“When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” “I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” ” (John 18:1–11, NIV)Jesus and His 11 disciples (minus Judas who had slipped away in the night to betray Jesus) were gathered in a familiar place. It was the Garden of Gethsemane just on the other side of the Kidron Valley. From where they stood, they could see the temple just on the other side of the valley. It was a quiet and peaceful night…so they rested.
Little did they know that on this night, everything was about to change. Their world would be turned upside down and the valley beneath them would become a valley of confusion. Nothing that happens next would make sense in their eyes.
They heard the rumble of footsteps that grew louder by the minute. You can’t miss the sound of 600 Roman soldiers fully armed and in battle gear. The light of the torches and lanterns would have lit up the sky.
It would be similar to the feeling we might have when we hear the sound of sirens screaming down the street. Police and Firetrucks. SWAT teams and armored vehicles. Someone must really be in trouble. But then you notice…they are coming for you!
What have the disciples done? They are not guilty of any crimes. If anything they are guilty of healing, not hurting. They are guilty of spreading hope, not disarray. And yet, the massive army and the flaming torches were coming for them. How startled they must have been to find themselves surrounded by such and awesome display of force.
Apparently the soldiers thought they would find trouble, but when they arrive, Jesus makes the first move. He steps forward and asks, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
Jesus simply tells them, “I am He.” But the response of those who came to arrest him was highly unusual. John says, “…they drew back and fell to the ground.”
Maybe they were expecting a fight and they found a willing volunteer. Maybe Jesus raised His hand and they flinched in response. Whatever the case, we know the tension was high and their response tells us that they knew the power of the innocent man they had come to take prisoner.
Over 600 armed soldiers and they hit the ground. It foreshadows a day when all humanity will do the same. A day when the resurrected Jesus will stand before mankind and every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus is Lord.
On that day, will you bow in worship or will you bow in fear? In gratitude or in grief? How you respond to Christ today will determine your answer to that question. But make no mistake…we will all be on our knees.