Monday, January 22, 2007

Paper Writing on John

I'm currently writing a paper on the theme of the power of Christ's word as portrayed by John in his Gospel. It's an interesting theme, but it makes for alot of writing. That makes for little time for blogging. So, in lieu of posting something original, I will give you something noteworthy to think about from the Bible. I love difficult, strange, and fascinating passages of the Bible. It's always cool to encounter something foreign, something divine, in the Word. I find that people often overlook such passages because they don't understand them. Here's one such passage: John 18:4-6, where Jesus causes a most strange reaction from the cohort of Roman soldiers who have come at Judas's lead to arrest Him. (Interesting note: cohorts numbered between 600-1000 men. This event was pretty earth-shaking, literally and figuratively.)

I'll leave you with a question, one that I have been seeking to answer in writing this paper: is the reaction of the soldiers who seek to arrest Christ voluntary or involuntary? Are they struck down by the majesty of Christ, or do they recoil in fear at His use of the divine name ("I am")? Let me know what you think.

John 18:4-6 4 So Jesus, aknowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, "Whom do you seek?" 5 They answered Him, "Jesus the Nazarene." He said to them, "I am He." And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. 6 So when He said to them, "I am He," they drew back and fell to the ground.


Blogger Dad said...


Interesting question, and I admit, one that I have skipped over. So, in spite of having hundreds of other things to do I’ll put some thought into it.

First, soldiers are mentioned only in this chapter and the next in John. This chapter mentions the soldiers from the Scribes & priests and 19, the Romans.

However, ‘officers’ also occurs (English word search here) in 7:7:32, 45,46. For a complete list from the ESV: John 7:32, 45f; 18:3, 12, 18, 22; 19:6. While ch. 7 shows a respect for Jesus, even so far that the officers disobeyed their order to arrest him, 18:22 and 19:6 show the opposite, i.e. hatred regarding Christ and a willingness to get rid of him.

Using this information then to form a conclusion as to the make up of the cohort I would guess that there might have been a faction that held Jesus in high regard, if not as the Son of God. So would these had looked upon this charge with great trepidation? I think so.

Also, Christ was not afraid of them nor of the consequences of being arrested. I suspect that this troubled these soldiers and officers. Maybe it would have been an easier task if Christ would have fought or run. Further, the context indicates that Jesus was the on in control of the situation.

I think all of these adds up to . . .

One other factor that we don’t know much about is the work of God, or the Holy Spirit, in the hearts of these men. By this I do not mean necessarily a work of salvation. Proverbs 21:1 ESV Proverbs 21:1 “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” As one who believes that this statement is true not just for kings but for each individual, than the heart of each soldier and officer was also being turned according to the will of God.

So my conclusion, at this point, is that we can not separate the work of the Spirit from the actions of these men, when they fell back. I think God was making it abundantly clear, after the recorded times when Christ was not killed or arrest, ‘because it was not his time’ that now it was his time, and in spite of all reluctance, he was going to be arrested, because it was the will of God.

Now regarding your question: Are they struck down by the majesty of Christ, or do they recoil in fear at His use of the divine name ("I am")?

I do not see an ‘or’ here. Christ’s majesty at this moment in time was very much wrapped up in his use of the word “I am”. There is not evidence they Christ appeared at this time in any form other than regular ole’ human form. His majesty was in his trust in his Father, and consequently, his lack of fear and this control of the situation.

The words, “I am” I do not think should always be thought of, coming from Christ, as a statement that he is God, as when God spoke to Moses from the burning bush. Here is a greatly edited list of ‘I am’: Gen. 23:4; 24:34; 27:32; 30:2; 45:3f; Exod. 4:10; Deut. 31:2; Judg. 6:15; Ruth 2:10; 3:9, 12; Matt. 24:5; 26:22, 25; Mark 6:50; 13:6; 14:62; Luke 1:19; 21:8; 22:70; John 4:26; 6:20, 35, 41, 48, 51; 8:12, 18, 24, 28, 58; 9:9; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 13:19; 18:5f, 8; Acts 9:5; 10:21.

I would urge a look at John 9:9 as a comparison. I suspect the “I am” in John 18 was nothing more than “I am the one you are looking for.”

Well, off to make some wooden buttons.


5:14 PM  
Anonymous Jed said...

"Are they struck down by the majesty of Christ or do they recoil in fear at His use of the divine name?"

I would go with the former. This is just a stab in the dark, but from what little I know about Judaism in the Roman Empire, these soldiers probably would not have recognized the divine name, "I am", as they would have had no familiarity with the Jewish scriptures. An educated Roman would have known that Jews had strange dietary laws and worship rituals (for example, their abstention from pork is oft-noted in Roman literature) but it is hard to imagine that many would have been familiar with the way God revealed himself to Moses (as 'I am'). Even less would these ordinary soldiers have known. I agree with Al insofar as I imagine there was either an act of God upon these men or that Jesus manifested his Glory in some way. I'd go with the latter, for my money.

3:44 AM  

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