10. Jesus’ I AM statements Part 2
Isaiah 5:1-7 - I will sing for the one I love
a song about his vineyard:
my loved one had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside.
He dug it up and cleared it of stones
and planted it with the choicest vines.
He built a watchtower in it
and cut out a winepress as well.
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,
but it yielded only bad fruit.
‘Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
What more could have been done for my vineyard
than I have done for it?
When I looked for good grapes,
why did it yield only bad?
Now I will tell you
what I am going to do to my vineyard:
I will take away its hedge,
and it will be destroyed;
I will break down its wall,
and it will be trampled.
I will make it a wasteland,
neither pruned nor cultivated,
and briers and thorns will grow there.
I will command the clouds
not to rain on it.’
The vineyard of the Lord Almighty
is the nation of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are the vines he delighted in.
And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed;
for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.
We have already seen that Jesus is the bread of life, the light of the world, the gate and the shepherd – all the things the nation of Israel was to be but failed to do so. This passage in Isaiah starts out as a love song between God and His chosen people, Israel. Israel was to be a vineyard, and despite all the love God had given tending to her, she had only produced bitter, sour fruit. This bitter sour fruit is described in Isaiah 5:8-25. Therefore, God will abandon her. So, if this vineyard is abandoned, will God raise a new vineyard? What of the other Jesus’ “I AM” statements.
Our next one is
John 11:25: Jesus said to her, "I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.
This exclamation by Jesus is highlight of this passage of Scripture. Lazarus has died (John 11:15) and will be raised back to life again (John 11:43-44). Why does Jesus say that he is the resurrection and the life? He is the giver of life itself. He gives eternal life to all who will believe in him. Resurrection and life are inextricably tied together. Resurrection and life harmonize each other because resurrection precedes life and the new life of a Christian disciple is the result of resurrection. Remember Jesus’ mission was to go to his death on the cross and be resurrected three days later. Not a resurrection like that of Lazarus, who would later physically die again. No, Jesus’ resurrection, as we will look at in a later study, is one where death is ultimately conquered and Jesus has a glorious new body. Those who choose to be Christian Disciples by faith in the risen Christ, only have new life because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after His death on the Cross. That is why Jesus can exclaim with authority “I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25). Moreover, this resurrected life is not just for the future but it is also for the present, and only through the risen Jesus Christ.
John 14:6: Jesus said to him, "I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
When Jesus issued this statement, the stress of the sentence automatically falls on the words “the way”. This is because Jesus is answering a question posed by Thomas (John 14:5). Jesus Christ has exposed the barrier of sin and death, which prevents a person from entering God’s presence. He explodes this same barrier when a person entrusts in Him for their eternal salvation. He is, as he claims in Matthew 7:14, “the road that leads to life”. Not only is he the way, but he is also the truth and the life. All of God’s truth is embodied in Jesus Christ who, as both fully God and fully human, was also the ever-living God. Nobody can claim access to God the Father, except through Jesus himself. Other religions and other so-called paths to God may contain some element of truth about God, but there is no other way to God but through Jesus Christ. He is the means of access to God for all people of all cultures and all backgrounds. Jesus welcomes all, so that in his singular exclusive claims there is an inclusive embrace of all. As Jesus goes on to say in John 14:7, because we know him we also know God the Father.
John 15:1: "I AM the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was to be a vine or vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7, Ezekiel 15:1-6). Juxtaposed against Israel’s failure to be a vine, Jesus states that he is the true vine. Jesus was the reality, whereas Israel was the symbol. As the purpose of a vine is to produce fruit, the focal point is on what it takes to produce fruit (John 15:2). As Christian Disciples, we are to bear fruit by remaining close to Jesus, as He is the vine and we are the branches. And why is the Christian Disciple to bear fruit? As a means of bringing glory to God the Father (John 15:8) and thereby proving their Discipleship. As part of the ultimate mission of Jesus to glorify God the Father (John 12:28, John 17:4), it is imperative that Jesus’ disciples be fruit-bearers. This means that all Christian Disciple are to be his witnesses and therefore a commitment to mission and evangelisation is necessary. That is why the Christian Disciple prays in the Lord’s Prayer “your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10)
So there are the seven “I AM” statements. As well as equating himself with God as the “I AM”, Jesus is also promoting his exclusivity as the only Saviour. He does not say I am a true vine; a way, a truth and a life. Nor does he say I am a resurrection and a life. He does not say I am a door to life, just as he does not say I am a shepherd, a light or a bread of life. No – Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only life. Jesus is the one great shepherd and the only door to life. Jesus is the only light of the world and the only true bread of life. As his disciples currently in the Western world, we get shouted at and criticized for holding such exclusive views. But if Jesus was not God and He was only one path to God, would Jesus have needed to go through the agony of the cross, as payment for the sins of the world? Of course he wouldn’t have needed to. That he did shows that he is the only path and only means of access to God. It is only through the resurrected Jesus that salvation can be assured and then only by a childlike faith and not by any other means. That is why we should not capitulate to current trends to unite all religions, which say that all paths lead to God. Jesus Christ himself as we have seen has said that he and he alone is the way to God and salvation is only through his work on the cross for all those who trust and believe in him.
For more to think about please do read John 15:1-27. 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. How is my inward relationship with Jesus reflected and shown to those who do not know Him?
Q2. How do I as a Christian Disciple, stay close to Jesus as my Master and my King?
Q3. Is there any correlation between Jesus’ exclusive claims and why the world hates His disciples?