John 18:1-9

When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. 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. Again he asked them, "Who is it you want?" "Jesus of Nazareth," they said. Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go." This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: "I have not lost one of those you gave me."

This passage marks the beginning of the final phase of Jesus' earthly ministry. After finishing his High Priestly Prayer, Jesus crosses the Kidron Valley with his disciples and enters a garden, likely the Garden of Gethsemane.

It's a place of familiarity and intimacy. Jesus has often met here with his disciples. But on this night, the garden becomes a place of betrayal. Judas, one of the Twelve, arrives with a contingent of soldiers and officials, ready to arrest Jesus.

There's a stark contrast here between light and darkness. Judas and the soldiers come with torches and lanterns, artificial light in the physical darkness. But they are walking in spiritual darkness, unable to see the true Light standing right in front of them.

Jesus, on the other hand, is in complete control. He knows everything that is going to happen to him. He's not caught off guard or taken by surprise. In fact, he initiates the encounter by going out to meet them and asking, "Who is it you want?"

When they reply, "Jesus of Nazareth," Jesus responds with a powerful declaration: "I am he." In the original Greek, this is literally "I AM," echoing the divine name revealed to Moses in Exodus 3. It's a statement of Jesus' divine identity.

The impact of these words is dramatic. The soldiers draw back and fall to the ground. Whether this is a supernatural reaction or a response to the authority in Jesus' voice, it's clear that they are dealing with someone far more than a mere man.

Jesus asks again, "Who is it you want?" He's giving them another chance to reconsider their actions. But they persist in their mission to arrest "Jesus of Nazareth."

In this moment, Jesus shows his sacrificial love. He doesn't resist arrest or flee, but he does make a request: "If you are looking for me, then let these men go." Even in his own hour of trial, Jesus is thinking of his disciples, protecting them, fulfilling his own words that he would not lose any of those the Father had given him.

As we reflect on this passage, we see the steadfast love and resolve of Christ. He faces betrayal and arrest with courage and concern for others. He does not shrink back from the cup of suffering he is about to drink.

We also see a challenge to examine our own hearts. Are there areas where we, like Judas, are walking in darkness while claiming to follow the light? Are we willing to stand with Christ, even when it means facing opposition or persecution?

May we, like the disciples, follow Jesus faithfully, even in the darkest of times, knowing that he is the great I AM who loves us and gives himself for us.

God bless you.

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