Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
I AM - Lent Midweek Two - February 25, 2015 - Text: John 18:1-9
Our text for this evening is John 18:1-9: “1When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” This is our text.
This evening we continue our trek through the Lenten Season uncovering the answer to the question behind the question, finding the inner depth of the Words of Holy Scripture. Sometimes when we read a passage of Scripture we might stop and wonder and ask, “I wonder what God means by that?” This evening we will continue to mine the meaning of the words and message of God’s Word and in particular the words of our text for this evening.
We begin this evening with the arrest of Jesus and setting the scene. Before gathering in the Garden, Jesus had been with His disciples in the upper room, the guest room as it were, or as we heard during advent and Christmas, the katalooma. He had been celebrating the Passover with His twelve apostles and from the Passover He had given them something new, His Holy Supper, the Lord’s Supper. After the meal they sang a psalm and then made their way to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus liked to go with His disciples.
As they reached the garden, Jesus left some of His disciples in one place and took with Him Peter, James and John a little further. He left Peter, James and John, those referred to as His inner circle and He went still further away to be in prayer. As He left each group of disciples He had asked them all to be in prayer with Him. On this particular evening we are told that Jesus had been in prayer with the Father and three times He asked of God the Father, concerning His upcoming suffering and crucifixion that this cup of suffering might pass from Him, but if not, “Thy will be done.”
Each time after praying Jesus returned to His disciples to find that they had not been praying but were sleeping. Each time Jesus warned them to stay alert and pray lest they be lead into temptation. As we made note last week, even though Jesus is truly God, as true man He knew the importance of prayer and being strengthened by God the Father.
Finally, after the third prayer, after Jesus had been strengthened by God the Father and as He returns to His disciples, to find them sleeping again, we are told that Judas enters the scene and with Judas we are told that he has what we would call a band of temple “thugs.” These were probably temple guards and not associated with the Roman government.
As Jesus approached Judas and as they met in the garden the scene was certainly a scene of chaos. It was dark and difficult to see. Faces and people were difficult to identify. Judas and the temple thugs were ready for a stand off, even a rumble. Tensions were high. And yet in the chaos and confusion, Jesus remains calm. Jesus is calm because He had been in prayer and was strengthened for what was to lay ahead.
John tells us how the arrest took place. As the band of thugs approach, Jesus asks, “Whom do you seek?” and they answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus’ response was, “I am he.” Now, let us compare Jesus response to God’s answer to Moses in the wilderness when God called Moses to deliver Israel from Egypt. When Moses asked God, “Whom shall I say sent me?” God answered, “Tell them ‘I AM’ has sent you.” Notice the similarity. God is the great I AM. And interestingly enough this conjugation of the “be” verb is in the present tense which helps us to recognize that our God is not a God who was, past tense or who is to be, future tense, but our God is a God who is and who lives in the eternal present tense, He is I AM. Jesus is true God and so He answers likewise that He is the I AM for whom they are looking.
At Jesus’ response, “I am he,” we are told that the band of thugs fell to the ground. They fell to the ground because they could not stand in the presence of God, the great I AM. And yet, even these events, just as all of Jesus’ signs and wonders did not convince the mob of Jesus’ true identity.
And so, Jesus asks again, “Whom do you seek?” and the answer again was, “Jesus of Nazareth,” and Jesus’ response again was, “I am he.” Then Jesus asks that the disciples be let go and we are told this was to fulfill Scripture.
What does this mean? What is Jesus claiming by saying, “I am he?” During the season of Advent we follow along preparing ourselves to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, in Hebrew, the Christ in Greek. This Christ was promised in the Garden of Eden immediately after Adam and Eve disobeyed God, sinned and brought God’s curse on the world. God stepped in and promised that He would take care of the sin of Adam and Eve and of all people. He would take care of doing what Adam and Eve and all people could not do. God promised to send a Christ who would live a perfect life, obeying all God’s laws and commands perfectly and take care of the curse and sin of all people. The only way a Christ could do all this is if the Christ would be born in perfection and the only way He could be born in perfection would be that He is truly God. And the only way He could live as our substitute would be that He is also truly human. And so, Jesus is truly human being born of the human woman, Mary and Jesus is truly God having been conceived by the Holy Spirit. Thus, Jesus is God in flesh. Jesus is the I AM who called to Moses in the wilderness.
Jesus is God in flesh who came for a purpose. Jesus was born to fulfill all righteousness. What all mankind could not do, what all the people of Israel could not do, what we cannot do, Jesus came to do, perfectly for us in our place. Jesus was born, lived a perfect life obeying all God’s commands perfectly, fulfilling all the prophecies concerning the Christ, the Messiah perfectly, took our sins upon Himself, suffered, died and rose in order to fulfilled all Holy Scripture. All the prophecies and promises concerning the coming Christ were fulfilled in Jesus. All the law, all the commandments were kept perfectly in Jesus. When Jesus lived He had us, you and me in mind. When Jesus took our sins, it was your sins and mine that He took. When Jesus suffered eternal spiritual death in hell, it was our sins, for us, with us on His mind. When Jesus rose, He rose for us. When we partake of His sacrifice in His Holy Supper, eating His body and drinking His blood, we are identifying with Him and participating in His life, suffering, death and resurrection, so that they are our life, suffering, death and resurrection.
And so Jesus fulfills the last words of our text, that none were lost and even more today He continues to work through His means of grace to give, strengthen and keep in faith so that even today He loses none, not you or me. Jesus is I AM, the eternal God in flesh for us. Jesus is God who created us and all things. Jesus is God who has given each of us life at conception, new life through Holy Baptism and all the gifts and blessings He has to give through His means of Grace, His Word and Sacraments. Jesus gives life, faith, forgiveness, even eternal life. Jesus gives because of His great love for us and we are given to.
What a great God we have, a God who gives all and neither demands no expects anything from us as if He needed anything from us or needs us to do anything for Him. He gives and we are given to, grace upon grace, pure grace. And He even stirs in us to rejoice and say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.