What Is Important About I AM?1
While growing up in the Egyptian Pharaoh’s household as an adopted son of the Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses was nursed by his mother and cared for by his sister. So, during those three to four years of early life, during those intimate times with his mother and sister, Moses was trained by them. He was taught much as he prescribed later in Deuteronomy 6:1-10. When we read the account of God’s calling him at the age of 80, he asks this question and receives this answer.
13 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?”
14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[a] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord,[b] the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’
Jesus refers to himself with two “I AM” statements that are not metaphors; instead, they are declarations that unquestionably identify him as the “I AM” of Exodus 3:14. The first instance comes as Jesus responds to a complaint by the Pharisees. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus says, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58). Jesus’s verbs are a stark contrast: Abraham was, but I am. There is no doubt that the Jews understood Jesus’ claim to be the eternal God incarnate because they took up stones to kill Him (verse 59).
The second instance of Jesus applying the name I AM to Himself comes in the Garden of Gethsemane. When the mob came to arrest Jesus, He asked them whom they sought. They said, “Jesus of Nazareth,” and Jesus replied, “I am he” (John 18:4–5). Then something strange happened: “When Jesus said, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground” (verse 6). Perhaps explaining the mob’s reaction is the fact that the word provided by our English translators. Jesus said, “I am.” Applying God’s covenant name to Himself, Jesus demonstrated His power over His foes and showed that His surrender to them was entirely voluntary (see John 10:17–18; 19:11).
In the Gospel of John, Jesus plays off this name with seven statements beginning with the words I am. In these proclamations, Jesus links Himself back to the essence of the God who is “I AM” and thereby enlarges our understanding of Jesus the “I AM” and his ministry in the world. For the N T Jew, “I AM” was unquestionably understood as a name for God. Whenever Jesus made an “I am” statement in which He claimed attributes of deity, He was identifying Himself as God.
The seven metaphorical “I AM’s” in John’s Gospel:
- “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51). In this chapter, Jesus establishes a pattern that continues through John’s gospel—Jesus makes a statement about who He is, and He backs it up with something He does. In this case, Jesus states that He is the bread of life just after He had fed the 5,000 in the wilderness. At the same time, He contrasts what He can do with what Moses had done for their ancestors: “Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die” (verses 49–50).
- “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5). This second of Jesus’ “I am” statements in John’s gospel comes right before He heals a man born blind. Jesus not only says He is the light; He proves it. Jesus’ words and actions echo Genesis 1:3, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
- “I am the door” (John 10:7 and 9, ESV). This “I am” statement stresses that no one can enter the kingdom of heaven by any other means than Christ Himself. Jesus’ words in this passage are couched in the imagery of a sheepfold. He is the one and only way to enter the fold. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber” (verse 1, ESV).
- “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14). In this “I am” statement, Jesus portrays His great love and care. He is the One who willingly protects His flock even to the point of death (verses 11 and 15). When Jesus called Himself the good shepherd, He unmistakably took one of God’s titles in the Old Testament: “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1).
- “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). Jesus made this “I am” statement immediately before raising Lazarus from the dead. Again, we see that Jesus’ teaching was not just empty talk; when He made a claim, He substantiated it with action. He holds “the keys of death and the grave” (Revelation 1:18, NLT). In raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus showed how He could fulfill Yahweh’s promise to ancient Israel: “[God’s] dead shall live; their bodies shall rise” (Isaiah 26:19, ESV). Apart from Jesus, there is neither resurrection nor eternal life.
The Two Importance Declarative I AM’s in John’s Gospel
- “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). This powerful “I am” statement of Christ is packed with meaning. Jesus is not merely one way among many ways to God; He is the only way. Scripture said that “The very essence of [God’s] words is truth” (Psalm 119:160, NLT), and here is Jesus proclaiming that He is the truth—confirming His identity as the Word of God (see John 1:1, 14). And Jesus alone is the source of life; He is the Creator and Sustainer of all life and the Giver of eternal life.
- “I am the true vine” (John 15:1, 5). The final metaphorical “I am” statement in the Gospel of John emphasizes the sustaining power of Christ. We are the branches, and He is the vine. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit unless it is joined in vital union with the vine, only those united to Christ and receive their power from Him produce fruit in the Christian life.
Now, let’s think about one of the toughest counselees, an addict. What does this mean for his life, and what difference does it mean for learning/having his mind renewed (Eph 4:23) and putting off the “old man” (Eph 4:22, 25-31) and putting on the “new man” (Eph 4:24, 32-5:31).
THE SEVEN APPLICATIONS FOR US?
- Jesus is the TRUTH and, therefore, the LIFE (14:6). He is the only way (“I am the door”). What He says is authoritative—trumps every theory of man that does not square with what He declares. Natural science exists because man has adequately understood the reality God created or declared.
YOU CAN TRUST HIM!
- Jesus CARES for you. He is the Good Shepherd (10:11, 14), and he demonstrated this in “yet while you were a sinner, He died for you (Romans 5:8) because He loved you (he paid the price of purchasing you from the slave market of sin (that is the meaning pictured by the Greek word of redeemed). [He did not physically come to your games, but He did physically come to your rescue].
YOU CAN TRUST HIM!
- Jesus is your SUSTAINER. He is the true vine (15:1,5). As the vine delivers nutrients to the fruit, so Jesus delivers life-sustaining, enriching, enjoyable nutrients to your life through His meditation on His Word (Ps 119).
YOU CAN TRUST HIM!
- Jesus rose from the dead, the first fruits of the resurrection (I Corinthians 15:20-23). He proclaimed, “I AM the resurrection (11:25) and then demonstrated by His literal resurrection (Matthew 26-28). He assures you of everlasting life in His presence by the promised resurrection of your body/you, the whole person.
YOU CAN TRUST HIM
- Jesus is the door, the portal into heaven (6:35, 41, 48, 51). No one can please God as a natural man! We do fail! But Jesus does not fail. HE is the door—when we embrace Him as our savior, God the Father transfers our failure to His account, and God the Father puts the righteousness of Jesus to our account (literally pictures this a heavenly bookkeeping—the Greek word is IMPUTATION which in the Greek is an accounting word meaning to make entries on a ledger). Now we pleasing to the Father, and when we sin (displease on that occasion), we have the promised of I John 1:9—” If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
YOU CAN TRUST HIM!
- Jesus characterizes the devil as the god of this world, the father of lies, and the murderer (8:44), reigning over a kingdom of darkness (I John 2:15-16; 4:4-5; 5:19). In absolute contrast, Jesus is your light through the Word of God, so well summed up in Ps 119: 105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
YOU CAN TRUST HIM!
- Jesus is the all-powerful (omnipotent one), all-knowing (omniscience one), everywhere present (omnipresent one), absolute ruler/authority (sovereign one), and the essence of love (agape—the one who chooses to love). This is metaphorically displayed in the “I AM the bread of life.” Israel was starving in the desert, some three million by count, and Moses could not provide for them. But God! God who was there, God who was sovereign over nature, God who was powerful enough, God who loved enough, gave them fresh bread every day that had all the nutrients necessary for sustaining life for approximately 40 years. When Jesus says I AM the bread of life, He assures us that He is and provides all we need.
YOU CAN TRUST HIM! (Whether the addict or the scared grammar school child or the manipulated wife or the rejected husband or the broken-hearted teenager).
Little Wonder the Writer of Proverbs 3:5-6 Tells Us:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart (being) and trust not your understanding (your own ideas, concepts, theories) in all your ways (life choices). Acknowledge Him (the I AM), and He will direct your path (way or life journey).
1 https://www.gotquestions.org/seven-I-AM-statements.html Much of the text of the first half of this article can be found in this “Got Questions” blog. I could have written all my own text, but this was well done, so I saw no reason to re-invent the proverbial wheel. I gladly assign credit to this blog. I have rearranged the organization and edited it for my purposes to communicate this message to you. Therefore, I take full responsibility for how this content is utilized in this blog.