When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.”10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.)11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”12 So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. John 18:1 - 12 (ESV)
Once Jesus finishes His prayer and concludes His farewell discourse, He went to a garden to pray. Judas knew Jesus would be there at this time, so he brings with him Roman soldiers (possibly up to 200 soldiers) and the temple police to have Jesus arrested. Judas kisses Jesus, but John does not record it; however, we know he did from other Gospel accounts. Jesus meets the group and asks who they are seeking? They respond, “Jesus of Nazareth.” He replies, “I am He.” The literal translation is “I am.” John tells us the soldiers drew back or as the NET Bible says, “they retreated” or moved back and fell to the ground. What happened at this moment? Why did the soldiers fall? More conservative biblical scholars believe the soldiers in the front may have jumped back when Jesus unexpectedly advanced forward causing those in the front to start a domino effect falling to the ground. Others believe they fell because a Theophany (an appearance of God to humans) appeared and caused His enemies to fall back and fall prostrate before Him. What we do know is Jesus is in control of the situation. One commentary reads, “We see they are struck down by a power such as that which smote Saul of Tarsus and his companions to the earth (Ac 26:14). It was the glorious effulgence (radiance) of the majesty of Christ which overpowered them. This, occurring before His surrender, would show His power over His enemies, and so the freedom with which He gave Himself up”.
I like what Pastor Tim Keller says in his sermon I AM HE; “Nobody can stand on their feet in the presence of God.” The power of God is awesome in all senses of the word. Not only is it awesome, but awe inspiring. I believe in Jesus we see the power of God manifested in His name (I AM, Yahweh). If the mere mention of the name of God can bring a squad of soldiers to their knees, then we ought to recognize and respect the power of God altogether.
Jesus asks them again whom they seek, and he informs them He is the one they seek. He tells them to let the men with Him go unharmed. Peter decides he wants to seize the opportunity and he attacks the High Priest’s servant and cuts off his ear. Peter’s knee jerk reaction spurs Jesus to let everyone know He is not seeking violence and that He will go peacefully. In fact, He rebukes Peter by asking him, “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” This is His way of saying to Peter, “This all has to happen. This has been set since the beginning of time. I must do as the Father says in order to accomplish the plan from the start.” As we can see Jesus has accepted the mission the Father has given to Him. His death on the cross was not a hiccup in the plan of God. It was THE plan from the beginning.
 I would encourage you to read Exodus 3 so you can get a better understanding of the impact of this statement.
Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. On spine: Critical and explanatory commentary. (Jn 18:6). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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