March 13, 2019

Who do you say I AM?

Doing a quick search of images for the words “I AM” reveals myriads of ways this phrase is used, sometimes as the beginning of a statement about identity and sometimes a declaration of existence. It most often appears on t-shirts and in presentations by inspirational speakers.

Jesus used I AM both ways as He identifies Himself and what that means for us. However, I AM has roots in the Old Testament. When God appeared to Moses at the burning bush and told him to deliver His people from slavery in Egypt, Moses asked who was sending him. God said, “I am who I am” — a word later translated Lord because the Jews thought it too sacred to pronounce. It is rich in meaning, expressing both of His presence and His existence.

The Gospel of John records miracles Jesus did and then His teaching to the crowds that gathered. While these figures of speech explain the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, they also point to His deity. He is the Word made flesh, God with us. This is the presence of God among us, Emmanuel.

Seven sayings starting with “I AM” are found in John’s Gospel. Jesus’ persistence in identifying Himself this way led to the accusation of blasphemy. The people of His day knew He was identifying Himself as God. He is God in human flesh, but they did not agree with Him. Here is the first I AM.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)

Jesus said this to a crowd who had been fed with five loaves and two fish. They came back for more food wanting their stomachs full. This was just like their ancestors. They grumbled about food so God fed them manna to sustain them as they wandered in the wilderness after leaving bondage in Egypt. This statement alludes to the sustaining power of God and to His never-ending supply. Jesus is saying that He is the God who feeds us.

The second I AM is about light:

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Jesus says this at least twice. The next time in John 9:5, He had just opened opens the eyes of a blind man, bringing light into his dark world. Modern medicine has made giant strides in restoring eyesight, but not then. People born blind stay blind. When the religious leaders confronted the newly-sighted man, he said:

“Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes . . . If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:29–33)

Ironic. The God they worshiped spoke and light came into the world, the sun, moon and stars. These who confronted the blind man should have understood that this was a miracle, but they didn’t. Their blindness was more than a failure to connect the dots. They were in spiritual darkness, not able to see the danger before them or even realize that they were in darkness. They should have connected what Jesus said with the words of the prophet Jeremiah rather than denying the obvious.
Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings darkness, before your feet stumble on the twilight mountains, and while you look for light he turns it into gloom and makes it deep darkness. But if you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock has been taken captive. (Jeremiah 13:16–17)
Jesus says He is the bread of life and the light of the world. Both statements excite and challenge me. I love baking and eating bread, yet both the OT and the NT say that I am not to live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:2–3)

Jesus repeated these words when tempted by Satan in the wilderness to turn stones into bread. (Matthew 4:4) and Jesus later added: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:34) What Jesus gives includes bread to eat, but also the bread of His words that I might thrive.

Jesus says He is the light of the world. The older I get, the more light I need to read and see small things, but also for life’s challenges. As He feeds me bread from His Word, He also gives me light to see the realities of His kingdom and the way I must respond. Walking in darkness is not fun. Having light from God is pure joy.

Lord, You are my sustenance, thank You. You shed light and understanding on Your Word that I might walk in it. Thank You also for being God with me.

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