18 When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. 2 Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples. 3 Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, *came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and *said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He *said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. 6 So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
For those of us with a study bible or who even read some bible websites or apps, we tend to look at this story plainly as it is usually labeled: The Betrayal of Jesus by Judas Isacriot (or some version thereof). Unfortunately for us, that limits our thinking when we read this. We kinda skim over it, pause for a second when Jesus is betrayed, then fast forward to the trials so we can get to the bloody part.
In verse 3, we read about a Roman cohort. What is this? It is a legion of soldiers: 600 armed men. What does this reveal about Jesus? For one, they didn’t think He would go without a fight. He was in their face for 3 years and they didn’t like Him. They were still judging Him based on human standards. However, the presence of 600 men is interesting. They knew He had power. He had been healing, casting out demons, and even raising people from the dead. His disciples even wielded some powers at certain times. Ok, I can see maybe expecting a bit of a fight and needing to bring some extra muscle. 600?
It is at this point that Jesus yet again shows us who He truly is, The Son of God. Remember way back when God told Moses He was sending him to deliver Israel out of Egypt? How did God identify Himself? Exodus 3:14 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Jesus does the same thing here. He didn’t just claim “I am Jesus the Nazarene” He claimed “I AM WHO I AM.”
Next comes the fascinating part. This was show to me by a teacher a few weeks ago and I never noticed it, because I usually skip over this part waiting to get to the “good part.” They drew back and fell to the ground. The English here doesn’t quite convey the meaning of the original text. They were forced to the ground. Here I envision as if someone is kneeling before a king. They take a full step back and kneel. However, the verbage here indicates that they were forced into this position. 600 Roman soldiers!
We can look at this twofold. The first is the cool part, the second is the heavy part. Jesus power was that of God’s. Even the wait of claiming “I AM” forced 600 hardened men to fall on their knees. This is the power He had all along. This is the same power that you and I as believers in Christ have as well.
The “heavy” part of all this is that He still surrendered and sacrificed Himself for us. We read Jesus’ quote that a “love is no greater than a man willing to die for his friends.” It’s one thing if it is an accident or an instant reaction like jumping on a grenade (not to minimize an act of sacrifice). But Jesus literally walked into it all. He knew what was coming and He did it anyway. THAT is sacrificial love. THAT is how much God loves us. THAT is what is offered to us. Not a list of rules or something we have to earn, but a sacrificial love that is freely given and offered. Why do we turn away from it?