Good Friday - I AM

So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards
from the chief priests and the Pharisees
and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.
Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him,
went out and said to them, "Whom are you looking for?"
They answered him, "Jesus the Nazorean."
He said to them, "I AM."
Judas his betrayer was also with them.
When he said to them, "I AM, "
they turned away and fell to the ground.
So he again asked them,
"Whom are you looking for?"
They said, "Jesus the Nazorean."
Jesus answered,
"I told you that I AM.
So if you are looking for me, let these men go."
This was to fulfill what he had said,
"I have not lost any of those you gave me."

John 18

One can hardly do justice to the Passion narrative on Good Friday with commentary so I’ll limit myself to an admittedly trite observation:

When Jesus asks the soldiers who they are looking for and they tell him, “Jesus the Nazorean,” he replies, “I AM”.  Miraculously, they turn and fall.  

I reviewed several commentaries on this passage and found little.  It is interesting that, “I am,” is grammatically not really a proper reply to the soldiers.  It should be, “I am he.” I also couldn’t find any stated reason why the Lectionary capitalizes, “I AM”.  Whatever its nature, Jesus’s utterance has the extraordinary effect of spinning the soldiers around on their heels and knocking them off their feet.

The Old Testament parallels come fast and furious throughout the Passion narrative.  My own suspicion is that Jesus is paralleling God at the burning bush when He instructs Moses to tell the Israelites that I AM has sent him. In fact, it seems pretty likely.

The Gospel of John alone identifies Jesus as identical with God.  The Synoptic Gospels see Jesus as Son of Man (which really means, “human”) and the Son of God, Messiah and the Christ, which, although unique and of exceptional importance, don’t suggest Incarnation.  In John, the references are few:  in the beginning of the Gospel, Jesus is the Word made flesh, and at the end, ironically, Doubting Thomas declares Jesus, “My Lord and my God”.  In a couple more instances, Jesus says that those who see him see God.  Here, in the Garden of Gethsemane, John seems to be expressing the same extraordinary idea at the heart of faith.

Image:  A fire on the beach by the author