THE POWER OF "I AM"
"When He had finished praying, Jesus left with His disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and He and His disciples went into it.
"Now Judas, who betrayed Him, knew the place because Jesus had often met there with His disciples." John 18:1-2 NIV.
Gethsemane! It was almost as though Jesus and Judas had arranged to meet there.
No doubt Jesus had not discussed His next move with His disciples. He gravitated to the olive grove after the Passover meal almost from habit. Perhaps He felt claustrophobic after sitting for hours in the smoky Upper Room. He felt the stuffy heat of the enclosed room and the events of the next few hours closing in on Him. He needed the space and the cool, refreshing night air of the garden.
Judas had made a calculated guess as to where Jesus would go. He had slipped away from the group around the supper table to buy supplies, so John thought, or even to pop something into the offering box for the poor. But why at this hour of the night? No one suspected that he had left to commit a deed so heinous that no one would credit a human being for doing it to a fellow human being, least of all to one's own rabbi.
Judas' real reason for leaving was to tip the high priest off about Jesus' whereabouts. Perhaps he was lurking in the shadows when the little group made its way through the darkened streets towards the outskirts of the city. He may have followed at a distance until he was sure of Jesus' intention and then hurried off to Caiaphas to offer his services as a guide for the arresting party.
"So Judas came into the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
"Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to Him, went out and asked them, 'Who is it you want?' 'Jesus of Nazareth,' they replied. 'I am He,' Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing with them). When Jesus said, 'I am He,' they drew back and fell to the ground." John 18:3-6 NIV.
Only John recorded this remarkable incident. Why was it important to him? The purpose of his gospel was to present Jesus as the Son of God. During the course of His disputes with the religious leaders, Jesus had already made it clear to them that it was He who had interacted with His people during the Old Testament era, revealing Himself to Abraham on many occasions and to Moses at the burning bush as the "I AM" and claiming the title, "I AM" in His "I Am" sayings.
But, according to John, He not only claimed the title but He also showed His enemies the power of that name. He was not merely saying, 'I am the one you are looking for,' but '"I AM", Yahweh, the God of Israel.' This was important because Jesus had made it clear that His crucifixion was not the choice of the religious hierarchy or the Roman government but a voluntary sacrifice planned by both the Father and the Son.
"'I AM the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me -- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father -- and I lay down my life for the sheep... The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life -- only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.'" John 10:14, 17-18 NIV.
Not only were His enemies to know who they were dealing with but also that they had no power to arrest Him. He would voluntarily hand Himself over to them and submit to everything they did to Him because He chose to submit, not because they had power over Him. . He could free Himself from their clutches at any time, but He didn't because He chose to lay down His life for His sheep.
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