I'll admit it.
There are times when I struggle with the belief that God is in control. A shooting in a high school. Months of unemployed job searching. An earthquake ravages a country into poverty. Godly parents pray as a wayward child spirals out of control. You watch as close friends struggle with marriage, sin, and heartache. It's too much at times.
We all face a reality plagued by circumstances that are outside our control. And it's easy to allow the enemy room to whisper lies to us about our sovereign, Abba Father. I find that deep study, prayer, and meditation on scripture can bring nourishment to a weary soul.
In fact, there is a beautiful account from the gospel of John which illustrates how we should find assurance in knowing God as 1) all powerful, 2) fully in control, and 3) faithful to keep His promises. It's a scene we know well: Christ praying in the garden the night before he is crucified, the disciples nearby, a Cohort of Roman soldiers enters to arrest Him. But, this account has more in store for us than the other gospels. Let's look at the text - John 18, starting in verse 3...
So Judas came to the garden, guiding a Cohort of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns, and weapons.
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them,
"Who is it you want?"
"Jesus of Nazareth," they replied.
"I am he," Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.)
When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, "Who is it you want?"
"Jesus of Nazareth," they said.
Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go." This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled:
"I have not lost one of those you gave me."
Did you catch it? Did you see what happened there?
Do yourself a favor and Google the interlinear translation of this section of scripture (www.blueletterbible.org is a favorite resource of mine). When you do this, you'll notice the absence of the pronoun "he" in the original Greek. The wording for Christ's response is "ἐγώ εἰμί " (egō eimi) ....or simply "I AM."
As in the very name God used to reveal himself to the Jews....
"If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD [that is, Yahweh!], the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” (Exodus 3:13-15)
In fact, even before the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ made the same claim...
"Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins." (John 8:24)
"Truly, truly I say to you before Abraham was, I am." (John 8:58)
In words of J.C. Ryle, "Let us carefully note what a strong proof we have here of the pre-existence and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. He applies to Himself the very name by which God made Himself known when He undertook to redeem Israel. It was "I AM" who brought them out of the land of Egypt. It was "I AM" who died for us upon the cross. The amazing strength of the foundation of a sinner's hope appears here. Believing on Jesus we rest on divinity, on One who is God as well as man."
So, let's now unpack what's happening in this scene as we see Christ identify himself as "I AM":
1) God is all powerful.
A Roman Cohort by most scholarly suggestions would have been around 400-600 men. Even if it was merely a smaller detachment (say, a Century), it still would have been around 100 armed, torch carrying, armor covered, trained killers surrounding a prophet, a few fishermen, and a tax collector. Yet at the use of "I AM" these men drew back and fell to the ground. What power! What majesty is so displayed that an entire garrison is grounded (the wording here implies something similar to "fell prostrate") by the words of the Lord Jesus Christ as He proclaimed His authority inherent in just His name. It is no far stretch to believe that He who holds all things together (Col 1:17) could have spoken these soldiers into non-existence if He so desired.
2) God is fully in control.
The second point comes off the first. Despite "knowing all that was going to happen to him" (and being absolutely powerful enough to reduce the Roman Cohort to dust by merely a word if He desired), He continued in His own (Triune God-head) plan of salvation set before the creation of the world. Notice how Christ "walked out" to the Roman soldiers. For the joy set before him and in obedience to the Father, Christ willingly allowed himself to be arrested. This path led to the cross of Calvary for my sake and yours. Praise God! Nothing takes Him by surprise. All is in accordance with His will.
3) God is faithful to keep His promises.
"I have not lost one of those you gave me." I love prophecy fulfilled. What a reminder that God's word is true and reliable. Christ is seen in verse 8 advocating for His disciples to not be arrested. In the previous chapter (John 17:12), while in prayer, Christ stated His commitment to provide for the spiritual leading and physical care of the disciples while he was alive. Earlier in Chapter 6, the same language is used as Christ declares our eternal security in him as the "Bread of Life." Even as He blamelessly goes to trial, He is reminding us of his faithfulness, as well as the eternity to come - which puts into perspective the temporal affliction and concern of today.
If you are in a season of doubt, it is my hope that this serves as an encouragement to you. Seek out a pastor or other leader in the church for a listening ear and support as you continue praying. And find the power to persevere by the Spirit of the Living God who is within you.
-Chris Derry, Men's Ministry Co-Leader