The Gospel of John is interesting in that it focuses on 7 “I Am” statements. It starts with Jesus’ genealogy as the pre-existent one1. It’s hard to recognize that as a family record, but each of the gospels presents Jesus in a different way, and three of four have genealogies. Mark doesn’t because Mark presents Jesus as a servant and no one cares about the genealogy of a servant2.
John focuses on Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. To accomplish this, there are 7 “I Am” statements.
The first is “I Am the bread of life3.” In this segment, Jesus uses an analogy of the manna that came down from heaven to feed the Israelites in the Wilderness. Like manna, we can’t collect any for someone else. Each has to get his own4. You can’t accept Christ for someone. They have to do that for themselves. You get exactly what you need5. Jesus meets you where you are and helps you get better from there. They had to strike it to make it edible6. Jesus was stricken for us. You need to get it daily7. Storing it up for future use was no good. You won’t survive well or long if your only dose of Christ is for two hours on Sunday. It tasted sweet8. We have joy in Christ. Unlike manna, though, when we commune with Christ, we will not see death9. Likewise, Jesus is called the Word10. There are times when we are told to eat the word of God11. Recall that clean animals were the ones that chewed the cud12. That means they ate it, partially digested it, and then brought it back up to chew on some more. We should be like clean animals and chew the cud more often by not just reading the Word, but really getting to know it personally. Man shall not live by bread alone13, unless that Bread is the Lord Jesus Christ.
The second I Am statement is “I Am the light of the world14.” Chapter 8 of the Gospel of John contains a massive round of verbal fisticuffs between Jesus and the Pharisees. Don’t let the politeness of the translation fool you. They’re going head to head on this one. The Pharisees call Jesus an illegitimate son, and he in turn explains who their father is. Definitely not for the G-rated audience. To the point, however, Jesus is the light to the world. We, by emulating him, reflect that light to the rest of the world. Because of the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in our lives, we become the light to show the way to others in the darkness15. We do need to be careful that we remain in the light because if we stop, the darkness will overtake us16.
Next up, the third and fourth are very close together in the text and tightly related: “I Am the door of the sheep,” and “I Am the good shepherd17.” Jesus is the only way to the sheepfold. If there’s any other way, his prayers in Gethsemane were unanswered. Anyone who comes by any other route than the door is a thief and a robber18, and the thief comes only to kill and destroy19. That’s where Christ’s job as the Good Shepherd comes in. Any but the shepherd would run when they see danger, but the shepherd will give his life for the sheep, and he did. Jesus gave his life for us so that we could stand in the presence of a perfect God. There’s no other way.
The fifth I Am statement is “I Am the resurrection and the life20.” If we die to ourselves and live in Christ, we will know true life now and hereafter. I find it interesting to read how this scenario played out. Jesus knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead21. He even told Martha as much, although she misunderstood and thought he was speaking of the general resurrection22. So why did Jesus grieve so greatly23? He was doing what we should all do: share one another’s joys and burdens24.
Moving right along to the sixth I Am statement, we find “I Am the way, the truth, and the life25.” Jesus has gone on ahead of us to prepare us a place so that, when the time is right, we can go be with him26. When will the time be right? Well, either we die in this life and find ourselves there facing judgment27, or the Fullness of the Gentiles will come in during our lifetime, and Poof! We’re outta here28! There is a number of Gentiles at which the Body of Christ is complete. Then the Father will tell the Son to go get his Bride. As amazing as that is, not only is Jesus the only way to heaven, but he’s the way to live in this world, too. Because he went to the Father and sent us the Holy Spirit, we can do great works in his name29.
The last official I Am statement is “I Am the true vine30.” Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. The branches of a tree can’t do much except wither and die without a connection to the source of life. Likewise, we can’t, either. As branches from the vine, we are expected to produce fruit, or else we’ll be cut away and cast into the fire where we can’t do any more harm to the vine and other branches31. Our fruit is our changed life and our good works. It’s not the works that save our miserable hides, but the works are the exercise that keep our faith healthy and witness the glory of God to a world that would just as soon not care32.
There is one last “unofficial” I Am statement in the Gospel of John that doesn’t make the usual list but is probably the most critical, the most amazing. In fact, it knocked a collection of Roman soldiers and Pharisees on their rears. Check out John 18. When Judas and company come to arrest Jesus, three times he says, “I Am.” The “he” that is included in some translations is there to help the readability, but in my interlinear Bible, there’s no word there for “he,” and the margin translation says, “I AM” without the “he.” He is, in effect, declaring his identity as God. If you read the accounts of the confrontation in Gethsemane, in fact of all of Holy Week, you find out pretty quickly that Jesus orchestrated the whole thing.
So, Jesus is the bread of life, the light of the world, the door for the sheep, the good shepherd, the resurrection, the way, the truth, the life, the true vine, the lamb of God, and indeed truly God. He’s all these things and much more.
1 John 1:1-5
2 Missler, Chuck. Learn the Bible in 24 Hours. Koinonia House.
3 John 6:35-59
4 Exodus 16:16
5 Exodus 16:18
7 Exodus 16:21
8 Exodus 16:31, Psalm 34:8
9 John 6:58
10 John 1:1
11 Jeremiah 15:16, Revelation 10:9
12 Leviticus 11:3-7
13 Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4
14 John 8:12-59
15 Matthew 5:14
16 John 12:35
17 John 10:7-18
18 John 10:1
19 John 10:10
20 John 11:17-44
21 John 11:11
22 John 11:23-27
23 John 11:33-36
24 Romans 12:15, Galatians 6:2
25 John 14:1-14
26 John 14:2-3
27 Hebrews 9:27
28 Romans 11:25, 1 Corinthians 15:52
29 John 14:12-14
30 John 15:1-8
31 John 15:6
32 James 2