It was a motor oil dark night. How else did they not know who he was?
The struggle is real in final hours of Jesus life (it began early as a babe with his parents fleeing for his life from the threat of Herod, it continued in his ministry years with Jesus often escaping violent crowds attempting to kill him). In the last night of his life Christ offers a final message of hope.
Even though people were always trying to murder him Jesus consistently slips through their grasp until this night. What do you do when the hard thing you have avoided for years can’t be escaped? When cancer wins. When the child dies. When the marriage fails. When the lack of forgiveness erodes your will to attempt reconciliation. And you let go. You fall into the struggle. Backwards or headfirst it doesn’t matter. You fall. Where do you turn? Follow the example of Jesus.
He is up in the middle of the night for real prayer session with God laying out the options. His dialogue is like, “Father, can we do this any other way?” An answer comes in the form of heavenly help to strengthen him. There is no other way. Christ rises up with strength. The mob of men approach with force. Jesus the first to speak offers an unshaken, “Who are you looking for?” The men say the name, “Jesus of Nazareth” and he replies.
I wish I could have seen this exchange of words. Was it so dark that night they did not recognize him? The one who they could not before imprison, apprehend, or detain is within reach. They come face to face with him in the dark. He is calm. He expects them. He knows the time is now. The glory of God like a magnificent whale breeching before the harpoon surfaces in Christ. “I am he.” They fall backward at Jesus glory and humility. Consider it.
John 18:6 “As soon then as he had said to them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.”
The will of God is Jesus moving forward into the hands of those sprawled in the dirt men. One man is so startled he runs off naked. Jesus blends opposites. Grace and sinners. Suffering and glory. Hate and love. Death and life.
You may be asking how does this help me when life is hard? It’s THIS truth that grounds you. Suffering holds glory and death holds life only in Christ.
Men react in panic. They miss what is being offered. Been there? Peter turned to violence and then later to denial. Jesus full of the afore-mentioned power reattached a guard’s cut off ear which happened to be dismembered by Peter’s sword.
Peter’s disappointing reaction that night would later give way to hope. The hope of Jesus. Yes, the hope of his friend’s forgiveness with the reality of his failure weighing on him and no closure to his denial. At the sight of Christ ashore he throws himself off the boat into the sea and swims toward the forgiving King. Read it in John 21.
When life is hard hope in Christ. Hope in the grace given to backward fallen men. Hope in the Savior who full of humility and glory actually saves us. I pray you experience the one who comes to you in your struggle.
Don’t give up on Peter yet. He also illustrates a different response is possible for us. No longer saying to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord.” Now he throws himself into the sea moving toward the resurrected Christ, the Son of the living God.
Later on an older more father like Peter writes the following about this living hope we have access too. I’ll leave it here for your consideration. Grace comes to you who hope in the body of Christ Jesus given as a gift to those in the dirt.
1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
We were catching up over an evening salad that I’m not sure I could eat without choking. Darn those peperoncinis! Our conversation turned to working collaboratively. I am so thankful for you, Jamie Ronning. I encourage you to lean into the visual story she so aptly tells.