Show and Tell!
One of the most amazing moments in the Old Testament happens in Exodus 3. Even though Moses is destined to free Israel from slavery in Egypt, at this moment in his life he’s way underachieving out in the desert as a shepherd because of mistakes he made as a younger man. Can you relate? (To the mistakes as a young person part, probably not the desert shepherd part!)
While Moses is tending the flock near Mount Sinai, he sees an incredible sight. There’s a bush burning that won’t burn up. As he draws closer, he hears the voice of an angel speak to him from the bush. God tells Moses that he still believes in him and that he will rescue his people. Astoundingly, Moses asks God for his name and even more astoundingly, God answers. He says his name is Yahweh (in Hebrew) which means something like, “I Am.”
Wait a second, I thought this was a John Bible study? Why are we talking about Moses and Exodus?
Here’s why: As you read the gospel of John you’ll see seven instances where Jesus uses the words “I am” to describe himself. Seven is a special divine number in the Bible that refers to perfection. Jesus never straight up says he is God. He’s too humble for that. Plus I think it would just stoke our pride. If I ever had to say, “I am your father!” to my kids, I’m sure they would just want to rebel even more. Instead, John tells us that Jesus used “I am” statements to make the ridiculously bold claim that he was God in the flesh. And with each statement he not only declares himself on par with God, but he also tells us about the true nature of God’s character. Let’s look briefly at each statement and ask ourselves some convicting questions:
“I am the bread of life” (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51)
Bread is sustenance. If we don’t eat, we die. In the same way, Jesus is our spiritual food, sustaining our spiritual lives. If we aren’t practicing a steady diet of Jesus, we won’t stay spiritually healthy. How can you feast on Jesus?
“I am the light of the world” (John 8:12)
We live in a dark world. Jesus came to light up the world, give us hope, and guide us out of the darkness into the light of God. How can a relationship with God kick out the darkness and light up your life?
“I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7, 9)
Many sheep pens didn’t even have doors. The shepherd himself would lay down in the door way to keep his flock together and to protect his sheep from harm. How can Jesus be a protector in your life?
“I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14)
Not only does Jesus protect his flock, he also guides us. His word, his Spirit and his church serve to lead us closer and closer to God. How can Jesus guide you into a closer relationship with God?
“I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25)
Spoiler alert: no one can make such a claim if you can visit his grave. Jesus reassures us that death is not final for those who follow him. Even before we die, many things in our lives need resurrection. How can the power of Jesus resurrect your hopes and dreams?
“I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)
Jesus offers a 3 for one deal on “I am” statements. In context, his disciples are troubled because he’s told them that he has to go away (to heaven after his death, burial and resurrection). He comforts them by letting them know that they can follow him there. He is the way. His way is the truth (the only ultimate truth). And it leads to life without end. Are you on the way that leads to truth and life?
“I am the true vine” (John 15:1, 5)
Lastly, on the night he was betrayed, Jesus tells his disciples that he is like a vine and his disciples are the branches connected to the vine. Even though God prunes our lives at times, if we stay connected to the vine we will bear much fruit (our lives will be full of meaning and impact). How is your life in Christ bearing fruit?
When I read these passages I stand in awe of Jesus. John tells us that he not only made the bold claim of being God (the great I Am), but he also told us what God is really like: He sustains, He’s a light in the darkness, He protects us, He guides us, He conquers death, He shows us the way to life, and He keeps us connected to God so we can change the world. The picture of God that Jesus paints with these seven I am statements is a masterpiece. Who wouldn’t want to follow such a wonderful God?