John 18:6 Now when He said to them, "I am He," they drew back and fell to the ground.
Imagine a large detachment of well-armed Roman soldiers and temple police dispatched to arrest one man. Scholars speculate that the number could be as many as 200, or perhaps as large as 600! Why was this necessary? How many does it ordinarily require in order to bring someone in, especially if that person is non-resistant?
The answer is that John, the writer of the 4th Gospel, intends to show us through the whole trial and crucifixion of Jesus His sovereign control of the chaos surrounding Him. When He declared “I am He,” this large group fell to the ground. This was more than just men tripping over each other in surprise at such a bold answer, for this is not something well trained soldiers would do. In the heat of battle, falling down is the worst thing to happen to a soldier. In fact, observe that the personal pronoun He is italicized to show that it is not in the original. Jesus' real answer was, “I Am!”
This was a theophanic manifestation of the presence of God as revealed in the Divine Name. These strong men were overwhelmed and overpowered. As they picked themselves up, they undoubtedly asked something like, “What happened?” Perhaps the ground shook beneath them. Regardless, they were in the presence of the Son of Man.
The fact that these men were all so flustered is demonstrated by Jesus’ having to repeat the question (18:7). Another important point to remember John’s deeper theological purpose: All these events took place in the dead of night, which shows that the powers of darkness are at work, aligned and allied against the Light of the World.
Yet with His quiet dignity and composure, Jesus proves to be the One in control of all the events, including the sham of the trial, the appearance before Pilate, His floggings, and His eventual crucifixion. In His sovereignty, God the Father uses these terrible acts of darkened hearts to fulfill His very purpose, i.e. to bring salvation to the world through His Son.
Also at the time of His arrest, we see His profound concern for His disciples, for He orders the arresting officers to let them go, to which they apparently consented. He knew His disciples were not prepared to face the ordeal He was about to experience.
The Lord manifested His greatness by the way He handled these terrible events. As His disciples, may we draw upon His grace and power to do the same when we encounter trials and hardships. May we also rest in His care and concern for us, just as He demonstrated that very same care and concern for His precious disciples on that perilous night. Let's always remember the awesome power of His name!
This is our aspiration and desire at Christian Rights Ministries. Without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5), but with Him we can do everything (Philippians 4:13)!