17. “I Am”


Jn 10:11,14,15 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me– just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

We couldn’t draw near to the end of a series like this without picking up on the “I am” sayings. For the untutored, these are a number of sayings by Jesus, recorded only in John’s Gospel, but which make very clear indirect claims to divinity. Again for those who are unaware of the structure of the four Gospels, it needs saying that John was written many years after the other three, probably by the apostle John in old age, after many years of senior church leadership. We have commented in meditations many times in the past, about the tendency in the elderly, to reflect back on things many years ago, which come clearer in the memory than things that happened yesterday! This would easily account for why John wrote such a distinctive Gospel that is full of profundity, meaning and significance.

Clearly as he allowed his mind to go back to those three most significant years of his life (when he was either in his later teens or early twenties), no doubt prompted by the Lord, and saw and heard again his Master speaking and acting in those years, he realised that there had been so many things the others had not recorded, things of immense significance which the early church had not even understood. Thus we find included in his Gospel, these ‘I am’ sayings.

Again we have briefly commented on this before but it bears examining more fully now. When God revealed Himself to Moses, the name He gave Moses was, “I Am” and the Jews were very much aware of that name and avoided the use of any sentence structure where “I am” could be construed to have divine implications. It is thus beyond coincidence that Jesus used that sentence structure again and again.

In respect of the “I am” in our verses above, we find in the Old Testament, the following prophecy: “I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd,” (Ezek 34:23) so this could be a messianic fulfilment, yet there is that nagging question that must have been in the minds of the Jews over whether he was claiming something more, because in the Old Testament, God was THE shepherd (Gen 49:24, Psa 79:13, 95:7, Psa 23). When Jesus speaks of himself being the “good shepherd” that adjective singles him out, for as Jesus himself was to say elsewhere, “No one is good–except God alone.” (Mk 10:18). But there are a lot more of these sayings, but with limited space we’ll only be able to make brief references to each of them. Let’s take them in the order we find them.

Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life,” (Jn 6:35). The context for this is very clear. The Jews had just talked about the manna that God had given their forefathers and we find, “Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (v.32,33). He thus declares himself as the one who has come from heaven to give life. This is a far bigger claim that merely that of a deliverer-Messiah, for only God can give life! It’s a very clear claim to divinity.

He said, `I am the light of the world.” (Jn 8:12). Yet it was accepted that “God is light” (1 Jn 1:5) but Jesus claims to be the one who comes to dispel the darkness of sin and evil. In the light of all the Biblical references to light and God, if Jesus wasn’t God then this would seem to be a very competitive challenge to God!!!

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” (Jn 10:9). He is the one way in to God’s kingdom. Surely God is the gatekeeper to His realm and no one enters but by His say, and thus Jesus is claiming equality of role with God.

Jesus said to her,`I am the resurrection and the life.” (Jn 11:25). We have observed previously that God alone is the source of life and resurrection as seen in the Old Testament. That which only God can do, Jesus now claims to do.

Jesus answered, `I am the way and the truth and the life.” (Jn 14:6). What a claim: “I am the way to God, I am ultimate reality and I alone am the source of all life.” We haven’t time to justify that interpretation but that is essentially what Jesus was saying. It is a claim, which if he wasn’t God, could only be attributed to a megalomaniac, but everything else in the records denies that conclusion. He was far from that!

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” (Jn 15:1). Without going into detail, the vine was the people of God (Psa 80:8) or the life of God flowing in His chosen people. Jesus is thus claiming to be the source of the people of God – who are the branches. As we’ve seen previously all life resides in God alone.

In each of these enigmatic sayings there is a claim to a greatness that is far more than a mere Messianic deliverer. There is a claim to life and provision that only comes, in fact, from God Himself. Aware that, frustratingly, this has been only the skimpiest of studies of a great subject, we simply recommend that the student spends time meditating on each of these sayings and researches for themselves the backgrounds that point towards God. We reiterate, that within these sayings Jesus is making claims to something far more that mere deliverer. These sayings all point to the very character or being of God and Jesus claims that for himself.

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