J. Oliver Jones
Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14)
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (John 8:56-58)
When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered. And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples. Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. (John 18:1-6)
In the first passage above, we have God revealing to Moses His name, “I AM WHO I AM.” . . . . “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” In the second passage we have Jesus responding to the Jews that He is eternal, Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” These two passages have been tied together by many theologians and scholars as one of the times Jesus actually declared himself to be God. Though there are some who deny that Jesus ever declared himself to be God, this passage is hard to understand any other way.
The third passage above is slightly different. Here we have Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal when Judas appears with a “detachment of troops and officers” to arrest Jesus. Jesus asks whom they are seeking, and they respond, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I am He.” If you notice in most translations that the ‘He’ is in italics, indicating that it has been added to the text to clarify meaning. All that is actually recorded is this, “Jesus answered, ‘I am.'”
For those who are into the languages, Dr. James White of the Alpha and Omega Ministries states that, “The specific phrase ‘ego eimi’ (I am) occurs 24 times in the Gospel of John. Seventeen of these times it is followed by a clear predicate. Some of these instances would be John 6:35, “I am the living bread” (ego eimi ho artos tes zoes) or John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd” (ego eimi ho poimen ho kalos). 3 times the usage does not fall into a clear category – these would be 4:26, 6:20, and 9:9. In 4:26 Jesus says to the woman at the well, “I am, the one speaking to you” (ego eimi, ho lalon soi) which is strangely reminiscent of the LXX rendering of Isaiah 52:6 (ego eimi autos ho lalon). In 6:20 it seems to be a rather straight-forward self-identification to the frightened disciples in the boat. And in 9:9 we find the man who had been healed of his blindness insisting that he was indeed the man of whom they spoke. This last instance is similar to the sayings as Jesus utters them, in that the phrase comes at the end of the clause and looks elsewhere for its predicate. Given the above usages, we are left with 7 usages that have been described as “absolute”. These would be John 8:24, 8:28, 8:58, 13:19, 18:5, 18:6, and 18:8. It is these seven passages that make up the bulk of the discussion concerning the use of ego eimi by John.” Later in his article Dr. White gives his own translation of three specific passages in John that has Jesus declaring that he is ego eimi. . .
John 8:58: “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”
John 13:19: “From now on I tell you before it comes to pass in order that when it does happen, you may believe that I am.”
John 18:5-6: “They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am.” And Judas also, the one who betrayed Him, was standing with them. Therefore when He said to them, “I am,” they went backwards and fell upon the ground.”
To me it is obvious that in these places (and others) Jesus was connecting himself with Jehovah, the Great I AM. But here is the point of this thought. Notice what happens in the Garden when Jesus answers, “I am.” “Therefore when He said to them, “I am,” they went backwards and fell upon the ground.” Now, there are several ideas as to the number of men who came to the Garden that night, some saying as many as a full cohort of troops based on the wording used here and in the other Gospels. That would be up to 600 soldiers. I doubt that many were sent, but from all indications there would have been at least a couple of dozen and likely many more. Read again what is said about them, “Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.”
Many of these men were trained Roman soldiers. Others were Temple guards. So what caused these trained men used to battle suddenly go backwards and fall at the simple response of one man? Were they startled as some suggest? Startled at what! Where they just clumsy and when one tripped he just caused a domino effect? Not very likely! Perhaps the sight of Peter with his sword made this “detachment of troops” sound retreat. We know better!
No, I believe the sheer power from the proclamation of these words from the mouth of Jesus, the very mouth of God himself, blew these men backward and to the ground. Yes, that is my speculation, but it sure sounds a lot like other passages about Jesus that are yet to be fulfilled!
But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Isaiah 11:4 NKJV
I saw heaven standing open
and there before me was a white horse,
whose rider is called Faithful and True.
With justice he judges and makes war.
His eyes are like blazing fire,
and on his head are many crowns.
He has a name written on him
that no one knows but he himself.
He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood,
and his name is the Word of God.
The armies of heaven were following him,
riding on white horses and
dressed in fine linen, white and clean.
Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword
with which to strike down the nations.
“He will rule them with an iron scepter.”
He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.
On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.
Revelation 19:11-16 NIV