September 20, 2017

The I Am’s of Jesus

By Bobby Witherington

In John 8 we read of a discussion which took place between Jesus and certain Jews who seemed to have a case of spiritual amnesia. They prided themselves in being children of God. Yet in v. 44 of this chapter, Jesus identified them as being children of the devil. Also they were prone to regard Jesus as a mere man, and in v. 49 they even accused him of having a demon!

However, none of his opposers could convict Jesus of sin nor could they answer his arguments. In fact, instead of replying to the truths Jesus spake, they resorted to taking up stones to cast at him - which serves to illustrate how violent some religious people can become when they are charged with being in error and are unable to answer the charges.

In these verses, Jesus taught truths which every accountable person should learn. Especially is this so with reference to the Person of Jesus Christ. The importance of our knowing the truth regarding the Person of Christ is emphasized in the latter part of John 8:24 wherein Jesus said: "for if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins." In the King James Version, this verse reads, "for if ye believe not that I am (he), ye shall die in your sins." However, the word "he" is placed in italics, meaning it was supplied by the translators. So if you leave out what the translators inserted, Jesus literally said, "for if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins." This is in keeping with the overall context, for in v. 58 Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am."

Concerning himself, Jesus said, "I am. " Taken in its biblical perspective, Jesus thus affirmed the eternity of his being. To illustrate, we call your attention to Exodus 3 in which God commissioned Moses to lead his people, the Jews, out of the land of Egypt. Moses inquired of God concerning what answer he could give to the Jews when they would ask who sent him. "God said unto Moses, I am that I am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I am hath sent me unto you."

Hence, when we compare Exodus 3 with John 8 we observe that the same affirmation that was made for God the Father was also made for Jesus Christ. He was not, as some unscripturally advocate, simply a created being of inferior quality. As the Father is from everlasting to everlasting, the Christ is also. In fact, if he had been of a different nature, he could not serve as our sin offering and as the mediator between God and man.

I Am The Bread of Life

As we pursue this theme regarding the "I am's" of Jesus, I call your attention to John 6:35 where Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst."

It is evident that many of the Jews to whom he spake neither understood nor appreciated what Jesus said. In fact, according to v. 41, they "murmured against him" because he said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." They had a problem in understanding for at least three reasons: (1) They were prejudiced; (2) They were carnal minded; and (3) They insisted on giving a literal interpretation of figurative statements.

Earlier in this chapter, we noted that Jesus had miraculously fed the 5,000 on 5 barley loaves and two small fishes. Afterwards, many sought Jesus, but Jesus knew what was in their hearts and said: "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled" (John 6:26). They were concerned about physical food for the body, but Jesus sought to show the greater value of the spiritual food for the soul, of which one could eat and never hunger.

Jesus is that life-giving and life-sustaining bread to Whom we must go to in order to have life. But how do we come to him who is the bread of life? The rest of the chapter explains this figurative expression. In v. 45 we learn that in order to come to him we must be taught. In v. 63 he said, "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and (they) are life." And in v. 68 we learn that Peter got the message, for he said to Jesus, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." His words, his truths constitute that spiritual food that he offered as meat to sustain men.

Christ is the bread of life who gives and sustains life and our means of approach to the bread of life is through learning and heeding his inspired words of life.

I Am the Light of the World

In John 8:12 Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and said: "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life. " Then once again in John 9:5, just prior to his healing the blind man, Jesus said, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Jesus also said, "I am the light of the world." In fact, he said it twice - as if he intended for us to get the message. Moreover, in John 1:4,5 the apostle said of Jesus: "In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."

But what is implied by Jesus' statement, "I am the light of the world"? In one sense, we suggest that Christ occupies the same place in the moral and the spiritual realm that the sun occupies in the natural and physical realm. Life on earth, as we know it, would cease to be if the sun were suddenly hurled out of our solar system, leaving the earth deprived of its light and heat. Nor can there be any spiritual life outside of Christ who is light and in whom there is life.

Light enables us to see clearly. In the Scriptures, light is put for knowledge. This is why the Psalmist could say, "The entrance of Your words gives light" (Psa. 119:130). This is why we, in 1 John 1:7, are exhorted to "walk in the light." He who walks in the light conducts himself according to our Lord's teachings, as they set forth in the New Testament.

For a world in the darkness of ianorance. Christ is the light, and his word can erase the ignorance. For a world in the darkness of sin, Christ is the light, and through his blood the sinner can be redeemed. For a world in the darkness of death, Christ is the light, and in him those who are dead in trespasses and sins can be made alive. But in each case, one must learn his will, and render obedience to Christ who is the author of eternal salvation to those who obey him (Heb. 5:9).

I Am The Door

I also call your attention to the words of the Savior as they are recorded in John 10:7-9. "Then Jesus said to them again, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who (ever) came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.'"

I suggest unto you that this is a very simple metaphor that is full of meaning. In vv. 1-5 of this chapter, Jesus gave the parable of the sheepfold, and even in these verses we see the importance of the door. According to v. 1, we learn that the door is the means of entrance into the sheepfold, and that he that would strive to enter by some other way is a thief and a robber. This parable seems simple enough to understand; however, according to v. 6, the Pharisees to whom Jesus spoke, did not understand what he said. Their problem, though, was not a lack of intelligence. It was a lack of sincerity. They were prejudiced - probably one of the worst diseases that can afflict the soul.

But beginning at v. 7, Jesus further explained the parable he had just spoken. And he said, "I am the door of the sheep." A door presumes a "within" and a "without" relationship, and those who have not entered by the door, meaning through Christ, are outside the sheepfold, or outside the realm of salvation.

Jesus said, "I am the door. " Neither Abraham, Moses, John, nor any of the righteous prophets had ever made such a claim - and for good reason; there is only one door of access to the Father. Jesus is it. In a word, Jesus herein placed himself between the whole human race and true blessedness. The one door is not the so-called "Father Divine," or Joseph Smith, Jr., or Jim Jones, or a rabbi, or a preacher or a priest. The dignity of being "the door of the sheep" belongs to Christ alone. He is the Door by which the spiritual sheep are admitted to divine pasture, divine security, and divine society.

No other figure of speech more vividly portrays man's need for Christ, and consequently the necessity of obeying Christ so as to be admitted into the family of God. Have you tried to enter the Sheepfold by some other door than Christ? Your efforts are in vain! For Christ is the only door!

I Am The Good Shepherd

In John 10:11 Jesus says, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep." Then again we note John 10:14 wherein Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd; and I know My (sheep), and am known by My own."

These verses, in context, belong to that portion of Scripture in which Jesus gave and then explained the parable of the sheepfold. This parable presumes a shepherd-flock relationship, and in the metaphor used here, Jesus portrayed himself as the shepherd of the flock. In our society, because of our different environmental conditioning, it is hard for us to appreciate the role of an eastern shepherd. Theirs was a demanding work. They were exposed to the extremes of heat and cold. At times, they encountered such wild beasts as wolves, lions, panthers, and bears, and occasionally their lives were endangered by robbers. This was not a job for a hireling whose sole interest in the job was how much he could earn for himself,

But in calling himself the "good shepherd," Jesus intended for us to learn something greater than just eastern shepherding customs. Jesus herein spoke of his own death in which he would lay down his life for the sheep, and of the time when there would be one fold and one shepherd. Furthermore, this one fold would include other sheep, in addition to those of Jewish nationality. In other words, this one fold would consist of both Jews and Gentiles united together and heeding the voice of the good shepherd.

To fully understand John 10, one has to continue reading through this book, and even into the book of Acts. In John 19 we read of the crucifixion of Christ, the good shepherd, as he literally gave his life for the sheep. In Acts 2 we read of the establishment of Christ's church which at first consisted of Jews only. In Acts 10 we read of the conversion of the Gentiles, and then in Acts 20:28 the church is called "the flock of God," and we are informed that it was purchased with the Blood of Christ. Hence, in the book of Acts, as signified in the New Testament Church, there is indeed the one fold, consisting of Jews and other sheep, generally called Gentiles, and the one shepherd.

Christ, then, is the good shepherd. The New Testament church is the sheepfold. And the other sheep are those who have heard the shepherd's voice in preaching the gospel, and followed through with humble obedience to his will.

I Am The Resurrection and the Life

The background of the particular "I am" of John 11:1-24 is this: Two sisters, Mary and Martha, and their brother, Lazarus, lived in Bethany. They sustained a close friendship with Jesus. On one occasion while Jesus was away, Lazarus became critically ill and his sisters sent for Jesus. But Jesus did not arrive until after Lazarus had died, and was buried.

As Jesus returned and drew near Bethany and the house where the grief-stricken sisters of Lazarus lived, they received news that he was returning. Martha went out to meet him. Jesus said unto her, "Your brother will rise again." Much faith was evident in Martha's reply, as she said, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Then Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live" (Jn. 11:25).

In calling himself "the resurrection and the life," Jesus among other things, declared that he is the giver of life. Based upon John 5:28,29, we learn that in the last day, when Jesus returns, all the dead will hear his voice and shall come forth, some to the resurrection of life, and others to the resurrection of damnation. And even in John 11:44, Jesus demonstrated his power over physical death by raising Lazarus from the grave.

However, in John 11:25 wherein Jesus, said "I am the resurrection and the life," he was primarily referring to his power over spiritual death. This is evident from his statement that "he who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live." Those who are spiritually dead, or "dead in trespasses and sins" as Paul expressed it in Ephesians 2:1, can be made alive spiritually.

It is well to note, however, that when Jesus said "he who believes in Me, . . . shall live," he used a word which includes and incorporates the obedience that accompanies true faith as it is pictured in the New Testament.

I Am the Way, The Truth, and The Life

I call your attention to an oft-quoted and a very meaningful passage of Scripture - John 14:6 where Jesus said unto Thomas, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

The statement in the passage that we just cited almost staggers the imagination. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, " and then, as if to underscore and give emphasis to what he just said, Jesus further said, "No one comes to the Father except through Me."

In the preceding verses where Jesus made reference to the many mansions in his Father's house and to his disciples he said, "I go to prepare a place for you." Then he made them a promise saying: "I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, (there) you may be also."

It seems that the disciples had difficulty understanding the spiritual nature of the kingdom. This is implied on numerous occasions. For example, in Mark 10:37, James and John requested of Christ that they be privileged to sit one on his right hand, and the other on his left hand in his glory. Such a vain request as that was surely made in contemplation of an earthly kingdom. Hence, in John 14:5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?" It is most likely that he was wondering where on earth, or in what earthly city existed the royal and regal home to which the Messiah was about to depart.

However, as Jesus said in John 18:36, his kingdom is not of this world. Hence, when he talked about going to his Father's house, he referred to the place where God, his Father, was - which of course is heaven, and concerning which Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life."

Being "the way," Jesus is our medium of access to the Father, as Paul so vividly taught in Ephesians 2:18. Being "the truth," he stands opposed to all falsehood, either secular or religious. Being "the life," he is its Author and Source, and being also "the truth," he has stated the conditions upon which life is to be attained.

But note please, the sobering statement following his claim to be the way, the truth, and the life; he further said, "No one comes to the Father except through Me." You will never find a more narrow statement than this, and it was uttered by Jesus the Christ. Apart from Christ, and our obedience to his revealed will, there is no salvation.

Conclusion

In John 6:35 Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." Being the "bread of life," he is both the giver and the sustainer of spiritual life to those who come to him in scriptural obedience. In John 8:12 Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." If he is, as stated, the light of the world, then those outside of Christ are in spiritual darkness, and should they die in that condition, they will forever be banished from the light of his presence. In John 10:7 Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep." Being as it were the door, those who desire to be saved must enter in accordance with the plan which our Lord has ordained. In John 10:14 Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd; and I know My (sheep), and am known by My own." Inasmuch as he is the good shepherd, to be saved, we must be a part of that relationship which is called "the flock of God," and according to Acts 20:28, that is the New Testament church. In John 11:25 Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live." This implies, among other things, that if we in that last day desire to be raised unto everlasting life, our faith in Christ must express itself in true obedience. In John 14:6 Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Hence, from this we learn that those who know and obey the truth, which is the Word of God, enter into Christ, the way, and possess the hope of eternal life through him.

And finally, we call your attention to John 15:1 in which Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-dresser." Then in the verses that follow, Jesus gave the parable of the Vine and the branches, and taught that the individual child of God is the branch. Hence, inasmuch as the branch is the individual, and Christ is the vine, it is apparent that the person who is herein approved is the one who is in Christ, and is bearing fruit in that relationship. In Galatians 3:26,27 we learn that the believer who is scripturally baptized is the believer who is in Christ, the true vine.

Surely from these "I am" sayings of Christ, it is evident that every accountable person needs to be "in Christ." Dear friend are you in Christ? If not, why not?

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 13, pp. 392-395
July 4, 1991

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