"As soon then as He had said unto them, I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground" (John 18:6).
As our Lord Jesus willingly submitted Himself in Gethsemane "knowing all things that should come upon Him" (John 18:4), He once again declared Himself as God by His "I am" statement. This occasion was quite different than the times before as hundreds of soldiers were literally jolted backward and on to the ground. Jesus apparently manifested such power and glory in that moment, that these men were overwhelmed with the sense of God's presence.
The first-century Jews clearly understood that Jesus was claiming to be God when He referred to Himself as "I am," which is why the leaders "took up . . . stones" (John 8:59) to stone Him for blasphemy. They were all too familiar with the divine encounter at the burning bush, when God told Moses His name by declaring, "I AM THAT I AM" (Exodus 3:14). They knew that Jesus was telling them that He was the eternally existent God and they violently reacted in their blind naiveté.
Somehow though, Jesus' "I am" proclamation in Gethsemane was extraordinarily unique and powerful. Christ's seven memorable "I am" statements were previously woven into His profound teaching, all reinforcing His deity, but there had not been a reaction quite like this one. Perhaps this occurrence was more momentous because Jesus was so close to fulfilling prophecy and receiving the enormous cup of God's wrath for man's sin. We won't know for sure this side of heaven.
What we do know is that there will be a day when everyone will bow down before the great "I AM" when "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11). MDR