From the Word
“When Jesus said to them “I AM I AM,” they drew back and fell to the ground.” John 18:6
Hold it Pastor! My translation has Jesus saying, “I am He.” That is how most translations have it, because I AM I AM doesn’t make sense in the English sentence. The words in Greek are the same as all the other I AM statements in John. The text says, evgw, eivmi, which is the use of the two Greek words for “I am.” Everywhere that we have Jesus claim to be Yahweh (Hebrew I AM I AM), these two Greek words are used. The use of I AM I AM in John 18:1-8 (v 5, 6, 8) explains why they fell to the ground. He used the name they were commanded not to take in vain (2nd Commandment). Such was their fear of taking it in vain that most people in Jesus day didn’t actually say it, instead substituting the word for earthly lord. They were seeking Jesus of Nazareth. They found I AM I AM.
The awe of the moment is short lived. They deliver Jesus over to be crucified, as was their purpose. Unbeknownst to them it was also His purpose. I AM I AM came out from behind the curtain in the Temple to forever tear open that curtain by His death for our sins. Our sins separated us from Him (hence the curtain). That separation is forever torn apart by Jesus’ death and resurrection. We have full and free access to Yahweh because Jesus (Yahweh saves) has removed all barriers.
What are we to glean from this lesson? We still approach God with a certain awe, since He is our awesome God. We primarily think of God as awesome because of His work in creating the universe and the complexity of everything in it. But what He has done for us in saving us is even more awesome. It is one thing to come into contact with what He has made. It is another thing to come into contact with Him. We gather for worship in the full assurance that He is in the room. We know this, not from our view of what He has created, but because Jesus promised to be among us with, and in, the Word and Sacraments. Where the people in our text fell to the ground at the mention of His name, we stand in the fullness of His presence because I AM I AM came as “Yahweh saves” to make us His forever. AWESOME!