A subtle, generally overlooked moment happens in the Garden of Gethsemane when Judas leads the Jewish leaders and guards there to arrest Jesus.
“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 there with them.) When Jesus said, ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.”
Jesus knew what was going to happen to Him. He had been telling His disciples since Peter’s declaration, “You are the Christ!” in Caesarea Philipi. The Father revealed His plan to the Son. It’s tempting to look at Jesus “knowing” here as being attributed to His divine omniscience, but Jesus was continually going to the Father. He said He would only do what He sees the Father doing. He would allow the Father’s plan to be revealed. He would walk in obedience to the Father’s will.
What I’m struck with is the reaction of the crowd that came to arrest Jesus.
Jesus said, “I am He.”
They drew back and fell to the ground.
Why would they react this way. It seems to be a response of fear, yet they came together as a lynch mob, armed with clubs and swords. Humanly speaking, what would they have to fear?
As I try and picture the scene, here’s what I see.
Jesus speaks. He was there at creation. He spoke. The earth came into existence. He was there at Lazarus’ tomb. He spoke. Lazarus walked out of the grave alive.
I imagine Jesus simple declaration, “I am He,” being spoken with such force and such authority that they knew they were in the presence of the divine. The “I AM” statement is a declaration of divinity. I imagine the Father echoing Jesus’ words, just as He had thundered, “This is my Son.”
Jesus’ declaration reverberated in their souls. It shook them to the core. They fell to the ground. The reality of God’s presence was so overpowering, they could not stand. They became weak-kneed.
If the crowd responded to Jesus’ “I am He” declaration like this, what impact did it have on the disciples? You’d think it would strengthen their faith and fill them with confidence. “He IS the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” But no. They fled in fear. The disciples scattered. Peter denied even knowing Jesus.
Jesus spoke with authority, power and glory. He still does. When He speaks to me, what is my response? Like Isaiah, does the weight of His words bring me to my knees? Do I worship? Do I recognize His glory, His authority, His power? Do I recognize my sin? Do I submit my life to His will? “Here am I. Send me!”
When I read God’s Word, what weight does it carry in my soul? Is it just a great book with instruction and counsel, or is it the Word of God?
“For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
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