This is Day Thirty-Three of Christ Church Manchester’s lent devotionals, where we are breaking down the book of John. Written by Rachael Hattam.
John 18: 1 – 24:
“Who do you seek?”
“Jesus the Nazarene.”
“I AM he.”
It is in this passage that the most humble and human of Jesus’ names is juxtaposed with the most exalted and divine. The two together are where Jesus’ identity is found – he is the human being from an insignificant, small town in Galilee, who is also God. Jesus’ self-identification is at the heart of John’s gospel and this public act of identification produces dramatic effects. It says in the text that when he used the divine I AM, they fell to the ground.
People falling to the ground in the presence of God are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible, but here, the ones falling are his enemies rather than his worshipers. Perhaps this reaction is a reflection, not of their own hearts, but of Jesus’ majesty. It is a preview of the glory to come – when at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – all because of what he did in the days that followed this particular moment.
Jesus puts the question to them again. “Who do you seek?”
The repetition of the question emphasises its importance. It searches the soul. These people are seeking Jesus but they do so not for their soul’s sake. They have their own agenda. They’re there to catch him, to get him out of their way, to prosecute and persecute. There are ways of seeking Jesus that do not bring life.
Amazingly, they answer the same as before: Jesus of Nazareth. They still identify him as human and insignificant, failing to recognise his divinity even after experiencing his power first hand. They have just experienced the numinous, and it has not spoken to them at all.
I wonder how often I let that Pharisee mentality seep into my own experience of the divine Christ. How often do I seek Jesus on account of my own agenda – join a church for the sake of community, pray to impress, ignore the needs of another if they inconvenience? How often do I settle for a nice shade of spiritual beige, instead of opening myself up to the vibrancy of life to the full with Christ?
Jesus’ question resonates with every soul. Who are you searching for? Jesus the Nazarene, or the Great I AM?
Written by:Andy Dowdeswell