John 18:1-8. Confrontation

John 18:1 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” 5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they said. 8  Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.”

After the meal and the prayer Jesus leads his disciples to a garden across the Kidron Valley on the Mount of Olives. The garden becomes the place of confrontation with evil, just as it was for Adam and Eve. A large and intimidating mob is led by Judas to the place where Jesus would be easily found and arrested without interference.

When the mob calls for him, Jesus answers ἐγώ εἰμι, using the equivalent of the covenant name of God— “I am”. In an almost comedic moment, fear causes the soldiers to fall back onto each other. But is it a genuine fear of Jesus as the bearer of God’s name? Quite possibly. Or just his calm courage? He has not run to hide. He has stepped forward to meet them.

The confrontation is replayed again, adding to the Pythonesque comedy and demonstrating the weakness of the thugs and the strength of Jesus.

In the garden of Eden the first Adam hid and blamed his mate. In the garden of Gethsemanie the second Adam introduced himself in order to protect his mates.

Lord Jesus, thank you for your courageous confrontation of evil. May your strength be made perfect in my weakness. Amen.