John 18:1 - 19:42
Jesus went out with His disciples across the Kidron valley
to where there was a garden,
into which He and His disciples entered.
Judas his betrayer also knew the place,
because Jesus had often met there with His disciples.
So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards
from the chief priests and the Pharisees
and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.
Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to Him,
went out and said to them, "Whom are you looking for?"
They answered Him, "Jesus the Nazorean."
He said to them, "I AM."
Judas his betrayer was also with them.
When He said to them, "I AM, "
they turned away and fell to the ground.
So He again asked them,
"Whom are you looking for?"
They said, "Jesus the Nazorean."
"I told you that I AM.
So if you are looking for me, let these men go."
Today’s Gospel is set in a garden, the place where Jesus brought His disciples many times to teach them about the faith. It was in a garden that man first chose not to trust God, leading to our alienation from Him, and here we are, again, in a garden, a place Jesus’ disciples knew well, watching our redemption take place. For all the beauty and tragedy found in that place, the garden was a place of encounter.
“Whom are you looking for?” Jesus asks the gathered crowd; they state His name. He replies with the Biblical name of God, “I AM”, not once, but three times - a Biblical sign of completeness and finality, that Jesus is completely God and His moment has finally arrived.
Jesus turns to each of us today and asks the same question,
“Whom are you looking for?”
Are you looking for hope?
Are you looking for life?
Are you looking for healing?
Are you looking for redemption?
Are you looking for love?
Are you looking for a relationship with Me?
I AM looking for you, too.
Saying prayers is not the same thing as praying. Practicing a religion is not the same thing as being religious. Checking a box next to “Christian” on a form is not the same thing as being a follower of Christ. Words and gestures are meaningless if they are not rooted in a personal relationship with Jesus that transforms our entire lives. Judas knew how to say prayers, how to keep religious traditions, and what label to give himself. He was, by all signs, a practicing Jew, but if he really knew and had a living relationship with the God of his ancestors, then when he asked God where he was in his life, he would have heard Jesus whisper back to him. “I AM here”, and that relationship would have changed everything for him.
Our world is tired of casual Christianity. Today, be a living witnesses to the joy and hope found in a relationship with Christ. When the world asks, “Who actually follows this Jesus and is a Christian?” We should be able to turn to them, as Jesus did to the crowd, and echo His words with conviction, “I AM."