Bible Study Commentary on Jesus the Great I AM
I AM a worm - The gospel in the scarlet worm
by I Gordon
In the last message, we looked at the last of the 7 great I AM statements of Jesus. We saw that on the night of His betrayal and arrest Jesus spoke to His disciples saying 'I am the true Vine' - 'Without Me you can do nothing' - 'Abide in Me and you will bear much fruit'. So that was the 7th and final I AM statement. But since then the emails have been flooding in, the phone's been ringing red hot and people have been signing petitions presented to the council. 'We must have more I AM's' they have been saying. 'Give us more I AM's!' It's getting a little intimidating. It wouldn't take much for this crowd of ageing Christians to turn ugly. Alright, I'm in some kind of fantasy world. No one has been asking for more, but more you are going to get!
Today we will look at the last I AM statement in the gospels, the last I AM statement before Jesus died on the cross. We are but a hours on from our last message in the life of Jesus. Judas has gone out to betray Jesus, he's been paid his 30 pieces of silver (to fulfill the prophecy of Zech 12:10) and the Roman soldiers are on their way. let's pick up the statement in John chapter 18.
John 18:1-3 When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. (2) Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples. (3) Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, *came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.
You may remember from last time that we mentioned that Jesus, on this last night before the crucifixion, left the upper room and crossed over the Kidron Valley and into the Garden of Gethsemane. You will remember that it was in that garden that Jesus sweated blood as He contemplated the events that were soon to play out. Not least of which was He, the sinless lamb, taking on the sins of the whole world and having the Father turn away from Him. All three of the other Gospels speak of this event. But John doesn't. The other Gospel's this aspect which shows Jesus' humanity. John is interested in showing Jesus' deity. That is why the I AM statements are only found in the Gospel of John. The purpose of John's gospel, as discussed earlier in this series, is 'so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.' (John 20:31) So John doesn't record this agonising time in the garden of Gethsemane but instead focuses on something that none of the other Gospel writers mention. Something that occurred when the Roman soldiers came to arrest Jesus.
We read above in verse 3 that Judas came with a Roman cohort and officers, the chief priests and some Pharisees. A Roman 'cohort' is generally between 200-500 soldiers. That is a lot of soldiers for one man! But maybe they had heard that this wasn't an ordinary man. And they came armed, ready for any trouble.
John 18:4-6 So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and *said to them, "Whom do you seek?" (5) They answered Him, "Jesus the Nazarene." He *said to them, "I am He." And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. (6) So when He said to them, "I am He," they drew back and fell to the ground.
Now this is what we need to focus on...Note what happens when the Roman's and accompanying Jewish leader approach Jesus. Jesus says to them 'Whom do you seek?' 'Jesus of Nazareth' they reply. In other parts of the gospel Jesus is called Jesus Christ or Jesus the Christ, but the Roman's don't know anything about the deity of Jesus. They only know His humanity so to them, He is simply the man Jesus from the town of Nazareth. They would soon be enlightened through a brief demonstration of who they were actually dealing with!
Jesus replied to them 'I am He'. Actually He didn't. You'll note that in your Bible that the 'He' is in italics (or at least should be) for there is no 'He' in the original text. When the Roman's said that they sought Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus simply replied ' I AM!' He used the name of God as He had done on many occasions earlier and the force of that revelation and name was such that we read 'when He said to them, "I am" they drew back and fell to the ground.' One commentator that I read said it wasn't anything in the name that Jesus used but just the forceful way in which Jesus replied that caught the Roman Soldiers off guard, causing them to stumble and fall over. How ridiculous! Was this Dad's army that the Roman's had sent out? Was the Roman Empire running out of money so they got this bunch of soldiers cheap from the local retirement village? Were they a bunch of old timers who were easily frightened and a wee bit wobbly on their feet? Argh, no, no and no! They were Roman soldiers trained for warfare and killing. They don't get startled by someone answering their question. It is the power of Jesus, the Son of God, that send them reeling backwards.
Quick points to take from this...
Jesus was and is, completely panic-proof! You will note that He is completely calm through this situation. Nothing was or does, take Him by surprise. Nothing causes Him to get sweaty palms or nervous twitches. He knew that Judas would leave that night. He knew the Judas would betray Him that very night. He knew that this group of Gentiles and Jewish powers were coming for Him. Completely panic proof. It is always good to know that nothing in your life takes Him by surprise either. It may take you by surprise - it may cause your head to swim, your heart to race and your knees to knock. But not Him. That is why He is the rock upon which our life is built.
Jesus was in full control of this situation: The Roman's and the Jewish chief priests thought they were in control. They had the numbers. They had cornered Jesus. "There's no escaping this time, Jesus!" And before they knew it they are planted on their backsides. a few hundred of them, looking up and around at each other thinking, 'ok, what just happened then?' Some liberal and higher criticism commentators make it sound like Jesus was trying to bring in His kingdom but things got out of hand and before He knew it He had been arrested. Such nonsense is seen as scholarly is some circles. Nothing could be further from the truth. He came to die, for us, and was in full control the whole way through, even here facing the might of the Roman Empire in His arrest. Earlier in the gospel of John Jesus said this:
John 10:17-18 Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. (18) No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father."
The type for the end times: This human opposition to Jesus on the night of His arrest reminds us of that which is still to come. When Jesus returns at His second coming, the Bible tells us 'the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army.' (Rev 19:19)
This is all the might of mankind's and Satan's power gathered together to fight against the rider on the white horse - the King of kings and the Lord of lords. This is the same 'beast' (the coming Antichrist) that the whole world worshipped and said "Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?" (Rev 13:4) Well, Jesus Christ can and easily. It's not even a fair contest. The One who spoke everything into being at creation, the One who simply had to say 'I AM' to cause hundreds of well trained Roman soldiers to recoil and fall, is the same One who will overcome all opposition through the power of His word.
2Th 2:8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.
Rev 19:15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.
So there you have it. The last I AM in the gospels, the last I AM before Jesus died. Right? Well, yes and no. Now I can hear you saying 'oh the mixed messages that come from the pulpit in this age! Iain, just let your yes be 'yes' and your no 'no' right?' True. But the answer to my question is yes and no. It is a little bit of a riddle (which I know you love trying to work out!) So yes, John 18 is the last '1 AM' of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. But no, it is not the last 'I AM' of Jesus before He died. How can that be? Hmmm...Before looking at the last I AM before Jesus' death, let's quickly review the 7 I AM's so far because the last I AM before Jesus' death stands in direct contrast to all that have come before it.
The 7 + 1 'I AM's'
Each of the seven I AM's we have explored so far teach something about the glory, majesty and divinity of Jesus. As a reminder, so far we have looked at:
Now, I'm sure you'll agree that each of the I AM's show the glory and critical importance of the Lord Jesus. That is what makes the hidden 8th 'I AM' so remarkable.
The 8th I AM is...
Psalm 22 is an incredible prophetic Psalm. Some scholars believe that the entire Psalm was spoken by Jesus from the cross. It begins with the well know words of Jesus from the cross - 'My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?' and ends with 'He has done it' which has the same meaning as what Jesus spoke from the cross at the end - 'It is finished!' Between the first and last verses are incredible detail of what Jesus experienced on the cross and the events around Him. This Psalm gives the mocking sneering of the crowds... the physical pain of crucifixion...the complete exhaustion and dehydration of Jesus' experience on the cross... It shows the Gentile dogs casting lots for His garments... It even goes into the resurrection and result of the Messiah's death on our behalf. It is an incredible Psalm! I have written specifically about this Psalm before so I'll draw your attention to that to get more detail on the entire Psalm. What I would like to draw your attention to is a small part of this prophetic Psalm where David records what Jesus thought, and probably said, while on the cross. It is Psalm 22:6... the hidden and overlooked I AM of Jesus!
I AM a worm
Psa 22:6-8 But I am a worm and not a man, A reproach of men and despised by the people. (7) All who see me sneer at me; They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying, (8) "Commit yourself to the LORD; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him."
Now any time you read the scripture it is good to look at what the passage means in it's surrounding context, what it means for your own life, and then see if there is any deeper meaning that God has placed within the passage. Let's do that with this passage.
I AM a worm - the surrounding context
We have seen already that this whole Psalm is prophetic and presents us with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. That is the context. It is not saying that Jesus was a worm during the days of His public ministry but the context is on the cross. We've seen from verse 1 that the Father has turned away from Him so immediately we know that this statement comes from the time when Jesus was made sin for us. (2 Cor 5:21) It came during the 3 hours of darkness that occurred on the cross (Mark 15:33-34). Physical darkness covered the land to outwardly picture the turning away of heaven from 'the worm' on the cross. Now remember - this is Jesus saying this. It is the One who had never known sin. It is the One who was is the creator and sustainer of the universe. The One in whom all things exist and hold together. The One who is the bread of life, the light of the world, the good Shepherd, the true Vine... but now He is the worm.
We see from the Psalm the sneers, reproaches and taunts that came from the others watching on. This is the One, as we saw, that when the forces of Rome and the Jewish leaders came to arrest Him He said 'I AM' and they staggered and fell backwards. He had the power to cause His mockers to drop dead on the spot... yet, as One now lower than a man, He took it all and prayed Father forgive them. We get very used to this story do we not? But sometimes, just sometimes, we get another little glimpse into the magnitude of what He did that day and this study has given me some of those moments once again.
I AM a worm - the hidden deeper treasure
Now there is something fascinating below the surface about this 'I AM' of Jesus in Psalm 22:6. There are two main words for 'worm' in Hebrew. The word used here is not the most common Hebrew word for worm ('Rimmah') but the word 'Tola'ath' which denotes a special type of worm - the scarlet or crimson worm. This scarlet worm, when it comes time to give birth, will climb and attach itself to the trunk of a tree, forming a hard shell. Within the shell it lays its eggs and dies, staining both the tree and the young worms with a crimson fluid. Yet, after a few days (some say three!) the crimson shell turns into a snow white wax like substance and falls to the ground.
|Aspect of this worm
|Tola or Tola'ath -
The use of scarlet
|'Tola' in Hebrew means both 'worm' and the colour 'scarlet'. There is a scarlet thread that runs through the entire Bible showing that redemption would ultimately come from THE scarlet worm, the Lord Jesus, who would die for our sins. The scarlet dye from this worm was used for the curtains of the Tabernacle (Ex 26:1). Kingly robes would be made in scarlet and you'll remember that in mockery they dressed Jesus in such a coloured robe before the crucifixion (Matt 27:28).
|The place of death
||At the time of death the scarlet worm attaches itself to a tree. This signifies our Lord's death on the tree. Gal 3:13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us, for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"
|The necessity of death for children to come
||The scarlet worm attaches itself to a tree and dies in the act of giving birth. Jesus, the grain of wheat, had to fall into the ground and die to bring forth His spiritual offspring. Heb 2:9-10 But we see Jesus, who.. suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
|After dying, the crimson shell turns to a white wax after a few days
||Creationist Dr Jobe Martin says it turns white after three days! Reminds us of the pleading of God for people to come and experience forgiveness in Him. Isa 1:18 Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet (tola), they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
Rom 4:25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
|The death of the worm stains both the tree and its young crimson
||The blood of Christ was upon His tree, the cross, and upon all the sons of God. Col 1:19-20 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
|Other uses of the scarlet worm
||Apart from the scarlet dye, the remains of this crimson worm were used, and are used, as a medicine to make the heart beat smoothly. And He, Jesus, is the only One who can truly help the human heart today!
What an amazing picture God has placed within His creation to show what Jesus would do for us and what an amazing statement would be made in the Psalms that the coming Messiah would say 'I am a scarlet worm' - dying and shedding my blood so that those born of Me might have life.
"Great is the mystery that God became a man (1Timothy 3:16). But greater still is the mystery that the MAN became a LAMB (Jn 1:29) and the LAMB became a WORM to save you and me!
Job 25:4-6 "How then can a man be just with God? Or how can he be clean who is born of woman? "If even the moon has no brightness And the stars are not pure in His sight, How much less man, that maggot, And the son of man, that worm!"
A pertinent question and a hidden answer in the book of Job
Bildad asks probably the most important question anyone can ask - How can a man be just (clean, righteous) before God. He says how can it happen? Man is a maggot, and the son of man, that worm! I don't think he knew that the answer to his question was in his very words! He rightfully points out that man is a worm (or maggot). Fair enough! He is right. And then he says and the son of man, that scarlet worm!' I can almost see God nodding saying... "Yes, exactly Bildad. That is how I am going to do it. You ask how man, an unclean maggot, can be righteous and clean before Me and rightfully so for that is the most critical question a man can ask. My Son, my previous Son, will become the Son of Man. And the Son of man will become this very crimson worm you speak of, giving His life so that you and others may be washed clean. That is how I will do it and that is the only way a man can be just before Me.'
And to that end the entire life of Jesus was dedicated. We see this from the first word spoken to the last.
What were the first words of Jesus recording in the Gospels? It is this:
"Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" (Luke 2:49)
And what were the last before His death on the cross?
Joh 19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Luk 23:46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.
So Jesus last words were 'It is finished. It is done. Paid in full. Father into your hands I commit my spirit.' He had completed His Father business, bowed His head, and died as a scarlet worm upon the tree. The last verse of Psalm 22 which we have spoken from confirms that in the ages to come
And what is the last words of Psalm 22? Reading from the Amplified Bible:
Psa 22:30-31 ...they shall tell of the Lord to the next generation. They shall come and shall declare His righteousness to a people yet to be born--that He has done it, that it is finished.
Is it not incredible that the One who could level the Roman guards with a word would also willingly take His place as a worm and die on a tree so that others could have life? That is Jesus, Yeshua, the Scarlet worm. And what should be our response to such love?
The love of Christ should be a huge motivating force in your life. A motivation to do what?...
2Co 5:14-15 For Christ's love compels (and controls) us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
We too want to be about our Father's business. Everyone has business of one type or another to do, right? We have jobs and family needs. We get busy doing this that and the other. But when the Lord returns, do you not want Him to find you interested, seeking, and carrying out HIS business? I do. I think about the Lord's coming a lot. But that doesn't mean you are busy frantically running about trying to do things for the Lord. In means that you are walking with Him saying 'Lord, what would you have me to do? How part would you like me to play in the Father's business?' And He may lead you into something big... or He may say 'how about helping and encouraging Betty down the road... She is struggling.' What He leads you to do is His business! But we do want to be about our Father's business and not just our own business.
We should speak of what He has done. That last verse from Psalm 22 quoted above tells us that this message will never get old! It says that each generation to come will speak to the next and tell of what the Lord has performed - that He has done it! It is finished! And you and I get that privilege of sharing that message as well. A message of the Son of God, who became a lamb, and the lamb, a worm... so that we, who are worms, could take our place in the family as sons of God. It is an eternal message that never gets old.