9. Jesus’ I AM statements Part 1
Exodus 3:13-14 - Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?’
God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I am has sent me to you.”’
Isaiah 41:4 - Who has done this and carried it through,
calling forth the generations from the beginning?
I, the Lord – with the first of them
and with the last – I am he.’
John 8:58-59 - ‘Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
On seven other occasions in John’s Gospel, John records statements where Jesus said “I AM”. These are unique to John and are not recorded in the three other Gospels. For this Podcast we will look briefly at four of them and the next Podcast will discuss the remaining three. Here Jesus is reinforcing his claims to be God because, when he says “I AM”, he is referring back to the time when God revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14 and through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 41:4. That’s why in John 8:59, they picked up stones in order to kill him for blasphemy. This was in accordance, so they thought, with Deuteronomy 13, which dictates that anyone who tries to turn people away from the living God is to be stoned to death. They knew Jesus was claiming to the very God they thought they worshipped.
John 6:35, 48, and 51: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; this bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
Three times in this passage, Jesus refers to himself as the living bread. By this he meant that he was the only one who could gratify the appetite and yearning of every person’s spirit. For those he was speaking to, bread was a basic staple food for living, just as it is for millions of people today. Jesus indicates when saying he is the bread of life, that he will supply all needs! Just as he said to the woman at the well in John 4:4, that whoever drinks his living water, shall never again go spiritually thirsty. When Jesus referred to the manna in the desert (John 6:49) he talked of it being merely temporary, despite being a gift from God. He however, as the true bread of life, would give permanent satisfaction and life everlasting to all those who believe and follow him (John 6:51)! But this bread he offers, has to be eaten; has to be taken up by the person wanting spiritual life! Note the inference to His impending sacrifice on the cross at the end of John 6:51!
John 8:12: Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I AM the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."
Jesus is at the Feast of Tabernacles! One of the great symbols of that feast was Light! At the end of the feast, when the lights are extinguished, Jesus said that he was the light of the world! Throughout the Old Testament, light is an important symbol. There is the pillar of fire and cloud leading the nation of Israel on their journey (Exodus 13). In Psalm 27:1, the psalmist describes God as “my light”. The nation of Israel was to be God’s light to all the world (Isaiah 49:6), so that God would be the world’s light (Isaiah 60:19-22). So, by referring to himself as the light of the world, Jesus is saying it is he who shines light into people’s spiritual eyes and gives them understanding, which in turn leads to them seeing their need of God and His ability to satisfy their spiritual needs.
John 10:7-11 and 14-15: Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.
Throughout the Old Testament, God is seen as a shepherd and His people are the sheep of his keeping. The sheep are always God’s, even though He temporarily entrusted them to people such as Moses to care and tend them. Therefore Moses and others like him, such as the true prophets, were forerunners to Jesus. Here Jesus proclaims that he is the door or gate to salvation! It is through Jesus that salvation is found and through him alone as the door or gate that people are led safe and sound into spiritual freedom, spiritual light and spiritual sustenance. Unlike others who come only to steal, kill and destroy, Jesus offers spiritual safety and nourishment. Jesus does not just offer a way out, but also a way in! The security offered by Jesus is because he is always in close proximity to those who follow him. Jesus calls all those who follow him by name (John 10:3) and they know each other.
Jesus is the great shepherd only through the sacrifice he must make for his sheep. Here Jesus is looking ahead to the sacrifice he will make on the Cross. His love for all of humanity compels him to make the ultimate sacrifice. Just as all shepherds will endanger themselves for the safety of their sheep, so too will Jesus endure the pain and suffering of the Cross, so that people can be led into the safety of God’s kingdom. It is in this role of shepherd, that Jesus exhibits true leadership, which is self-less and sacrificial. Ezekiel 34:11 tells of God searching out for his sheep among all nations, and this is fulfilled through Jesus. Through his perfect, obedient and voluntary sacrifice on the Cross, not only will salvation be available to the Jews but also to those of other nations (John 10:16).
For more to think about please do ask yourself the following questions and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.
Q1. Read John 6:25-59. How does Jesus being the bread of life encapsulate His whole message?
Q2. Read 1 John 1. If Jesus is the light of the world, how am I to live as His follower?
Q3. Read John 10:1-21. As a Christian Disciple, what benefits does Jesus as the shepherd offer me?