1998-01-22 - The Love of I AM
The Cross Series, Part 24
There is one item that John leaves out of his record of the arrest of Jesus. He leaves out the reference to the kiss that Judas uses to betray the Lord. All three of the other gospels refer to this act of attempted deception. Let me suggest that John leaves it out because it was such a common greeting among friends. John is the mystic of the four authors and sees the majesty and Lordship of Jesus Christ. John was focused on what burned in his memory and his heart.
John 18:2-9 Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place; for Jesus had often met there with His disciples. 3 Judas then, having received the Roman cohort, and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Jesus therefore, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth, and said to them, "Whom do you seek?" 5 They answered Him, "Jesus the Nazarene." He said to them, "I am He." And Judas also who was betraying Him, was standing with them. 6 When therefore He said to them, "I am He" they drew back, and fell to the ground. 7 Again therefore He asked them, "Whom do you seek?" And they said, "Jesus the Nazarene." 8 Jesus answered, "I told you that I am He if therefore you seek Me, let these go their way," 9 that the word might be fulfilled which He spoke, "Of those whom Thou hast given Me I lost not one.
A Roman cohort was between 300 and 600 soldiers. There were officers of the Temple Guard present too. This seems a bizarre meeting of the minds between two groups who would normally spit in each others faces before giving the other the time of day. The Sanhedrin had become a far more political than spiritual body. Jesus had pointed this out in rather blaring fashion on a few occasions. In any event, the two groups had allied to confront Jesus, the itinerant Rabbi and His followers.
I can only imagine that more than a few of these soldiers, carrying sword, shield and torch, might have felt a little foolish bringing such a large group to take one ragged prisoner. After Jesus was identified by Judas, He stepped out and asked the leaders who they were looking for, knowing that it was Him they sought. They confirm what everyone already knew. Jesus' response bears a closer look. If you check your text, most Bibles show the word He in italics. This indicates that the word was added by the translator to make the translation easier to read in the new language. In this case, I believe Jesus said exactly what He meant to say. He used the name He had used identified Himself to Moses from the burning bush millennia before. "I AM"
Exod 3:14 And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
The triune God, being self-existent, self-sustaining, without beginning or ending, stands before these men who only see a man in common clothes with a rag-tag group of followers. The Jews present should have recognized the reference, and the members of the cohort would be given reason to wonder. As Jesus speaks His mighty name, the armed contingent before Him is bowled over by an unseen force. The power of the spoken word that created every single thing that has ever and will ever exist from nothing is manifest as Jesus allows the blind that shields His deity slip for a second.
What just happened here? A miracle. Jesus has made it perfectly clear that He is in total control of the situation. He has shown that the men who have come to make the arrest could at least be held at bay, if not defeated. Jesus has just wielded inhuman power, super-natural power beyond reason without lifting a finger. He has given them a clear indication that He just might be Who He has claimed to be, God in human flesh. In doing so, the Master has made an invitation and planted a seed. This would be a moment that none of these men would ever forget. Who can say how many eventually came to understand that Jesus was God and had come to be their Savior? How many of these men of good character would share the unexplainable events of the evening with family and friends planting even more seeds. It is an open invitation made by Jesus to each one present. Grace, love and mercy extended in the face of spears and swords.
As Jesus is lead away in the end, He digs even deeper into the hearts and minds of those gathered, a captive audience. The Lord rips the human logic that surrounds the situation. Legions of Angels, I'm sure were poised to attack. Waiting for the word from the Father, which never came to free their beloved King. He is begging them to think it through. How many eventually yielded to the relentless memory? We will know someday.
Have you been struggling with the things you read of this Jesus? Do you want to believe them as fanciful stories, or exaggerations, but your heart hears the ring of truth? It's all true, every word. And Jesus loves you as much as these soldiers He reached out to in the face of arrest. He knew that arrest would lead to His sacrificial death on the cross for me and for you. He died in our places, taking our sins - our willful disobedience - to Himself, destroying them to free us. Now all that is left to do is acknowledge Him as your Lord and Savior. If you want to know more, either find that friend who has been bugging you about Jesus, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to help you out or rejoice in your decision with you. It's just that simple.
Lord Jesus, Thank You for the continual grace, mercy and love that we see poured out for humanity. The fact that You reach out, never closing the door - making it as clear as possible to each of us that You stand waiting to accept us. Help those who are struggling with that decision. Give them the courage to stare the problem directly in the face. When they do, the only possibility will be to take the gift of eternal life that You offer. Amen.
Grace & Peace,
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.