John 4:25-26, John 8:57-59, John 18:3-8
Having examined the “I AM” metaphors that Jesus uses in the Gospel of John, it is interesting to note that He also states his identity as the “I AM” quite a few other times in John and in the other Gospels. I’m going to examine three of these occurrences in John. The first occurs in the remarkable encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, early in the ministry of Jesus. He and the disciples walk into Samaria, a region known for its hostility to Jews. The disciples go into town and Jesus stays at the well.
“The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.””
John 4:25-26 NASB1995
Jesus declares that He is the Messiah (the Christ) to this woman who comes to the well in the heat of the day and by herself. He knows everything about her checkered past and her present sinful behavior. She calls Him a prophet. He speaks to her with love and talks about the Living Water. Finally, she talks about the Messiah coming and Jesus replies very simply that “I..am He”. Here is a short excerpt from a John MacArthur sermon on this passage:
She wants the full truth. She wants the full truth. She wants to worship from the heart in truth. And she says, “I’m not going to have the full truth until He arrives,” and then this is the most glorious moment. Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you AM.” There’s no “He” in the original; it’s an I AM statement, the name of God. “I who speak to you AM.” The One speaking to you is the I AM. This is the final point in the glorious culmination. The incarnate Christ is revealed--the unveiling of Christ. She is ready for the truth, and He is there to give it to her. I who speak to you, I AM.
Jesus reveals Himself to sinners, which is eternally comforting for this sinner.
The second “I AM” statement of interest is in John 8. Jesus has declared Himself the Light of the World at the Feast of the Tabernacles and the “conversation” (more like constant haranguing) continues from the Pharisees. They were accusing Him of having a demon and not interested in His claims of divinity and eternal life.
“So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.”
John 8:57-59 NASB1995
Jesus declares His eternal nature and this is just too much for the Pharisees, as they remember the “I AM” statement from the burning bush with God’s presence to Moses. They declare Jesus a blasphemer and try to end it all right there, but the time is not yet right. Here’s a short commentary from Pastor Steve Cole on this passage:
John 8:58: “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Jesus did not merely say, “Before Abraham was born, I was.” That would point to His preexistence, but not to His eternity. But rather, He says that before Abraham was born, He was continuously in existence. He was claiming to be eternal. Also, the Jews instantly recognized “I am” as a reference to the name of God given to Moses at the burning bush (Exod. 3:14). Since the penalty for blasphemy was stoning, the Jews picked up stones to kill Jesus. But His hour had not come, so He left them.
The point is, Jesus’ claims are so radical that either He was a deluded crazy man, or He was who He claimed to be. And His claims are backed up by the many Scriptures that He fulfilled, by His sinless life, by His many miracles, and by His resurrection from the dead. Thus we can rely on His promise that whoever keeps His word will never see death.
This reminds me of a wonderful C.S. Lewis quote about how Jesus is not a Good Moral Teacher from Mere Christianity:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great moral teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
The third “I AM” of interest is when Jesus is arrested in the Garden:
“Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, *came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and *said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He *said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Therefore He again asked them, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus the Nazarene.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me, let these go their way,””
John 18:3-8 NASB1995
Jesus is so awe-inspiring that the cohort, the temple police and Judas drop to the ground when He answers them. I love this commentary from another sermon by Pastor Steve Cole:
The Roman cohort, which joined the Jewish temple police, could have numbered as high as 600 men, but probably here was far less. But they, along with the temple police, all fell backward when Jesus answered, “I am He.” Apparently, Jesus’ reply was accompanied by a momentary, miraculous flash of His glory, perhaps like the flash that knocked Paul to the ground on the Damascus Road. For hundreds of fully armed soldiers to fall to the ground in the presence of this unarmed man shows that He could have obliterated them as Elijah called down fire on the cohort sent to arrest him (2 Kings 1). He was not merely “Jesus the Nazarene”; He was God in human flesh!
Just like in the Transfiguration, the real appearance of the Son of God creates reverence and fear. Jesus is the Great “I AM” who created this vast universe and all of its marvels (in the beginning was the Word) and loves His flawed and sinful humans so much that He sacrificed Himself for our sins!
Jesus is the Bread of Life. Jesus is the Light of the World. Jesus is the Door of the Sheep. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus is the True Vine. Jesus is the “I AM”, God in the flesh.
My next series of devotionals will tackle the splendid Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, so stay tuned for quite a few segments! I hope you are learning as much as I am!
Photo by Jasmin Staab on Unsplash