John 18:1-18
Ego Eimi: I Am

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. The chief priests and the Pharisees had by now determined to kill off Jesus (11:53). But, around Jesus a crowd usually surrounded him. If they were to arrest Jesus in town during the daylight, it would lead to a great stirring [of the crowds around him]. So for them, it would be best to choose a good time and place [to arrest him]. It was Judas Iscariot who helped them out to do that. Judas knew quite well that after supper he would go to a certain garden across from the Kidron Valley like always and have a time of prayer with just Jesus and the disciples. Since this was bound to happen, they would most certainly be able to arrest him there. Judas took up the job of leading them right to the right spot.

Jesus And Peter

2. The betrayal by Judas -- no matter how many times [I] read this, it is totally puzzling [to me]. Why did he betray [Jesus]? It is possible [to come up with] several opinions on the motive in his heart and mind. But, that amounts to no more than the satisfying of one's curiosity. There is something more important than that. The scripture simply describes this event as follows: "The devil had already made Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, entertain the idea of betraying Jesus," (13:2). "When Judas took the piece of bread, Satan entered into him," (13:27).

3. "The devil," "Satan," "the ruler of this passing world," "the wicked one" -- what is being expressed by these terms is an every day reality that human beings have typically experienced even to this day. Which means that, it is a fact of reality that a dreadful power is truly at work in this world, [a power] that separates human beings from God, that makes [people] slaves of sin, and leads [them] to destruction. "Satan entered into him!" The power that worked in Judas is also working in us. As "the ruler of this passing world," this power intends to rule both this world and our lives.

4. Judas leads "a company of soldiers and the hands that the chief priests and the Pharisees had sent" (18:3) and appears before Jesus once again. The phraseology of "a company of soldiers" means a group of soldiers that starts from six hundred men. I'd say that's way too high. But, through this word choice the gospel narrative is attempting to lay out a scene in which a very massive power of darkness, a diabolical force is ready to attack in order to arrest the Christ.

5. So, Christ is arrested and hauled in. It looks very much as if Christ is hauled in as he yields to the power of Satan. However, John depicts this scene very carefully. He is trying to pass on the fact that Christ was not the loser, he was not hauled in because he was powerless.

6. In verse one this is what the scripture says: "When he finished speaking, Jesus left with his disciples for the other side of the Kidron Valley. It had a garden there, Jesus went in with his disciples," (verse one). Jesus didn't need to go to [his] usual place because the Lord knew that Judas was betraying [him]. Yet, the Lord still headed for [his] usual place, and the scripture says in verse four that "Jesus knew what was going to happen to him; he went forward and asked, 'For whom are you searching?'," (verse four). While knowing everything, the Lord still went up to the front.

7. Jesus went up to the front because of his complete trust in and obedience of God the Father. At that time Peter slashed with a sword at a servant of the high priest. But, Jesus said, "Put the sword back up in its sheath. Shouldn't I drink the cup which my father has given me?," (verse eleven). Jesus quietly accepted this suffering as a cup from his father. [Here the text] has the figure of the Christ, being arrested, condemned, and dragged off to the cross. But, we are seeing in it him who has already defeated the forces of the devil by trusting in God the Father.

8. Well, in the same scene, the figure of Peter, as a representative of the disciples, is described. He was courageous. In a scene where there is a heap of soldiers, he himself drew a sword. At a previous hour Peter said to Jesus, "If for you, I would give up my life," (13:37). It was this kind of deed that Peter was showing here because when he drew a sword it was possible that he could be killed by the soldiers as a result. However, even Peter who looked brave at first glance was not, in a real sense, defeating the power of the devil. Something astonishing is recorded beginning at verse fifteen. This Peter, who had drawn a sword before a company of soldiers, you might as well say in just an instance later, felt terror at the words of a female gatekeeper and wound up denying his relationship to Jesus. "The female gatekeeper said to Peter, 'You too, aren't you one of his disciples?' Peter said, 'You're wrong.'," (verse seventeen). After that, beginning in verse twenty-five, a similar thing is repeated again. At last, he will have denied Jesus three times. Then, the rooster crowed. It came out just as the Lord had said on a previous hour, "I truly declare. Before the rooster crows, you will say that you do not know me three times," (13:38).

9. The Bible is so honest in its description of the way humanity is! A reckless act that seemed so bold at first glance. A foolish decision that did not think of the consequences. But, that didn't necessarily mean true courage. Even though it was a similar "act of risk to one's life," the way Peter was was different from the way Christ was as he proceeded to the cross by his love and trust in God the Father. Since he wasn't defeating the devil, it turns out that his weaknesses were being revealed without his even realizing it. Yet, the way Peter was is the way we really are.

Ego Eimi

10. So, what kind of message for us are we hearing from this passage of scripture? Do not be like Peter. Be like Jesus. Be a person who can say, [I am] truly trusting in God and so "Shouldn't I drink the cup that my father has given me?" Is that [the message for us]?

11. No, it isn't. We should first turn our hearts to [the message] of "who Jesus is" and not to [this thing about] "how we're supposed to be."

12. I would like for us to read once more from verses five to nine. It is the next part at the place where Jesus asked, "For whom are you searching?" "When they replied, 'Jesus of Nazareth,' Jesus said, 'I am [he].' Judas, who was willing to betray Jesus, was also with them. When Jesus said, 'I am [he],' they stepped back and fell to the ground. Then, when Jesus asked them again 'For whom are you searching?,' they said, 'Jesus of Nazareth' from there [on the ground]. Whereupon, Jesus said: Didn't I say 'I am [he]?' Since you are searching for me, let these men depart," (verses five through nine).

13. The statement "I am [he]" is repeated here. This statement is found many times in this gospel account, yet I can recall one impressive scene in particular. It is the story written in chapter six, on the Sea of Galilee. Please look at chapter six beginning in verse sixteen. They encountered a storm on the Galilean lake and were being tossed by waves and winds. Then, Christ walked on the lake and came up to the boat. And he said, "It's me. Don't be afraid." This [statement] of "It's me" is the same words.

14. In the original manuscript, it is the statement "Ego eimi." These words can be translated as "I am." When it is [given] as "I am," again then, one scene comes to [my] mind. It is that scene where when God had once appeared to Moses, God called his own name as "I am." "God said to Moses, 'I am. I am the one who is,' and 'You should say to the Israelites this: The one called I am has sent me to you.'," (Exodus 3:14). Some have translated this part of "I am. I am the one who is." - as "I am present. I certainly am." In other words, it means that God is [always] with [them].

15. Jesus uses that statement here. In short, when the Lord said, "I am [he] (Ego eimi)," it was equal to the declaration that "I am God." Making a claim still further, it means he indeed says "I am present. I certainly am," he is God [always] with [them]. Therefore, on the raging lake [waters] the Lord said "Ego eimi" and he said "Do not be afraid." Jesus, he indeed, is the one who can truly say, "Do not be afraid."

16. So, in today's passage of scripture, he can make the exact same claim. Symbolizing the power of the devil, the many soldiers and Judas fell down to the ground at Jesus' declaration, "I am (Ego eimi)." Then, he protects the disciples by saying, "Since you are searching for me, let these men depart." We might as well say Jesus alone bore the full brunt, and by throwing himself before the powers of darkness he protected the disciples with him. This event not only symbolized that the disciples ended up not getting killed, but that they were protected amidst eternal life because of the sacrifice of Christ alone. Therefore, in verse nine it says, "It was in order that the words of Jesus would be fulfilled when he said, 'I have not lost even one person, whom you gave me.'," (verse nine).

17. Our ultimate foundation is only upon this one who declares "I am." We may have times when we display some type of courage like Peter did. But, just as Peter had done a good job of displaying his weaknesses right after that, the strength that is in us is not much. When the forces of the devil attack us and attempt to drag us into destruction, it is only one who can protect and save us from destruction. The one who declares "I am" and is the God who is with [us] will protect and save us.

18. We are not being called to merely imitate Christ. The disciples would soon drink cups each given to then by the father. But, they weren't just following after the pattern of Christ that way. They could do it because the one who says "Ego eimi" had been with them. It is the same for us as well. He is present [for us and] says, "Ego eimi. I am the one who is. I am [God]. I am [here with you]. Do not be afraid." Through Him, we can get the final victory over the power of the devil.

 
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