Tonight we’re moving on to chapter 18 of the Gospel of John. I’ll go on and let you all know that I will not be covering in the Passion narrative aspects that were covered in the other gospel accounts. I have no desire to repeat myself. We will be covering what is unique to John in the passion. Tonight, we’re going to be in John 18: 1-9. Let’s look at the verses:
1When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.2Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
4Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
5“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
7Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”
And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
8“I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” 9This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”
The arrest of Jesus is only covered this way in the gospel of John and our focus will be on the central part where the soldiers fall back. The reason given is that of Jesus’s unique presence, however, we find it interesting that Jesus says “I am.”
While I would agree that there was something unusual in Jesus being defiant and commanding in the face of opposition, I do not believe that that is all that was going on at that point. I believe he was really making a statement of who he is and was using the I AM to do that and the power and authority in that name somehow caused the soldiers that came to fall back.
Jesus’s authority throughout all of this is incredible. While he is the one who is being arrested. He is also the one who is calling the shots. He is able to speak to the Roman authorities and tell them that he is the one that they have come for and since that is the case, they ought to let the others go.
One question I do wonder about and I don’t think the text addresses is how Judas exactly responded to this. We know what happened ultimately from Luke in Acts and from Matthew, but what happened at this point we do not.
In conclusion, while it is not the most powerful case that is presented for the deity of Christ, I do believe John was wishing to convey that here. I do not believe the mention of an “I AM” was a coincidence.