strange demonstration | John 18.4-9
[Jesus] said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 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. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” John 18:4-9 | ESV
“Who are you looking for?” he calls out to them. Surprised at the challenge, they called back, “Jesus the Nazarene!” Jesus says, simply, “Here I am.” And Judas, the sell out, stood right there with the arresting crowd. No sooner had Jesus said, “Here I am,” than the entire company of soldiers suddenly took three steps back and fell nose to the ground, like they were taking cover. Standing over them, Jesus asked again, “Who are you looking for?” “Jesus the Nazarene,” they repeated from the earth. Jesus repeated his answer – “Here I am – so if it’s me you want, let the rest of these go free.” That’s what this strange demonstration was all about – Jesus taking care of his own and carrying out ancient prophetic words at the same time:
“Of those to me you gave, not one I failed to save.” MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
Par for the course in John’s Gospel.
A passing over of significant events the other gospels place center stage, and shining the spotlight on previously unobserved elements of the scene unfolding in this garden. No agonized, repeated prayer, no sweat as drops of blood, no angel appearing to strengthen him, no slumbering disciples, no kissing traitor.
Only a traitor seemingly cowering behind a shield of soldiers – soldiers who in turn end up groveling at the feet of Jesus.
A strange demonstration indeed.
Is this God putting them in their place?
Is it them overwhelmed by the majesty of Jesus?
John doesn’t say, and perhaps it’s best left that way. The key thing is the image this is meant to leave upon our souls. Demons groveled at the feet of Jesus within the people they tormented. So did the soldiers who came to arrest him in the dark. “Every knee will bow and every tongue confess.”
How important it is to remember this when we are surrounded by people and circumstances that tower over us, threatening, armed and dangerous. But they all step off and fall down in his presence. Which doesn’t mean they won’t still end up carrying you away as they did Jesus. But you are in His hands, not theirs.
And that is an encouraging thought.
What arresting circumstances are you currently staring down in your own life? How does Jesus’ example in the garden speak to you?
Lord, teach me to stand in my garden, to face the arresting crowd of circumstances confronting me the way you did in yours. Amen.