January 23, 2016

Gems in the Gospel of John - Part 17

Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 17: John 4:26
You are … ( I AM …)

That the resurrected Christ made himself known first to a woman (John 20: 11, 14 – 16) is relatively well known and often commented on. That he made he made his true nature known first to a woman, this woman, this unnamed, unknown, member of a despised race is much less well-known and seldom commented on.

He said to the woman (4: 26), “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” The translations here tend to be a bit misleading. To make better sense in the immediate story of the two words ‘I am’ the only ones in the original Greek, they have added a third word, called a predicate, ‘he’, to give ‘I am he’. Again it is well known that Jesus described himself seven times with different substantial predicates: ‘ I am the bread of life’, ‘I am the light of the world’ , ‘I am the gate’, ‘I am the good shepherd’, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ and ‘I am the true vine’. What is not so well known is that Jesus said ‘I AM” without a predicate on another seven occasions. This is the first of these.

When Moses asked the Lord God what his name was at the burning bush he was given three answers. The third was “The Lord, the God of your fathers —the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” which identified him as the right God, the one that their ancestors had been worshipping all those hundreds of years they were stuck in Egypt. The first name they were given was the mysterious one ‘I am who I am.’ The second one is the most useful one and the one that we are interested in here ‘I am’, somewhat hidden in the answer “I am has sent me to you”. The words ‘I am’ in Hebrew are closely related to the personal name of God, YHWH, which we vocalize as Yahweh. This is the name for God used by Isaiah when he wrote in 43: 10 and other places, ““You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he” where again a ‘he’ has been added to what should read simply ‘I am’.

So what?

Jesus says very clearly to the woman is ‘I AM’ or ‘I AM God’. Whether she fully understood what he was saying we do not know – she may have done so since the Samaritans only used the first 5 books of the Bible and she will have been very familiar with just about every word of, at least, the story parts of those books. Later in John’s gospel when Jesus said to a crowd at 8: 58, ““Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am!” their reaction was, “they picked up stones to stone him” so they clearly understood the implications of what he had said.

Jesus was part of the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit. He had temporarily

“made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant … he humbled himself” as Phil 2: 6 – 8 says. But he was still fully divine, still part of the Triune God, “the Word was God” and would be again as Thomas realizes when he calls him, “My Lord and my God” (John 20: 28). He had only allowed his divine nature and attributes to go into temporary eclipse so that, as the writer to the Hebrews says, (2: 16 – 18) “For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

What a wonderful saviour we have!

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