A Voice in the
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" I AM: Gave Himself "
- John 18 -

"Then He asked them again, Whom do you seek? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I have told you that I AM. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way..." (vs7-8) And after Peter strikes off the ear of Malchus, Jesus says to Peter, "Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?" (vs11)

"The Lord Jehovah has opened My ear, and I was not rebellious, nor turned away backwards. I gave My back to those who strike, and My cheeks to those who pluck; I hid not My face from shame and spitting." (Is50:5-6)

"And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit. Having said this, He breathed out the spirit." (Lk23:46) "...I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it again. This precept I have received from My Father." (Jn10:17-18)

As this article is being written, war with Iraq has just begun. As we have been in anticipation of war again, this past week there have been various TV specials regarding warfare, Iraq, Saddam, "Profiles" of various troops presently serving in Afghanistan, interviews of troops ready to go to battle, etc. One of those TV specials this past week-end interviewed the first US prisoners Iraq captured during the first Gulf War. The famous one was the one they 'broke', and persuaded to talk on world TV, denouncing his country. But the ones we hadn't known about until recently were the others who, even under duress of extreme beatings and other torture, did NOT crack. Beatings so severe that the one had his skull cracked as he 'flew' through the air from what he assumed must have been something like a big plank whacked across his head. As these men recounted their experiences, telling of the horrors at 'hearing' the beatings their fellow-soldiers were receiving; but even worse, anticipating what they, themselves, would be expecting to receive when it was their 'turn'; the firm resolve to -NOT- 'talk', NO MATTER WHAT. Now these, certainly, were beaten -against- their will.

Many people look at Jesus' crucifixion, thinking to themselves that, after so many 'successful' attempts to elude His captors, that 'finally' Judas "betrayed" Him, and with their large troop of people with weapons, they -finally- "captured" Jesus. If I recall correctly from years ago, I think I've also seen some would-be depictions of Jesus' crucifixion in movies, where He is shown 'struggling' to free Himself after being captured, but that the superior 'strength' of the Roman soldiers held Him firm, despite His efforts to get free.

But is that what really happened?

Imagine a pilot, once his plane has been shot down, walking purposely towards Baghdad, knowing he'd be captured and tortured. Ridiculous! you say. And you would be correct. Part of their training deals with how to "survive" if they are downed; how to stay alive, and elude capture, until rescue efforts can be mounted.

But Jesus, "knowing all things coming upon Him" (vs4) goes out to meet the mob! The days prior to this He had set His face resolutely -towards- Jerusalem (Lk9:51), and along the way has been explaining to the disciples that He is going to be captured and killed. (Mt26:2,etc) We already know from the various Gospel accounts about the beatings, scourging, crown of thorns, etc. (19:1-3) at the hands of Pilate, and Herod's soldiers. (Lk23:11)

But the fascinating account that the other three Gospels do not address, is only found in John. If any proof were needed as to Jesus' power and authority, even over His own 'capture', it is this little incident that happens as Jesus goes out to meet the mob:

Jesus 'initiates' contact with His 'captors'... "Whom do you seek?" (vs4) They, of course, respond, "Jesus of Nazareth." (vs5) He replies, "I AM!" Now, while many translations form this reply into the usual variant of the verb "to be" that we would use for ourselves in a similar situation of the form, "I am [He]" (with the added italicized "He"), this verb is the same response Jesus gives when He says, "Before Abraham came to be, I AM." (Jn8:58) This is the same name God gives to Moses to tell Israel when he asks, When Israel asks after God's name, when Moses has told them that God has sent him to lead them out of Egypt, "What is His name? what shall I say to them?" God gives His eternal memorial name, "I AM THAT I AM". Moses was to say, "I AM has sent me to you." (Ex3:13-14)

That occasion was to culminate in the first Passover.

'Now' Jesus is about to "fulfill" all those years of Passover observances by offering Himself "once for all" (Heb7:27, 9:26) as the "Lamb without blemish and without spot". (1Pt1:19) And He responds with God's eternal name, "I AM".

A bit later, when Jesus is on trial, they are going to elicit His 'confession', "Are You the Christ,the Son of the Blessed?" and He will respond "I AM". (Mk14:61-62) And when Pilate hears the 'accusation', he is going to question Jesus' more intently (next month 19:8~). But notice how Jesus sets up the 'authenticity' for His confession...

When He replies with God's eternal name, "I AM", it says, "..they fell backwards and were thrown to the ground." (vs6) Most translations simply say they went backwards and "fell" to the ground. And while that may be 'technically' correct, the word also carries the aspect of being "thrust", related to another word that means "fly". Exactly 'what' happened? How far "backwards" did they go? How hard were they flung to the ground? It doesn't say. But we can understand from the context that they-all didn't just suddenly decide to lie down on the ground for a little rest and relaxation; they didn't all accidentally 'trip' and 'fall' on cue; because Jesus then asks them again, they reply again, and He answers again, and this time says, "..if you seek Me, let these go their way." (vs8)

As if to say: You're looking for Me? Well, let Me first show you just -who- is 'in-charge' around here. Whoosh...plunk! Ok, do you understand that? Good! So, here I am, take Me, but let My disciples go.

Remember, Jesus is "the Word". (Jn1:1) He created all things, and in Him they "consist". (Col1:17) And He does this, being the "express image of [God's] essence", by the "-WORD- of His power". (Heb1:3) Throughout His earthly ministry Jesus was continually saying, "Truly, truly, I -SAY- unto you..." And so, just speaking His own name, held jointly with the Father, He demonstrates His Deity and power.

As Peter whacks off Malchus' ear with the sword, and Jesus tells him to put it back in its sheath, Jesus says to Peter, "Or do you think that I am not able now to pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?" (Mt26:53) Now, if all a person reads is the Matthew account, that word "or" might seem to 'only' be related to the exhortation to put the sword away. But when we see in this passage how Jesus has knocked the mob over backward with a 'word', would it not seem obvious that He is also trying to help Peter "see" what he has just seen. Peter can understand "thousands" of forces coming to "rescue" Jesus. But in actuality, Jesus didn't 'need' those angels, as He had just demonstrated by answering "I AM" with power. As if to say: Shall I (Jesus) be rescued by your sword, Peter? Or by angels? I've already just demonstrated My power to repel the enemy, were I to so-choose at this time.

Nobody was really quite understanding Jesus' mission, and wouldn't, until He had died and risen again. It was Peter, also, who when Jesus was foretelling His own crucifixion, was saying to Jesus, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall never be to You!" And Jesus turned and rebuked satan. (Mt16:22-23)

Those of the Crusades and of Protestantism have lashed out at Jews over the centuries, calling them "Christ-killers!" In actuality, Jesus died on a 'Roman' cross. If Jesus had died at the hands of the Jews, He would have been stoned, as they retorted before Pilate, "We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God." (Jn19:7) The Law said that blaspheme against God was to be punished by stoning. (Lev24:16) Which they attempted to do when He had proclaimed, "before Abraham... I AM"; it says, "Then they took up stones to throw at Him.." (Jn8:59) But Jesus died on a Roman cross.

God's power was evident to the Romans, too. As Jesus hung on the cross, there was a major eclipse of some celestial body traversing between the sun and earth, causing it to be dark; and the proximity of this heavenly body to earth also caused several large earthquakes, both when Jesus was on the cross, and when He rose from the dead. And after Jesus has cried out "It has been finished!" (Jn19:30), and then proclaims, "Into Your hands I commit My spirit" and then breathes out the spirit (Lk23:46) as He 'gives' out His own life; it says that the centurion standing by exclaims, "Truly this was a righteous Man" (Lk23:47); "Truly this was the Son of God" (Mt27:54)

Even that celestial body, whatever it was, was part of God's creation, created by the "Word" of Jesus. All the bodies of the heavens were created way back at the beginning for "signs and seasons" (Gen1:14) As the Scripture says, He was "slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev13:8)

Yes, in that most 'famous' verse of all: God so loved the world that He "gave" His Son to die. (Jn3:16) But considering that Jesus was the "Word" spoken, that created everything, He created into the universe the precise time when He would die on the cross. God the Father "gave" His Son, Jesus. But Jesus, Himself, gave Himself; from the creation of all things with His "fingers" (Ps8:3), to the exercise of His "arm": "Therefore His own arm brought salvation unto Him.." (Is59:16)

Jesus didn't HAVE TO go to the cross. He could have let man die in his own sin. But the all-powerful Master of the universe "humbled Himself" (Php2:8); and "gave" Himself. As they came for Him, He knocks them onto their fannies forcefully so they know who's Boss: This is who "I AM". Ok, now, here I am, 'take' Me; I'm 'yours' to do with...

When the media sometimes shows us scenes of riots, and people on the ground, being beaten and kicked about the head, the victims are usually seen cradling their heads in their hands and arms, trying to protect themselves from the onslaught. But it says of Jesus, "I hid not My face from shame and spitting.." Here I am: Do your thing! Most people when faced with the concept of cruel mistreatment, shrink away and try to avoid it. But I almost sense a bit of incredulity in the tone of Jesus' words to Peter, "Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?" As if to say: Well, OF COURSE I WILL!

And it seems as if Peter, then, learned of this himself. After the Resurrection Jesus foretells how Peter will suffer and die for Christ. (Jn21:18-19) In his epistle Peter says, "..knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ made known to me." (2Pt1:14) I don't know if it is true, but it could be that this verse refers to what is told, how Peter, knowing of plots against his life, was leaving the city to escape; and as he is nearing the edge of town, Jesus appears to him and informs him that his work is not yet finished there; whereupon Peter, understanding the meaning, assents, turns around, and returns into the city; where he was then martyred...legend says, not counting himself worthy to suffer as his Lord did, 'gives' himself, and requests to be crucified upside down.

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Gal2:20)

Amen!

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