They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene,” He said to them, “I AM.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. So when He said to them, “I AM,” they drew back and fell to the ground. John 18:5 – 6.
Throughout the Gospel of John Jesus reveals Himself as the Self-Existent One, the One Who appeared in the Burning Bush, Eternal God; as John writes in 1:18: No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. And as Jesus says to Philip in John Chapter 14, He who has seen Me has seen the Father.
In Gethsemane, when Jesus says “I AM” the crowd sent to arrest Him draws back and falls to the ground. They are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, in their minds they are looking for a man, but they have encountered more than a man, they have also encountered God – the Word was made flesh… and we beheld His glory (John 1:14). In a few days Mary Magdalene will also seek Him, this time not in a garden but in a tomb, and when He is not in the tomb she will continue to look, her heart breaking; but even Mary will be looking for a man, for just a man, though not just any man…she will be looking for Jesus, unlike any other man, unlike all men; a man yet not just a man. She sees a man, he must be the gardener, he must be the gardener because Jesus is dead and Mary is looking for a man, for just a man – but she will find God, for God finds her with the word “Mary”.
But in the Garden of Gethsemane the crowd will not allow a brief encounter with Deity to deter it from its murderous intention; and Judas will deliver his part of the bargain. God was betrayed in the Garden of Eden and He is betrayed again in the Garden of Gethsemane; but there is yet a third garden and in that garden God will reverse the betrayal on Easter morning – God’s faithfulness is more sure than our betrayal.
Whatever it is that causes the crowd to draw back and fall to the ground can be shaken off and the deed accomplished. How many times has this scenario been played out in history? In our own lives? God reveals Himself and we shake it off and see our agendas through. We may think that if we had been in the arresting posse that we would have thought twice about being knocked backwards and falling to the ground; we may think that we would have pondered His words, “I AM”. We are deceiving ourselves if we think that we would not have gotten back to our feet and consummated the arrest – thank God for the Cross - thank God for Easter.