“…Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders….”  Mark 14:43

Now when He said:  I am He, they drew back and fell to the ground”  John 18:5

I was in the military, the Air Force, for a while and part of my job was to understand and plan for battles.  To think about things such as concentration of force, and overwhelming of resistance by focused superiority of weapons and numbers.  And while I feel that I served for a noble and just cause, it is still unnerving, that amount of energy, thought and planning that can go into the destruction of our fellow man.  So from a human sense, the above referenced arrest of Jesus, makes no sense.

Judas and the group that was with him, held every advantage.  First, they were a numerically superior force.  For Jesus had only eleven men with him compared to the multitude that came with Judas.  Secondly, Judas’ group had superior weapons.  They had swords and clubs.  In the gospel of Luke, we are told that Jesus’ group had just two swords.  Judas group was better trained.  In the gospel of John, we are told that at least a part of the multitude was a detachment of troops.  The gospels do not tell us the professions of all the disciples but we know five of them are fishermen.  A fisherman of that day might have built some considerable strength but that would not equate to training with a sword.  Finally, they had authority on their side.  This was not some mob of the street.  This multitude was gathered at the request of and were carrying out the orders of the chief priests, scribes and elders.  Only the Romans had a greater earthly authority.  Jesus claimed no earthly authority or kingship.

So the arrest should have been an amazingly simple process.  Judas identifies and then the overwhelming superior strength of Judas’ support easily captures and removes Jesus.  It even starts out that way.  Judas indeed comes up and identifies, betrays Jesus by giving Him a kiss.  Now the troops should have stepped in and done their duty.  This is when things go wrong.  For some seemingly unexplainable reason, they freeze.  Jesus has to prompt their action by asking:  “Whom are you seeking?”  They answer “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Now it should be that they already know this because Judas has already pointed Him out.  Yet for some reason they need to hear it from Jesus himself.  “I am He.”  Jesus answers.  And here is where the most incredible thing happens.  When Jesus says this, it is not as if all the sudden His disciples rush the multitude.  It is not as if suddenly the sky is split by the sound of earth shattering thunder, followed by legions of angels coming to His defense.  However, at those three simple words:  “I am He”  the multitude are gripped by fear, fall back and fall to the ground.  Seemingly, it is only when Jesus gives them permission to take Him by telling them:  “this is your hour…..but the scriptures must be fulfilled……therefore if you seek me, let these go their way…., that the multitude gains the courage to take Jesus.

The world may not understand it but you and I do.  Though they did not acknowledge it, consciously even believe it, each of those members of the multitude, spiritually knew they were in the presence of the Son of God.  The power in His declaration that I am He went far beyond just the momentary announcement that He was the one they had come for.  I am He is the declaration that He is the I AM.  He is the one Son of God and as such God.  No wonder they fell back.  To be in the presence of that kind of power would scare anyone, even though they don’t understand it or even believe in it.  No wonder they could not move until he spoke to them in such a way as to say:  do what you must do.

So what are we to carry from that interaction to today?  Earthly power is distributed in many different forms.  Sometimes we measure power by the sheer muscular size of the person or people,  Sometimes we measure power by the title that a person has:  CEO, President, General, Manager, Husband, Wife, Father or Mother.  Sometimes we say those with letters behind their names are powerful:  MD, PhD, MS, EIEIO (couldn’t resist the last one).  And there are so many other ways we grant or measure power:  age, country, race, gender, volume of voice, tendency for anger, weapons possessed, just to name a few.  Sometimes, if we are the ones with any of the above listed characteristics, we try to wield our earthly power as if we are the ones who are in or should be in control.  However, sometimes the opposite is true.  We find ourselves cowering in fear of someone whom we believe to have earthly power over us and give in to their demands.

Jesus needed no earthly trappings of power.  Jesus knew He was and is the very definition of power.  Jesus could have used His power to uterly destroy that mob and any other who would come against Him.  How did He decide to use His power?  Jesus Christ decided to use His power to carry out the loving plan of His Father.  Jesus Christ used His power to lay down His life for us and become the Powerfully Perfect Sacrifice for all of us who were powerless to do so.  In His Power He rose again, defeating all evil powers for ever.  That is a power that is so beyond my comprehension that it is awesomely frightening to behold.  Yet because that Power is rooted in love, it is a power that I so want to be able to tap into, knowing that His power will far exceed any other power out there.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we humbly confess that there is no power that we have which can compare to Your Power.  We praise You, most Merciful Father, that You wield Your Power in Perfect Love, Mercy and Justice.  We thank You, Holy Father, for the Power in the Resurrection, that cleanses us of our sins.  And we pray that we would be drawn to Your Perfect Power, living a life of true worship, honoring Your Most Holy Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen