The "I Am" of the Gospel of John

The Gospel of John is unique in many ways, compared to the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Written by the apostle John, the same writer as the three shorter John books and the Book of Revelation, the Gospel of John follows a topical outlining of the gospel, and not a strict chronological order of things.  He divides his teaching into two main components: the public ministry of Jesus (Chapters 2-12) and the private ministry of Jesus to his disciples (Chapters 13-21).

Here, I want to look at ten “I Am” statements of Jesus, which are unique to this Gospel. These are bold statements Jesus makes concerning Himself and who He is to His people.

The first “I Am” appears in John 6:48

I am the bread of life.

Jesus continues, “49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”…53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”

These verses must be understood spiritually. Just as earthly bread and drink will sustain a man while he lives, the Heavenly Bread of Jesus will sustain us spiritually, and for eternity. Also, just as we do not partake of natural bread and natural drink once and then live filled and quenched for the rest of our days on earth, the Bread of Jesus is “food indeed,” and like all other foods, we need to partake on a regular basis in order to continue to be nourished. The blood of Jesus is “drink indeed,” and we need to partake regularly, as the life is in the blood (Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:11) and and it will sustain us on our journey to Christlikeness.

These verses give evidence to the importance of Communion as a life giving nourishment to the believer.

In a strictly superficial sense, these verses are somewhat gruesome. But in looking at our society as a whole, they speak to me of a spiritual hunger in the world. Eating the flesh of Jesus, and drinking the blood of Jesus are concepts created by God, as all things were created by God (See John 1:1-4). If all things are created by God, then Satan can not be a creator, but he is a perverter and deceiver, and he uses pieces of truth in his lies and deceptions. We must remember, Satan’s goal is to distract people from seeing Jesus, and he will utilize every red herring he can to do so. Our world has an extreme interest in vampires, eating flesh, and drinking blood – even if only in a “fictional” sense. I believe Satan has simply perverted a life giving truth of God and is using it to appease the spiritual hunger of the masses. He gives a perverted version of a truth to keep people from looking for and seeing the true Truth, and turning their hearts towards Jesus. As believers, we should pray that this deception be revealed for what it is, and that the eyes of the people around us would be opened to see the Truth of Jesus as the only sacrifice that saves.

The second “I Am” appears in John 8:12

I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.

Jesus is the light of the world, and this light is the light of life. Where Jesus is not, there is darkness. Matthew 5: 14-16 states that as Christians, we have been given the call of being lights to the world. Our light should point the way to the True Light, so that people will see Jesus. People can not see if they are in darkness, so we are to bring light to them.

During the Exodus from Egypt, “the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night” (Exodus 13:21). Jesus says that like the Israelites of old following God as a pillar of fire in the darkness of their world, we are to follow Him as the Light which leads us in the darkness of ours, overcoming the darkness, and bringing light to those around us.

The third “I Am” appears in John 8:23

I am from above

Jesus states that He is from above; He is not from this world. Further He states that the Pharisees were “of this world” but He was “not of this world.” In our journey to Christlikeness, we should be less and less “of this world” and more and more “from above” while still walking with and engaging with the people of earth.

The fourth “I Am” appears in John 8:58

Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.

Exodus 3:14 says “And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”” The Pharisees Jesus is speaking to would know very well that God says He is “I AM.” For Jesus to make the same claim speaks of his Godship and oneness with the God of their fathers. Further, Jesus says that before Abraham was, I AM. This speaks the truth that Jesus, as God, was before father Abraham was even born. He is the always has been ever present One. With this, Jesus clearly proclaims his divinity. He is using the eternal name of God.

The fifth “I Am” appears in John 10: 7-9

I am the door.

Jesus is the door.  If we are to find the way to heaven, we must enter through the door. Jesus is that door. Jesus continues, “If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” The “in and out” is not a vacillation between being saved and not, but represents the freedom and security we have in Christ.

The sixth “I Am” appears in John 10: 11-15

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.

In combination with being the door, Jesus is the good shepherd. While several scriptures refer to many of God’s great leaders as being shepherds, the Psalms and the Prophets speak of God being the ultimate Shepherd (see Psalm 23:1, Psalm 80:1, Isaiah 40: 10-11, Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 23, Micah 5:4, Zechariah 13:7). Jesus’ saying He is the good shepherd equates Him with God. This proclamation is confirmed by other writers of the New Testament (Hebrews 13:20, 1 Peter 2: 25, 5:4, Revelation 7:17).

In being the ultimate shepherd, Jesus says He will lay His life down for His sheep. A hireling, in comparison, would protect himself and let the enemy scatter the sheep. We must look at ourselves: Are we like a hireling, putting our life above those of others, or are we like Jesus, esteeming Christlikeness as worth any sacrifice. Jesus gave His all as the great shepherd, and we are called to do likewise.

Being the good shepherd, Jesus knows His own (John 10: 14) and His own follow Him (John 10: 4, 27). We can rejoice that if we are truly seeking Jesus, then we will “by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for (we) do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10: 5) This should be our prayer based in these scriptures – that we will know the voice of Jesus, discern the voice of deceivers so we will flee them, and that we will only follow Jesus.

The seventh “I Am” appears in John 11:25

I am the resurrection and the life.

Jesus’ statement comes in the midst of the story of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. John 1:4 says that life was in Jesus from the beginning. If we are in Him, we have life by faith in Him as well. In fact, it is no longer us that lives, but we live by faith in Jesus, who lives in us (See Galatians 2:20). This statement could only be made by man if He is also God. Only Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

The eighth “I Am” appears in John 14:6

I am the way, the truth, and the life.

Jesus is the way to the Father. Jesus is the truth that sets us free. And Jesus is life, not only in eternity, but here and now. There is no other.

The ninth “I Am” appears in John 15:1-2

I am the true vine.

Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. The branches can not live apart from the vine, for they will wither and die without the life of the vine. Jesus is that life. See an in-depth study of this section of scripture: The Vine and the Vinedresser.

The tenth “I Am” appears in John 18: 5-6

I am He.

At first, this seems like a simple statement made to the guards when they came to arrest Jesus before His crucifixion. They were asking for Jesus of Nazareth, and He was replying “I am He.” But notice, “He” is in italics, as it is not found in the original Greek text. Jesus merely replied “I Am,” much like in John 8:58, noted above. However, He wasn’t making the point of verbally proclaiming his divinity, as He did in John 8: 58 when He stated He was before Abraham. He was simply replying that He was… who they were looking for. Nevertheless, notice the reaction of the guards. Upon the simple statement of “I am He,” they “drew back and fell to the ground.” Jesus’ statement of being who they were looking for contained power to knock them to the ground. Jesus is always with power, even when submitting Himself to death for our sins. As stated in the Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible by Jamieson, Fausset and David Brown

“This, occurring before His surrender, would show His power over His enemies, and so the freedom with which He gave Himself up” [MEYER].

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