Jesus: His “I Am” Statements

“I Am the Bread of Life” (John 6:31-51)

Jesus portrays Himself as “The Bread of Heaven” the day before He feeds the five thousand (Jn. 6:31). Just as bread provides us with physical life, so Jesus provides us with eternal spiritual life. Jesus tells us if we partake of Him, if we eat this Bread, we will never die (v. 49). A parallel thought is found in Jesus’ dialogue with the woman of Samaria. She is told if she drinks His Living water, she will never thirst again.

According to the story in Exodus, the Hebrews cannot identify the bread that falls from heaven (Ex. 16:15). They decide to call it “manna,” a word that literally means “What is it?”  Liberal theologians imagine manna is really just a plant that grows naturally in the desert. But if it was, why is this “plant” not available on Saturday (vv. 23-24). Why does it breed worms as predicted (v. 20)? Why is there no substance, plant, or fungus that even faintly resembles manna as it is described and tastes in Exodus (v. 14)?  Manna cannot be identified with any food
known to exist at any time or place in history. Like the Lord Jesus, manna is unique.

Manna is interesting. The Hebrews could cook manna, bake manna, boil manna and make it into cakes (Ex 16 & Num 11). Jesus had manna in mind when He speaks of Himself as the Bread of Life (v. 32). Here are some interesting analogies:

Manna is miraculous.

There is plenty of it. God proved Himself to be the God of abundant supply. God even had Aaron store up a pot of manna in the ark of the covenant as a reminder of His bounty.

Manna is regulated.

Note that twice as much falls on Friday so that the children of Israel would not be tempted to work on the Sabbath by gathering it. When and if God’s instructions are ignored, the manna breeds worms. Maggoty-manna is the result of disobedience. Note also that manna only falls in the early morning. It melts when the sun shines on it (Ex. 16:21). It is good to rise early and partake of the Bread of Life.

Manna is gathered.

It is picked up by hand every day. God does not spoon feed His people. Some effort has to be exerted to obtain His blessings.

Manna is consistent.

Manna is provided for 40 years and only where they are camped. It always comes at right time and meets the people’s needs. His grace is sufficient (II Cor. 12:9).

Manna is rejected.

The Hebrews complain about the manna (Num. 11:16). Centuries later they reject their own Messiah, the true Bread of Life.

But just as manna is the only thing God provides to sustain physical life, His Son is the only thing God provides to sustain spiritual life. In John 6:41-71, when Jesus says He is like the manna, the Jews do not like it (v. 42). When God sends manna in Exodus, they complain then as well. Jesus’ teaching on this subject is so offensive, from that day many “walk no more with Him” (v. 66).

To understand Jesus’ meaning here, we must examine His teachings on manna in this same chapter (4:31-41). We know His lesson is allegorical, for He declares in Revelation that overcomers will eat of “the hidden manna” (Rev. 2:17).

The communion service is not specifically mentioned in John’s Gospel, but the “flesh and manna” teaching in his Gospel is food for thought. Whatever Jesus means by “feeding on Him” (v. 51), it seems evident we must partake of Him. Both Jesus and Paul teach the communion service provide us with opportunity for self-examination prior to partaking of “His flesh and blood.” The New Testament gives us no stringent rules for taking communion, but self-examination is a prerequisite (I Corinthians 11:23-31). 

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“I Am the light of the world”  John 8:12 and 9:5

Jesus declares Himself to be the light of the world (John 8:12). He also says His followers are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). Genesis informs us light is created before the sun is created (Gen. 1:14-17). The sun is not our only source of light.

Light cannot be defined in terms of anything simpler than itself. Light saturates the universe. It is foundational to the human environment. But what exactly is it? And how are Jesus and His followers similar to light?

Light is a form of energy traveling through space at 186,000 miles per second. A unique property of light is that it is always moving. It only stops when matter absorbs it. Then it is no longer light. But like the air we breathe, light is taken for granted. We assume the sun will come up at daybreak. Our lives are built around it. Using a prism, Newton broke light into a rainbow and proved that all light is composed of colors.

We do not see light. We see with light. The retina of your eye is actually an extension of the brain, packed with millions of light-sensitive cells. Light triggers sensations of color in our minds. Photons interact with color pigments in the cells, firing impulses to the brain which analyze them and turn them into sensations of color. Humans can discern more than ten million shades of color. Twenty percent of the brain is busy interpreting the light that enters the eye attempting to deal with what we see. Yet humans do not ponder light any more than a fish ponders his pond.

Scientists still cannot fully comprehend what light is or what it is capable of. They are constantly experimenting with laser technology to make a concentrated beam of light shine strong and straight. It is projected that within a few years, laser beams will be the weapons of choice for zapping satellites from orbit. They will become the new tools for doctors in hospital operating rooms.

Light truly is very different from anything in the universe. Aristotle said, “Light is the activity of what is transparent,” but that does not define it. Einstein said, “At the speed of light itself, time stops.” But that doesn’t help us understand it.

Light is unique and that is Jesus’ point. So is He. What the sun is to the visible world of nature, the Son is to the invisible world of the supernatural. It is easy to see how Jesus and His followers are “the light of the world.” In every culture in the world, light is equated with spiritual truth and darkness with spiritual ignorance. In Exodus, we find a pillar of fire providing light to guide God’s people. In Exodus 3:2, God speaks to Moses from a burning, fiery bush. In Acts 2:3, tongues of fire appeared over the heads of Spirit-filled believers. And when Jesus dies, darkness covered the land (Luke 23:44).

It is interesting that Jesus reveals Himself as the light of the world just before He heals the man who is born blind (Jn. 9:5-7). Through this healing, Jesus teaches that all who do not follow Him will walk in darkness. Jesus teaches Nicodemus concerning the Light that has come into the world (Jn. 3:19-21). He warns us that men tend to “love darkness, rather than light because their deeds are evil” (Jn. 3:19).

Darkness cannot overcome the light (Jn. 1:5). That “the darkness comprehends it not” means the human race as a whole will not understand or appreciate the Messiah. Strike a match in the deepest, darkest cave and light will always overcome the darkness. Spiritual darkness bespeaks danger, damnation and discomfort. Jesus comes into our world to penetrate our darkness and deliver us from it (John 8:12).

Only the most rebellious, unreasonable resistance can stop one from being drawn to His light and walk in it (I Jn. 1:5-7).

Paul draws several analogies from light:

In Romans 13:12, we are told to “put on the armor of light.”
In II Corinthians 4:4, Paul speaks of “the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ.”
In II Corinthians 6:14, Paul asks “what does darkness have in common with light?”
In Ephesians 5:14, Paul promises that “Christ will give us light.”
In I Thessalonians 5:5, Paul calls God’s people “the children of light.”

We know that the huge star we call the sun is slowly burning out. But unlike the sun, the light of Christ cannot be used up. Whereas artificial light can be stored up by humans and used later, His light cannot. His eternal glory lights up the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:23).

Jesus is my lighthouse to guide my ship, my flashlight to see the safe path, my torch to explore my dark cave of this earthly life, and my daystar to direct my steps in worship.
It is the light from the eastern star that directs the shepherds to that little manger when the Light of the World first arrives.

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“Before Abraham was; I Am”  John 8:58 & Exodus 3:14

Of all the “I Am” passages (the door, the good shepherd, the light of the world, etc) this is perhaps the most significant. By claiming to exist prior to Abraham, Jesus establishes His absolute timelessness. The title the “I AM” is a phrase familiar to the Jews, for God describes Himself as such at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). Jesus makes it clear He has always existed (Jn. 8). Jesus claims equality with Jehovah as the great I AM. By the use of this phrase, Jesus does more than state that He lived prior to Abraham. Jesus is telling the Jews that before Abraham was born, He already existed as a Being independent of time. Furthermore, by the use of “I AM”, Jesus places Himself on the same level as Jehovah, far above even the great patriarch Abraham.

The haughty Jews claim special rights because they are descendants of Abraham (8:33). They boast that Abraham is their Father. They hope to seize on some self-incriminating response from Jesus. But when Jesus makes the I AM statement, He is not basing His deity on His relationship with Abraham but on His relationship with His Father.

The Jews demand an explanation. “You are not yet 50 years old and you have seen Abraham” (8:57). But Jesus is not comparing Himself to Abraham, for there is no comparison between human beings and God. It is the eternality of Jesus the Jews question. His personality and deity continually exist, regardless to time. Though humans tend to divide time into past, present and future, God is not obligated to view time the same way. With Him “a thousand years is as a day” (II Peter 3:8). He does not set His clock by ours.

But Jesus goes still further by saying “Abraham rejoiced to see my day” (John 8:56). The Greek terminology indicates that “With delight Abraham meditated on the thought of the coming Messiah.” The arrival of the Messiah is the hope of Israel. To anticipate His coming brings joy to Abraham’s heart, for all Jews desire see that great day. But by the time Jesus actually comes, the eschatology of the Jews has become so egocentric, they actually kill their own Messiah. Indeed, by the end of this conversation, the Jews are looking for rocks to stone Jesus to death for blasphemy (8:59).

Although this “I AM” statement is in the present tense, it refers to timelessness beyond eternity in the past and eternity in the future. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus is always in the present tense.

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“I Am the Door” and “I Am the Good Shepherd”      John 10:7-11

These two statements express a similar thought for they take place on the same occasion. Verse six shows this to be a parabolic teaching concerning God’s people as sheep. It is an illustration of the new order He comes to establish. As His sheep we are to follow only Him.

Psalm 23 also compares people with this particular animal, for sheep:

1. Tend to be stubborn
2. Are usually timid by nature
3. Easily form bad habits which must be broken
4. Need a leader
5. Can be easily trained
6. Must be sheared occasionally
7. Like to stray and easily become lost
8. Are found in every country in the world

The concept of the “shepherd” and the “sheep door” in this passage are intimately connected. This passage forms one teaching, for in it Jesus depicts Himself as both “the Shepherd” and “the door” of the sheepfold. The door Jesus refers to is actually an opening in a sheep pen. The shepherd usually sleeps at this opening and becomes the only true “door” by which sheep come in or exit (v. 9). The Shepherd is the only one who allows or forbids entrance. Any sheep trying to get out at night will have to step over the shepherd and wake him in the attempt. Five times Jesus speaks of laying His life down for His sheep (vv. 11-18). No wolf or enemy can come in this “gate” without rousting the shepherd to protect his sheep.

As the Door, He provides the way of salvation. As our Shepherd, He protects and guides those whom He saves. A sheepfold cannot function properly without a shepherd or a doorway. The sheepfold Jesus refers to is clearly the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ invitation to “any person” makes His invitation to enter His sheepfold absolutely universal (v. 9).

But in this same passage, Jesus warns there are those who will skin, fleece, exploit and beat the sheep. He contrasts Himself with them, referring to them as thieves, robbers, strangers and hirelings (vv. 8-13). The hired shepherds will flee at the first sign of wolves. These are the religious leaders who will never sacrifice their lives for others.

Jesus does not refer to Himself as a “better” Shepherd, but the only truly good shepherd. We are His sheep. We know Him (v. 14). We hear His voice (v. 16). We follow Him (v. 27).

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“I Am the Resurrection and the Life”    John 11:25

The resurrection of Jesus is the absolute foundation of the Christian faith. All world religions have some form of a “life-after-death” doctrine, for people want desperately to know where they will go after they die. His victory over death is the sole guarantee of our victory over death. Our resurrection is inseparably linked with His (I Corinthians 15:13-17). The resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate sign of God’s triumph over the power of sin and death. Believers know He is alive, not because of an empty tomb, but because He has personally changed their lives. Only a living Jesus, who is today all that He claims to be two millennia ago, can change lives so completely.

The resurrected Jesus made a dozen appearances after emerging from the tomb. He appears only to Believers, never to skeptics.

He appears to:

1.  Mary Magdalene   (Mark 20 and Mark 16)
2.  women at His tomb   (Matthew 28)
3.  chosen witnesses (Acts 10)
4.  Peter   (Luke 24 and I Corinthians 15)
5.  disciples on the Emmaus road   (Luke 24 and Mark 16)
6.  ten disciples (Luke 24 and John 20)
7.  eleven disciples, including Thomas (John 20 and Mark 16)
8.  five hundred people (I Corinthians 15)
9.  James   (I Corinthians 15)
10. the disciples on the lake shore (John 21)
11. many on the Mount of Olives at His ascension (Luke 24 and Acts 1)
12. Paul on the Damascus road   (I Corinthians 15)

When Jesus claims to be both the resurrection and the life, He indicates eternal life is only possible through the One who holds the key to life. The life Jesus promises is permanent and endless.

Jesus utters these words a few days after Lazarus dies. Martha says “I know my brother will rise again on last day” (Jn. 11:24). By claiming to be the resurrection, He indicates all true resurrections have their source in Him. He is the author of all resurrections. When Jesus says Lazarus will live again, He is telling Martha that her brother will be restored to life through His resurrection power (v. 23). But even though Lazarus is restored to this earthly life, he eventually dies like all human beings. What Jesus does at the grave is an illustration of His power over death and life. Jesus tells Martha those who believe in Him will live again after they die (11:25). For those who believe in Jesus, physical death holds no threat.

In this I AM statement, Jesus reveals He is the Master of both death and life. He asks Martha if she believes this (v. 26). Do you?

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“I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life”    John 14:6

Jesus is the only way to heaven, not just one of many ways. He unites heaven and earth so human beings have a way to cross from here to there. Jesus remains the only way, the only truth, and the only life worth living.

Jesus speaks of a “narrow way” (Mt. 7:14). His is the clear, safe, and prepared way. It is a way defined by truth. Jesus is the means by which we access the Father. He is both the method and the guarantee of our destination. Jesus tells His disciples they already knew the way (14:4). When Thomas and Philip question Him on this, Jesus launches this great discourse. They want to know how to access heaven and the Father.

If left to find our own way, we will never will (Isa. 53:6). Jesus is “the Way,” the leader who goes before us to makes our path secure.

He does not say, “I will show you a way.” He is the only Way.
He did not say, “I will teach some truth.” He is the only truth.
He did not say, “I will help you get a better life.” His is the only life worth living.

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I Am the True Vine     John 15:1-8

The purpose of the branch is not to provide shade. Its singular mission is to bear fruit. Jesus’ relationship to Believers is compared to a vine and its branches. A vine can exist without all of the branches, but not vice-versa. Useless branches are pruned and burned, for the Lord is serious about fruit bearing (Jn. 15:6). Jesus curses a fruitless fig tree (Mk. 11:14). In the parable of the Barren Tree in Luke 13, the unfruitful tree is called “cumbersome,” meaning idle or inactive(Lk. 13:7). The Owner will cut it down if it does not bear fruit (v. 19).

The owner’s vineyard can be compared to the Church, God is not after a few grapes, but an abundant harvest. The branches must be pruned for increased productivity (Jn. 15:2). The Lord does everything possible to make this happen. 

Each piece of fruit has the Spirit of the Vine within it. As an intimate part of the Vine, Believers have one life, one nature and one purpose. Though individual branches tend to be weak, the Vine is very strong. It is a picture of total dependence, for the branch is useless apart from the Vine. “Without Me you can do nothing” (15:5). Fruit-bearing can be compared to soul winning. The fruit produced does not belong to the branch. Fruit is not produced to please the branch, but the Owner.

Jesus indicates a primary activity of the Owner is the pruning process. The process of personal sanctification is constant. Jesus speaks of His disciples as being “clean through the Word” (15:3). The term clean is equated with the term pruned. The Word is the tool the Master uses to increase our productivity. The Word of God is a two-edged sword used for pruning (Heb. 4:12). We are to “abide in Him” and accept the Master’s pruning (Jn. 15:4). Jesus targets our productivity, for without it we are destined only for the fire (v. 5).

The Branch

I am but a little branch, so very frail and weak;
But I have a powerful message, if only I could speak.

Though I’m only a little branch, I live through a life not mine;
For that which flows through my branches is the life-blood of the Vine

No power in myself have I, the fruit of the Vine to bear;
But as a part of the living Vine, in His fruitfulness I can share

The water of life flows through me, and its sweetness fills my fruit;
Yet I own not the grapes hanging here, for they all come from the root

So simple, so deep, so strong, your union with Christ shall be;
His life shall forever be your own, and His love shall flow through thee.

                                                      – Freda Hanbury

Each December in Arizona, many homeowners prune a beautiful plant known as The Mexican Bird of Paradise with its beautiful red and orange flowers. Only if pruned down to a very small size will it blossom in the spring, growing to ten feet. Its beauty is hindered without annual pruning. God expects fruit-bearing plants to be pruned.

Six times in this passage, we find the word fruit. We must be “married to Him Who was raised from the dead in order to bring forth fruit unto God” (Rom. 7:4). Although we may claim to be fruitful, Jesus teaches that “a tree is known by its fruit” (Lk. 6:44). Others will bear witness to our productivity, for “by their fruits you shall know them” (Mt 7:20). It is pathetic to see a tree with bad fruit.

Perhaps the fruitless branches represent dead churches, dead doctrines and Sunday-morning Christians. “Apart from Me, you can do nothing,” yet unproductive Christians are all around us (v. 5). We can do nothing to maintain our spiritual zeal without constantly abiding in Jesus. Abiding in His love is the same as abiding in the Vine (vv. 9 & 17).

Jesus teaches in the Beatitudes that “saltless” salt is good for nothing. He expresses the same thought here when He states that fruitless branches are to be burned. If we are not productive for the Master, there are consequences. If we wither, we are pruned off and cast into the fire (v. 6). Though the branch once had a union with the Vine, the relationship is severed due to lack of productivity. This is a parable of hope and of judgment. Our life in Christ depends not only on our connection with Him but on productivity. 
An abundant harvest is the Master’s goal and we should be content with nothing less. He will allow each of us to produce much, if we allow the pruning process. Discipleship means fruit bearing (v. 8). Discipleship is directly tied to fruit bearing. Our fruit must be such that it remains (v. 16). We must become strong in order to build strong disciples. 

The branch needs three basic things:

<> The pruning and chastisement of the Master.
<> The nutrients and spiritual vitamins of the Word.
<> The living water of a Spirit-filled prayer life.

The Lord is helping each of us to be “fruitful in every good work”  (Col. 1:10)

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“I Am with you always”    Matthew 28:20

In the phrase, “I Am with you always” every word is specific. “I Am” (ego eimi) is best translated “I Myself am.” The words are in the present tense, for Jesus promises to be with His disciples even after His ascension. These words could not have been for the apostles alone, for He vows to be with “you” (every disciple) until the consummation of the ages. This promise thus embraces all generations. While on earth, Jesus can only be in one place at a time. But He promises His divine presence will ever be with His followers through the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:23). His physical presence will soon be replaced by a constant spiritual presence. What Jesus does while on earth with His followers temporarily, the Holy Spirit does for His followers permanently. He strengthens, assists, and guides every Believer in every age in every part of the world until the end of time.

This statement is not abstract but specific. He promises to be with us “day in and day out.” “I Myself am with you all the days.” His words are an incentive to spread the Gospel to the nations, for His remark is part of the Great Commission. This is His definitive final assurance. Everything Jesus is when He is with is disciples He is today. The abiding presence of Christ is with us right now. 

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“I Am Alpha and Omega”  Revelation 1:11

All of the previous I AM statements of Jesus find their final expression in this statement. It is found four times in the last book of the Bible (Rev. 1:8, 1:11, 21:6 & 22:13). Jesus uses the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet to declare, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” It is an all-encompassing statement meaning He is “everything from A to Z.” The beginning and end of an alphabet include all the letters necessary to form words. Jesus is the great vehicle of expression to all mankind. He is the origin and culmination of all things.

“Alpha and Omega” is synonymous with “the beginning and the end” (Rev. 1:8). He is also “the first and the last” (1:11).This echoes a statement in Isaiah: “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: I am the first and I am the last and beside me there is no savior” (Isa. 44:6). As “the first,” He is the most prominent in God’s plan. As “the last,” He can never be replaced. “Christ was before all things and by Him all things consist” (Col. 1:17). He created all things, controls all things, and will conclude all things (Jn. 1:1-3 & Heb. 1:1-2). He is “the end,” for through Him all things reach their grand climax.

God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence all reside in His Son, the Alpha and Omega. This phrase reiterates His absolute control over human beings and world events. He is the absolute Source. As supreme Lord of everything, nothing remains outside of His control. In Christ all world events culminate and all mysteries find their answers. “For of Him, through Him, and to Him are all things; to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36). 

 

Maxim of the Moment

Divorces are often caused by two people madly in love with themselves.