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."
10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.)
11Jesus commanded Peter, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"
12Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people. (NIV)
John has put some powerful images in the telling of the arrest of Jesus. There are a couple of differences in John’s telling than that of Matthew, Mark and Luke. John does not have the kiss of Judas in his story. John only notes that Judas in the one who betrayed Jesus. John tells of the cutting off of the ear of the servant, but only Luke tells us that Jesus healed it. And there is one peculiar tidbit in Mark’s telling. At the very end of the arrest, he writes: “A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.” (Mark 14:51-52) Many people believe that this is Mark who writes himself into the Gospel. Many believe Mark is Peter’s son.
Then we get to the main difference in the telling. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus’ interaction with those coming to arrest him is that Jesus chides them about coming out with such a large crowd and armed as though he were some bandit or something. He tells them that every day he was in the temple, but you did not touch me there. Luke sums that line by having Jesus then say, “But this is your hour and the power of darkness.”
John wanted to lift us something else. The other 3 gospels not include the exchange with Jesus asking those seeking to arrest him, who do you seek. They respond by saying, Jesus of Nazareth. It is here that John gives us a powerful image. And we miss it in many English translations. See most of the English translations add a word to Jesus’ response. They all write, “I am he.” But the Greek simply says, “ego eimi – “I AM.” John has two other times used this phrase to describe Jesus. First in John 8:58 in which he uses the term to describe himself. At this use of the term, John tells us the people picked up stones in a desire to kill Jesus, but he slipped away from them. The second is in John 13:19 where he uses this term to describe himself after washing the disciples’ feet.
But we see here, when Jesus says of himself, “I AM,” something happens to those seeking to arrest Jesus. There is a power that comes from Jesus that pushes the detachment of soldiers back and causes them to fall to the ground. It is a though a shock wave hits them. Many believe John puts this in there to show that Jesus could not be taken by force, but freely gave himself up for us.
And we see in the second time of Jesus asking them who they want, he again says “I AM,” but instead of a force coming out of Jesus, he tells them to let the disciples go.
For John, it was a reminder of the power of Jesus to overcome anything by just speaking his name. That same power is there for you. Jesus choose to die for you. He was not taken – he gave himself up freely for us.
What does that mean to you that Jesus freely gave himself up for you so that you might have life? What does this say of the love of Christ for us? Is there a sense of peace that comes from knowing that Jesus can overcome all obstacles in your life? These are traits John wanted us to see in his Gospel, that Jesus is the Great I AM and he gave up himself out of his great love for you.
Blessings and Peace