Stubborn in the Face of Divinity: John 18:3-11

Focus Passage: John 18:3-11 (NLT)

The leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons, they arrived at the olive grove.

Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked.

“Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.) As Jesus said “I am he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground! Once more he asked them, “Who are you looking for?”

And again they replied, “Jesus the Nazarene.”

“I told you that I am he,” Jesus said. “And since I am the one you want, let these others go.” He did this to fulfill his own statement: “I did not lose a single one of those you have given me.”

10 Then Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave. 11 But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?”

Read John 18:3-11 in context and/or in other translations on!

During the commotion surrounding Jesus arrest in the garden, each of the four gospel writers give us different details that happened in this key event in Jesus’ life. When looking at the unique details of each gospel, it is John’s gospel that really stands apart with the details He includes.

When the mob arrives to arrest Jesus, John tells us that Jesus “stepped forward to meet them. ‘Who are you looking for?’ he asked.” (v. 4b)

The mob responds back, “Jesus the Nazarene.” (v. 5a)

So Jesus answers back, “I am he.” (v. 5b)

I’m not sure why Jesus chose to answer in this specific way, but what happens at that instant is incredible. Verse 6 tells us what happened: “As Jesus said ‘I am he,’ they all drew back and fell to the ground!

My imagination wants to think that in Jesus’ short statement, a shockwave of divinity is sent out that knocks everyone present off their feet, but this is not as likely to be the case.

However, in the phrase “I am”, Jesus echoes God’s statement to Moses at the burning bush when He tells Moses that His name is “I am”.

At the very least, this response may have taken this mob by surprise because why would Jesus respond in a way that echoed God and acknowledged who He was when they were intent on coming to harm Him.

However, I believe a split-second of divinity was released in these words that did catch this crowd off guard and knocked them down.

But even while this happened, the crowd’s goal is not phased. Perhaps Jesus is a little surprised at what happened, so He asks the mob again, “Who are you looking for?” (v. 7a)

The mob replied again, “Jesus the Nazarene.” (v. 7b)

Then we come to the defining statement that John draws our attention to: “‘I told you that I am he,’ Jesus said. ‘And since I am the one you want, let these others go.’” (v. 8)

The mob was knocked off their feet, but not knocked off their mission. This tells me that we can be so stubborn that even seeing a brief glimpse of God’s divinity is not enough to break our stubbornness.

But this also tells me that Jesus is willing to protect us and endure the punishment for us. We deserve death for our sins, and Jesus is willing to pay the debt that we owe. And while He is moving towards the cross, He is even still looking out for the wellbeing of His followers.

So while we can be so stubborn that God cannot get through, Jesus loves us so much that He doesn’t want any harm to come to us while He is with us.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.