History in microcosm John 18:1-12
I Am He – John 18:5-8
It was Jesus who took the initiative when the arresting party arrived. ‘ Who is it you want?’ he questioned. He knew the answer of course but it gave them the opportunity to recognize him for who he was. It showed what was in their hearts and it gave them the chance even at the latest of hours to repent from their actions.Their response was derogatory, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ v5 Nazareth the despised north country outpost. Temple officials and Pharisees had already argued that nothing good came out of Nazareth. For them he didn’t have the breeding, the class or regional accent, their words were a major put down intended to diminish him. Those who oppose Christ to this day frequently use the tactics of scorn, when we experience such things we can know it was Jesus’ experience as well.
Jesus responded with ‘I am he,’ v5 the words frequently used in John to indicate the divine name of Yahweh. (8:58) The impact of Jesus’ words caused the party to draw back and fall to the ground, such was his divine presence and power. He gave them a second chance to recognize who he was by asking them, ‘Who is it you want?’ v7 They repeated, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ There was no doubt they already knew who he was as Judas was standing with them. Mathew tells us Judas had gone up to kiss Jesus as a prearranged signal. Mathew 26:48 Jesus was ultimately in control of events. He turned his attention to the protection of his disciples by saying, ‘If you are looking for me, then let these men go.’ v8 In doing this Jesus was keeping an earlier promise, ‘And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day’ John 6:39 John here is giving the words of Jesus the status of Scripture. It is also a promise all Christians can claim for themselves and should give them confidence even in the most difficult of trials. When the Temple officials, priests and soldiers arrested Jesus they had already had two chances to recognize him for who he was and therefore assumed responsibility for their own actions. Sadly, eventually we will run out of chances to recognize Jesus as the Son of God even when along the way we have been confronted by his awesome presence. It may be that some who were in the arresting party would later turn to Jesus and believe. Perhaps the centurion at the cross was one of those. Peer pressure may cause some to reject Jesus even when they know they have been in the presence of God. The peer pressure of being in an arresting party must have been immense. However, as a society we do not accept peer pressure as an excuse for criminal action as we saw in the trials of guards at the Nazi concentration camps.