When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment 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.” 9 This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:1-11)
Jesus and the disciples cross the Kidron valley. In Jerusalem, there are three valleys, the kidron, the Tyropean and the Gehenna.
Those three valleys from above look exactly like the letter “shin” in Hebrew which is the sign for God- it denotes El Shadai. The land itself speaks of God. I have always found it interesting that the Hebrew symbol for God is three lines in one- just as Jerusalem itself is three valleys forming one great city.
1 Kings 11:36 says “
36 I will give one tribe to his son so that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I chose to put my Name. (1 Kings 11:36)
Jesus faced the darkest and most challenging hour of his life when he stood in the garden with the disciples waiting for the temple guards to arrest him. When they asked him if he was Jesus of Nazareth, his answer was powerfully significant:
“I am he!” Jesus said.
The actual literal translation is “I AM!” Jesus was using the identifying characteristic of God Himself. This was the name the Lord God used to identify himself in Exodus 3:13-15:
Then Moses said to God, “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, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and 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)
What is the meaning of “I AM WHO I AM?” The most common name for God in the Old Testament is “Yahweh”, which is often translated in English as THE LORD. The name Yahweh and the name I AM are built out of the same Hebrew word (hayah). Interestingly, in this passage the word, Yahweh seems to be used here interchangeably with I AM. “I AM has sent me to you” (verse 14). “Yahweh . . . has sent me to you” (verse 15). I believe that by using this expression, the Lord God is revealing to Moses the meaning of his personal name, Yahweh. The key is in the phrase, I AM, and especially in the phrase, I AM WHO I AM. This phrase carries with it some significant characteristics of the Lord God that are important to understand.
First, it means that God exists. This is an important place to start because there are many people who treat God as if he is not there at all. What if you were invited to have lunch with the CEO of your company, but the entire lunch you never acknowledged his presence? How do you think that would go over? But that is exactly how many people treat God- as if he is not real- like he is some kind of unseen substance like hydrogen. They act as if he surrounds them but is not someone to whom they can relate. God is saying to Moses that he is in existence and that we can relate to him.
Second, he is saying that nothing has existed before God. He is saying that before anything was created, God existed. He is the uncaused cause. Nothing created God or was before God. All that we have, all that we are and all that we ever will be is because of the Lord God. He is our creator and sustainer.
Third, he is saying that he never changes. Nothing in all the universe can move him or change his character. He is the unmoved mover who foresees everything that happens in life and by his unlimited source of energy and power makes all things conform to his divine will. He is who he is, and therefore, as James says, “With him there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is the granite foundation of our confidence and strength.
So as you can see, when Jesus used the words “I AM”, he was making a powerfully profound announcement of his identity. It must have been utterly shocking to everyone who heard it. But there is an important connection between Jesus stating his true identity and the suffering he was about to endure that I want you to think about today:
1. It is essential that you know your true identity in order to get through the many challenges you will face in life.
How could Jesus possibly take on the sins of the world by dying on that cruel Roman cross? How could he find the strength and stamina to endure to the end? How could he sustain his determination while the Father turned his face away? How could he drink the horrible cup of wrath? How could he sustain the fiery blast from the furnace of God’s eternal justice? The answer is that Jesus knew who he was. He knew where he came from and where he was going.
And in a similar way, you and I must know our true identity as we seek to accomplish God’s purpose for our lives.
2. If you don’t know your true identity, you will likely be defined by your culture.
Life will get hard. Life may at times seem unbearable. But if we know who we are and understand our true identity, we can do more than merely survive- we can thrive.
Most people are defined by their culture. Implications:
A. Culture tells us how to feel about ourselves.
Tim Keller gives the example of an Anglo-Saxon man from 1200 years ago who interprets his feelings based on what his culture tells him. We in this culture to the same thing.
In traditional cultures the heroic narrative is self denial.
In modern culture the heroic narrative is self expression
B. Our feelings are often unreliable and confusing
The idea that you look on the inside and find yourself is incoherent because your deepest feelings contradict each other.
My wife has been married to about five men and all of them have been me. The one thing that has been consistent was my vowel- my covenant commitment that I would love her no matter what.
Your present self is looking back on past self and being embarrassed by it. It means you’re always a fool.
C. If we find our identity in anything besides Christ we will be devastated by it
I heard recently about a writer who said that his writing had become crushing to him because he identified himself with his writing no therefore it had to be great all the time.
C.S. Lewis said that we are not proud because we have money we are proud that we have more money than other people. WE get our identity by comparing ourselves with others.
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. (2 Corinthians 10:12)
3. The only solution is to form our identity in Christ
You need someone outside your self who you esteem. Ther is a line in Tolkien Two Towers,
“The praise of the praiseworthy is above all rewards.”
You need praise from the praiseworthy. That’s where you get your identity.
Why did Jesus identify Himself as God at the garden? He wanted you to know and the world to know that as God Himself he was paying the price. IT was the only way our sins could be forgiven. It was the only way satisfy the justice of God. It was the only way we would ever regain our true identity.
Jesus named us. John 10 Jesus says he knows his sheep and lays his life down for them.
Jesus didn’t just name you, he laid his life down for you.
- Why is our identity so important?
- Where do we get our identity?
- How does Christ give us an identity?
- How does identifying in anything besides Christ end up devastating us?