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“‘I AM,’ He replied, as from the burning bush.”*
Baruch looked up in displeasure as Temple guards stumbled into his inn. They had never come in this early. He hated the fact that the tough guards had run off most of his evening business. And now, here they were in the morning. No other customers were in the inn now, so he decided not to tell them the inn was closed.
“Wine,” one of them said without the usual bravado of such guards. They shuffled back into the darkest corner of the room. Baruch carried flagons to them that he had filled from the dregs of mugs and a skin left from the night before. These soldiers had been on duty all night. They were evidently too upset about something that had happened on their watch to go to sleep without wine. Mac, the oldest in the group, said not a word as they entered. He did not look up when Baruch brought the wine. Baruch thought he might be in some sort of daze, but he certainly saw the wine. He took a long draft from his flagon, but still did not look at the innkeeper.
As Baruch walked away, he heard one of them called Zach say, “How do you explain what happened?”
One of the others shushed him. “This is dangerous business. If Caiaphas hears that we are talking about it, we will be dismissed, if we survive his immediate wrath.” Baruch avoided hearing more of the conversation even as he refilled their mugs.
Zach said, “What can we do? Someone is sure to tell him what happened.”
As he finished off his second flagon of wine Mac finally spoke. “The words that we heard that prisoner say mean something. He said ‘I AM.’ I mean he didn’t say, ‘I am here,’ or I am the one you want.’ He just said, ‘I AM.’ I have heard the words spoken like that somewhere before.”
“I know where they come from,” Timaeus, the lowest ranking of the men, said. “I thought I remembered. But just to be sure, I asked Jonas, a rabbi that I went to school with. He confirmed it. When God met Moses at the burning bush in the desert, Moses asked God to tell him His name. And the Lord said, ‘I AM!’ Then He said, ‘This is my name by which I am to be known forever.’ Was this Jesus of Nazareth saying he was God?”
Zach said, “That has to be nonsense. I mean, we wouldn't have thought anything about the words, if we had not seen three temple guards, a Pharisee, and one of his servants fall flat on their backs when this Jesus said, ‘I AM!’
Timeaus said, “He didn’t say it with any force. I wasn't twenty feet away, and I barely heard him.”
“That’s not right!” Mac argued, slurring his voice as if he were already in his cups. “He didn’t hit anyone, and his voice was not loud, but he spoke with force, a force I can’t explain.”
Zach asked, “Are you saying he spoke with the force of God when he said, ‘I AM’?"
Mac looked blankly at him for a moment. Then he said, “Do you have another explanation?”
Timeaus said, “That is impossible! He couldn’t be God.”
Zach agreed even though he was still stymied. “If he were God in the form of a man, could the others have arrested him?”
Up until now, Mac had not been sure there was a real god. He said, “I don’t know, but he had to be someone. Something happened out there in the garden.”
They did not drink until they passed out as the innkeeper had feared. As several others came in for a drink and a few moments’ rest, the Temple soldiers shrunk away as if they dared not let anyone see them.
This story was conceived from the account of the arrest of Jesus in John 18:1-6
O Lord, we tremble as you reveal yourself to us.
*From Whom Do You Seek, a poem in the book, I AM, by David Young.
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