Jesus, The " I Am"
Jesus Believed Himself to be God
Many people talk about Jesus and who they think He is, but who did Jesus believe Himself to be? Did He actually believe Himself to be God? There are many Biblical texts that can be used to prove the deity of Christ, including John 1:1-14, which tells us that the Word was God, and that Word became flesh. But can we get any indication from Jesus Himself that this was and is the case?
Although admittedly, Jesus never came right out and said that He was God, the second Person of the Trinity, there are many indications that He believed Himself to be something more than a mere man. Indeed, there is every indication that He knew Himself to be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He made claims to the effect that He was, Yahweh of the Old Testament. There is no greater proof of that than the multiple "I Am" statements of Jesus during His earthly ministry.
I. Moses and "I Am" at the Burning Bush
It is in Exodus 3 that God first reveals Himself as the great "I Am." God shows up in a burning Bush and tells Moses that he is going to be the Lord's representative to lead the children of Israel out of the Egypt and into the promised land. Beginning with verse 13 we read this;
13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.
We get God's name Yahweh from the phrase "I am that I am." It is derived from the Hebrew verb "to be" or "hayah." God's name is a reflection of His being. God is the only self-existent / self-sufficient Being in the universe, and is the Source and Ground of all being. Only God has life in and of Himself. That is the essential meaning of Yahweh, or "I Am."
Is it any wonder that many of the Jews became upset when Jesus called Himself by that sacred name. He was, in essence claiming to be the God of Israel.
II. Before Abraham was, I AM
This statement was given by Jesus to his familiar adversaries, the Pharisees during one of His verbal sparring matches with them. It is found in John 8:48-59. This is quite significant in seeing how Jesus understood Himself. The climactic section of this has Jesus speaking of Abraham rejoicing about Christ's future coming. Here is the conversation:
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
Obviously the Pharisees saw this unveiled claim of deity and wanted to kill Him. He saw Himself as God and wasn't afraid to admit it, even if it meant that the Pharisees would try to kill Him.
III. I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Jesus never said that He was a way, a truth and a life. The definite article makes it plain that our Lord believed that He is the only way to the Father. He said in the Gospel of John that:
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” John 14:6.
Evangelicals are, at times, accused of being very narrow. We are said to be intolerant of any other religions. We are not intolerant. However, we are exclusive in our ideas of who is the one and only way to heaven. We are exclusive, because Jesus Himself was exclusive. He taught that there is only one true God and that He , Jesus, the Christ, was and Is the only way to get to Him and to Heaven.
Those who know Him know the full truth about life, death and existence itself. Those who don't are missing something vital and crucial to live a life of purpose. Jesus is the creator of physical life and the author of eternal life. To know Him is to be alive spiritually and have a vital relationship with the God of the universe. Not knowing Him is to be dead and separated from the Father and to be looking forward to an eternal existence without Him in Hell. Jesus is indeed the central figure in the history of this universe.
IV. I Am The Resurrection and the Life
One of the greatest fears of man is the fear of death. Now we no longer need to fear. Jesus has overcome that great enemy, and now is at the right hand of the Father, waiting to be revealed as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the resurrection and life (John 11:25). Death, for those who follow Him, is not the end but merely a passageway to true life; the joyous life that we were meant to live.
V. I Am the Bread and I Am the Light
We need food to survive physically. We would die without it. In the same way, we need Jesus, the bread of life in order to live spiritually (John 6:35). Those who partake of Him will hunger no more. He ends the spiritual famine that we had before we became children of the living God.
And just as having physical eyes and no light means that we run around in darkness, not knowing where we are going, so being in spiritual darkness means we are lost and headed for destruction without the one True Light, Jesus Christ.
VI. I Am the Good Shepherd and the Gate
Jesus is not only the good shepherd, who lays down His life for the sheep, He is also the gate to the sheepfold. The gate, or door, is a metaphor which would have been readily understood in the first century. There were two types of sheepfolds in that era. One was a public one found in the cities. This sheepfold housed many flocks of sheep. This would be left in the care of a porter, or doorkeeper, whose duty it was to guard the door at night, not admitting anyone but the shepherds in the morning.
The other sheepfold was in the countryside, where the shepherds would keep their flocks in good weather. This place was nothing more than a circle of rocks piled into a wall. There would be one small open space left. At that open space, the shepherd would remain all night, acting as a door to keep out the predators. It is this to which Jesus is alluding. He is literally the one and only door that leads in and out of the sheepfold. He is the one door or gate through which we can enter and be saved. He is the only door to eternal life.(John 10:7-9; John 3:16).
VII. I Am the True Vine
Jesus used this analogy when speaking to His closest friends and disciples for two purposes in John 15:1-20. One was to let them know that He would always be with them even though it would not be in a physical sense. The second reason is that He wanted them to know that they needed to remain in close contact with Him, the only True Source of Life. It is only through Him that they could bear spiritual fruit, receive answers to prayer and have fullness of joy. None of these could be obtained in any other way.
One cannot read all of these "I Am" statements from our Lord's lips and say that He thought of Himself as a mere man, or even just a great moral teacher. He actually believed Himself to be the God of Heaven. As C.S. Lewis once said, a mere man that said all of these things is either a "liar or a lunatic". Jesus did not leave any room for us to accept Him in any other way but as Lord of the universe. And the good thing is, His resurrection has proven it! Let us bow down before Jesus Christ, the Great I Am!