried to rationalize his presence there. Maybe he had been arrested, and now these men had come to arrest Jesus and the other disciples. Or, perhaps, the soldiers and guards had become converts, and had come to help Jesus take over as king.
The confusion must have only thickened as cursing, grumbling soldiers sneered at Judas as he approached Jesus. The other gospel accounts tell us how that Judas greeted Jesus with a customary cultural greeting of a kiss, but John expands the story and tells us that at some point, Jesus stepped forward to address the entire army that had come.
“Whom seek ye?” These were the words of confident omniscience. Jesus wasn’t curious, He just needed them to acknowledge Him. This was not Judas’ moment. It was not the soldiers’ moment. This moment belonged to Jesus. He was God, and there would be no doubting this by the end of the night. Quickly, they responded, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Instantly, He responded with an answer that carried with it the power of the heavens. 
“I AM.”
Instantly, the entire group of soldiers, Judas included, fell backward to the ground. What had just happened? In responding to the soldiers, Jesus was not simply giving an answer. Rather, He was making a statement. If you notice, the conversation was one-sided. Jesus was the only one asking questions, not the soldiers. This moment belonged to Jesus. Now, Jesus had spoken with the authority of God, a name expressly reserved for God in the Old Testament - “I AM.” This was no coincidence. Jesus used the name of God given in Exodus. As Moses went to face-off against the plurality of Egyptian gods, God told Moses that He would offer victory and deliverance through His name – I AM.
The power and authority of Jesus was undeniable in this moment. With confidence He had stepped out to meet the midnight army ahead of his disciples. Now, with the simple breath of His voice, He had incapacitated the entire group that had come to arrest Him. There was no doubting who was in control. If Jesus was arrested, it was by permission. He had not fled when He had the chance. He did not hide as the group approached. This was His moment, and He would march with boldness and courage into the hands of those who would malign Him. He was prepared for their worst, because through it, He could offer us our best.

Food For Thought: Knowing the setting and result of original use of “I AM” in the Old Testament, why do you think that Jesus used it on this night when He was faced with those who were contrary to God?