When therefore he said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.
On that last night before Calvary, everything seemed to be going wrong. Betrayal and denial were in the air; people were hiding, or running away naked in their eagerness to escape. But to those who had come to take him Jesus said so peacefully and quietly, “I an he.” It was they who were nervous and who fell backward. This inward peace always marked him. He could sleep through a storm. He could register the touch of faith amidst the jostling of an impatient crowd, and ask who it was had touched him. “My peace,” he terms it.
This peace, he said, “I leave with you.” He did not take it away, for he is here. So the martyrs of old displayed it too. They might be tortured or burnt, but they had about them a quiet dignity none could gainsay. Yes, in the world we shall have our troubles, but we shall have also his peace, which, the apostle Paul affirms, is beyond understanding.
When we view things from earth’s view, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Christ isn’t controlled nor intimidated by what we can see. On this night, seen from the eyes of the disciples, all hope seemed lost. Who could stand against the power of the Sanhedrin and the temple guards? Hence, after a feeble attempt by Peter to respond with a sword, they fled the scene. I’m sure the temple guards came with great confidence. After all they had come to arrest a simple carpenter, a teacher, who was going to give them no resistance. They were there with the power and authority of the high priest so they believed they were in control. With strong voices of command and intimidation they demanded, “Who is the teacher who dared to resist the law and the leadership of the temple?” They didn’t expect the answer. In the English translation, the rely of Jesus is, “I am he.” On the surface that appears to be a meek response. It is a mere answer to the question asked. But the original Greek reads a little different. It leaves out the word “he.” Several Bible scholars believe that the translators added the word so the sentence would be complete. But if we consider the answer to Moses’ question when he asked, “Who shall I say sent me?”, God replies, “I Am! “ Those apparently were the words that Jesus spoke. The temple guards came to arrest a carpenter and discover something they least expected. The Great I Am, clothed in the flesh of humanity, stood before them and at His words, they fell backward for no one can stand boldly or arrogantly before the presence of Almighty God.
Jesus didn’t shout nor even raise His voice. He stood and quietly responded to what appeared to be the most powerful force in the room. But in truth, this quiet carpenter was the real power.
This very same One would say to His followers- including us- “My peace I give you.” That peace He gives comes from the One who holds everything in His hands. Paul will say in Colossians that “everything that was made was made by Him and for Him and without Him nothing was made that was made.” This ought to say to us that He is the Sovereign Lord over all things and therefore when He promises peace, we rest not in what we see or what we think we know, but solely in His power, His love, and His promises. We aren’t left to face life alone or to try to figure out things on our own or to bear our burdens by ourselves. Instead, He said that although we would experience troubles, He would never leave nor forsake us.
In the story today, although it appeared to be the Lord in jeopardy, nothing of the circumstances was out of His control. Even when He was brought before the Sanhedrin nor later as He stood before Herod the government, or even when He stood before Pilate was the reality what it appeared to be. From earth’s view, it appeared that these three were in control and Jesus was subject to their power. In reality, they were nothing more than instruments being used by God to carry out His plan. Even the birth of Jesus had been orchestrated as God moved on Caesar to impose a tax registration so that Mary and Joseph would be in Bethlehem at the time of birth.
Philippians provides insight to the true picture when it tells us that one day “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” The reality is that even now all of creation is subject to Christ even though sometimes it might seem the opposite.
What lets us enjoy the peace that Christ gives is the truth that in reality He is the One who rules over all. While we may not always escape pain, trouble, despair, or suffering in this world, there will come the day when Christ will set everything in order. Until then we can rest in His peace even when we can’t explain how we are having peace in the midst of tribulation. The reason we can live in such peace is because the power that lives in us is greater than any power in the world.
So today choose to remember the power of the One who spoke the simple words, “I am.”
Dr. John Thompson