John 18:1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” 5 They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground.
Why did I never notice this before? It’s true that John’s version of this story is very different than Matthew, Mark, or Luke – but still. I’m talking about v.6 “they stepped back and fell to the ground”. Weird.
My commentaries tell me Jesus is claiming the “I am” identity of God the Father, who is often referred to as the great “I am”. And as often happens when humans are confronted with divine and/or angelic beings, the arresting party falls to the ground. Eventually they get up, arrest Jesus, and set off a series of events leading to Jesus’ death and resurrection.
It seems John the gospel writer wants us to know where the real power lies. True, Jesus will be arrested, beaten, hung on a cross – but it’s an act of willful submission to the events which must take place. To fulfill his purpose on earth for the sake of the world. It’s not for lack of power.
This morning I’m thinking of the week to come, Thanksgiving week. For the first time in a long time I will not be with my extended family on Thursday. We’re trying to be careful, mostly out of consideration for our parents who are elderly. I’ll be home with my nuclear family, which will be nice. Having all three adult children at home at the same time is always a treat for me and my wife Jana. But there’s still some disappointment. I’m not going to lie.
And so as my eyes tell me things are a bit out of control, my spirit goes to the one who says “I am he”. Jesus is still Lord of all. And he is coming again. Lord let it be so. Amen.