18:4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?”
5 They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. 6 Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
7 Then He asked them again, “Whom are you seeking?”
And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
8 Jesus answered, “I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,” 9 that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.”
As I read this I tried to put myself in the "shoes" of each participant. What was it like for Jesus? What was it like for Peter? What was it like for Judas? What was it like for the soldiers? Everyone there knew Jesus personally except for the soldiers. They would only have known Him by rumour or stories. We can't forget that early on in His ministry Jesus healed a Roman centurion's servant. Had that story circulated among the ranks of the military. Did it travel from Capernaum all the way south to Jerusalem? Soldiers are often transferred from one location to another? Is it possible that the same centurion is posted in Jerusalem now? Possible but impossible to know. What we do know is that the fame of Jesus has spread all over and no where is He more talked about or controversial than here in Jerusalem. I wonder how many of the soldiers didn't want this assignment? Again impossible to know but interesting to consider. One thing I am fairly certain of is that no one in that scene expected Jesus to just hand Himself over. The soldiers and officers came with weapons. They expected resistance, bloodshed even.
Yesterday I found myself in the middle of a dispute that ended up having police involvement. I was unsure for a time if fists or even guns would become involved. It was tense. The antagonist in the situation was a lot stronger than any of us but we were more than him in number.
I thought of this scene of Jesus the enemy. He was stronger but outnumbered. They had weapons, He had none. They were filled with fear and uncertainty. He was calm and in complete control. Even as the hunted Jesus was the lead figure. So full of God's peace and presence and character was He, that when He stepped forward into the light of the torches the whole detachment of officers fell back. They literally were overpowered simply by His presence. Light came into the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it.
Here is the truth: Jesus was not taken. Jesus gave Himself. Jesus was never a prisoner in our hands. Jesus was a volunteer taking our place. Jesus was never overpowered. His mere Person was overpowering yet He humbled Himself to be lead away like a criminal.
Here is the scene as described by the prophet Isaiah centuries before:
53:6 "All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth."
John tells us Jesus knew ahead of time everything that was going to happen yet He stepped with purpose from the shadows at exactly the right time and said "I Am the One. Let these men go. I Am the One"
Do you see it? Satan is called the accuser. When he comes to accuse us Jesus will step forward and show the scars in his hands and feet and side and declare "I Am the One who paid in full. Let these go free."
Even as He faced imminent torture and death Jesus' first priority was the freedom and safety of His friends.
I can't help but love a Man like Him.