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John 18:4-8

Context

18:4 Then Jesus, because he knew everything that was going to happen to him, 1  came and asked them, “Who are you looking for?” 2  18:5 They replied, 3  “Jesus the Nazarene.” He told them, “I am he.” (Now Judas, the one who betrayed him, was standing there with them.) 4  18:6 So when Jesus 5  said to them, “I am he,” they retreated 6  and fell to the ground. 7  18:7 Then Jesus 8  asked them again, “Who are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus the Nazarene.” 18:8 Jesus replied, 9  “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for 10  me, let these men 11  go.” 12 

1 tn Grk “knowing all things that were coming upon him.”

2 tn Grk “Whom do you seek?”

3 tn Grk “They answered.”

sn The author does not state precisely who from the group of soldiers and temple police replied to Jesus at this point. It may have been the commander of the Roman soldiers, although his presence is not explicitly mentioned until 18:12. It may also have been one of the officers of the chief priests. To the answer given, “Jesus the Nazarene,” Jesus replies “I am [he].”

4 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author. Before he states the response to Jesus’ identification of himself, the author inserts a parenthetical note that Judas, again identified as the one who betrayed him (cf. 18:2), was standing with the group of soldiers and officers of the chief priests. Many commentators have considered this to be an awkward insertion, but in fact it heightens considerably the dramatic effect of the response to Jesus’ self-identification in the following verse, and has the added effect of informing the reader that along with the others the betrayer himself ironically falls down at Jesus’ feet (18:6).

5 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

6 tn Grk “moved back” (but here a fairly rapid movement is implied).

7 sn When Jesus said to those who came to arrest him “I am,” they retreated and fell to the ground. L. Morris says that “it is possible that those in front recoiled from Jesus’ unexpected advance, so that they bumped those behind them, causing them to stumble and fall” (John [NICNT], 743-44). Perhaps this is what in fact happened on the scene; but the theological significance given to this event by the author implies that more is involved. The reaction on the part of those who came to arrest Jesus comes in response to his affirmation that he is indeed the one they are seeking, Jesus the Nazarene. But Jesus makes this affirmation of his identity using a formula which the reader has encountered before in the Fourth Gospel, e.g., 8:24, 28, 58. Jesus has applied to himself the divine Name of Exod 3:14, “I AM.” Therefore this amounts to something of a theophany which causes even his enemies to recoil and prostrate themselves, so that Jesus has to ask a second time, “Who are you looking for?” This is a vivid reminder to the reader of the Gospel that even in this dark hour, Jesus holds ultimate power over his enemies and the powers of darkness, because he is the one who bears the divine Name.

8 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

9 tn Grk “Jesus answered.”

10 tn Grk “if you are seeking.”

11 tn The word “men” is not in the Greek text but is implied. The translation uses the word “men” here rather than a more generic word like “people” because in context Jesus referred only to the eleven remaining disciples who were loyal to him and were present at his arrest.

12 sn A second time Jesus replied, “I told you that I am he,” identifying himself as the one they are seeking. Jesus also added, “If you are looking for me, let these men go.” Jesus successfully diverted attention from his disciples by getting the soldiers and officers of the chief priests to admit (twice) that it is only him they were after. Even in this hour Jesus still protected and cared for his own, giving himself up on their behalf. By handing himself over to his enemies, Jesus ensured that his disciples went free. From the perspective of the author, this is acting out beforehand what Jesus will actually do for his followers when he goes to the cross.



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