I’ve written before about my typical approach to reading Scripture devotionally, which is what this series in the book of John, Notes from a 1st Century Pastor, is a product of — my devotional reading. (See my post “Making Change #2: The Bible.”) Today’s post will be from two of the things I noticed when I was journaling.
“Arrest Me Already!”
John 18:3-8 (ESV)
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. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and 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. 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 scene is almost comical. Jesus’ accosters, accompanied by the traitor Judas, ask if he is the Jesus from Nazareth, and he affirms this: “I am.” He has said this on other occasions, which I wrote about in this series (“Absurd and Blasphemous Claims“). Here my Bible records Jesus as responding, “I am he,” but denotes that the Greek indicates simply, “I am,” which hearkens back to Moses and the burning bush when God told the great prophet and leader of Israel his name, I AM WHO I AM.
All the men who came to arrest Jesus upon hearing “I am” hit the floor, a natural response to divine revelation, the ESV Study Bible notes. Jesus reminds them that they need to get off the ground and arrest him, to do what they’d come to do, to participate in the fulfillment of prophecy and the plan of redemption.
Humility and Escape
John 18:33-37 (ESV)
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
Such humility Jesus displayed in consenting to be judged by Pilate. Paul would tell the Philippians (chapter 2) that Jesus made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, despite that he was/is God. This hour was the culmination of his ministry. Beyond the healings and demonic deliverances, beyond his teaching. This was why he had come.
I remember going to Disneyland as a kid. Never one for fair rides, I had to be talked into getting in line for Space Mountain, the most adventurous ride at the Anaheim theme park. The ride is completely indoors but much of the line is outside, making it easy for fearful kids like myself to abandon any prospective thrills. Once you get inside, where the line continues a little, there are still a few escapes, exit doors that beckoned me.
Jesus had so many opportunities to abandon his plan, but he chose not to. Obviously, this wasn’t Space Mountain, but I wonder how many times he had to recommit to the plan. Early in the morning when he sought the Father in prayer, as he often did? After the upteenth time his disciples demonstrated a lack of faith or a misunderstanding of the kingdom he was ushering in?
Certainly in the garden before he was arrested. One last exit door and he passed it up: “Not my will but yours be done.”
This humble High Priest, this I AM, emptied himself so that I could be filled. So that you could be filled. He is the King to whom every knee will one day bow and tongue confess as Lord. The Savior King.