What were the implications of Jesus using the “I Am” statements about Himself in the New Testament?
Bread from Heaven
When the Jews were wandering in the wilderness due to their disobedience of not crossing over into the Promised Land, God provided for “manna,” or as it were, “manna from heaven,” so the Jews knew exactly what Jesus was talking about when He said “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). God provided both bread and water to ancient Israel that kept them alive, but Jesus is the Bread of life and gives bread that satisfies forever and living water that, whoever drinks, “shall never thirst.” Ancient Israel grew hungry and thirsty in their journeys, but God provided for them; today, Jesus gives us eternal life and whoever believes in Him, even if they die, shall live again (John 10:25-26). This is the bread that leads to eternal life, so He is the Bread of eternal life.
Light of the World
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, the nation of Israel was living in spiritual darkness, and it had been 400 years since a prophet of God had spoken, that is until John the Baptist spoke of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). John the Baptist was actually the last of the Old Testament prophets, and even though he part of the New Testament, he was the last of the Old Testament prophets. John’s ministry was a sort of door hinge with the door to the new covenant on one side opening, and closing the door of the Mosaic Law of the old covenant. John knew why Christ came and therefore he rightly said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). May it be so with all of us so that Christ increases all the more and we all the less, so that others can only see Christ and not us anymore. Jesus as the Light of the World says, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12) and many in the spiritual void of Judea did see the Light, but until Jesus shines the light of His Word, we don’t even know we’re in darkness.
My uncle in Iowa has a farm with acres of corn, but he also raises sheep. There is only one thing about these sheep. They won’t come to a stranger. In fact, they run away when I started to go out to them, but if they hear my uncle’s voice, they come running. His sheep know his voice, and so too do those who are of Jesus’ own flock. He says, I Am the Door or the Good Shepherd, which could both apply to John 10:7 where Jesus said, “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7). Jesus as the Good Shepherd guards the door to the sheepfold; in fact, He is the door! One must go through Him to have access to the sheep, which is why He says, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). To get into the fold of God, you must come through the Good Shepherd (John 6:44).
The Good Shepherd
Not every sheep my uncle has comes home willingly. If some of the young ones get separated from the flock, he has to go out and find them, because sheep are not that smart. They’ll just stay in one place and eat the pasture till it’s gone, roots and all, so the shepherd not only has to lead them to greener pastures (Psalm 23:1), but he has to go after the ones that get lost, but Jesus reassures us by stating, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11), and later says, “I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15). My uncle wouldn’t lay down his life for his sheep, but Jesus has done that for us, and has planned from before time began, to gives His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
Jesus was never questioned about His raising the dead, and we know that many of the Jews believed in in because of the resurrections He did, so the Jews understood the implications of Jesus saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this” (John 11:25-26)? The Jews had seen or heard from witnesses that Jesus raise the dead, and they were about to see it again with Lazarus, yet their hearts were so hardened that they conspired to kill Lazarus and Jesus, because Lazarus was raised from the dead (although, I’m not sure why they were blaming him!). They probably wanted Lazarus dead because many of the Jews believed on Jesus because He raised Lazarus from the dead. How that was Lazarus’ fault is a mystery to me, but it only reveals the wickedness of the Jewish religious leaders.
The Way, the Truth, and the Life
The way it is written where Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), is specific in intent. He is saying “I am the way” and not one of many ways. He is the truth and whatever a person believes cannot change that. He is the life, in the sense of granting eternal life. He is not a way but the way; He is not a truth, but the truth; and He not only grants physical life, but is the way to eternal life (John 6:44). There is no other way at all (Acts 4:12). There is only one way and that is through Christ alone, or you believe He is a liar. The “truth” cannot be a liar, for He is God, and God cannot lie (Num 23:19; Titus 1:2).
Reading John 15, you can see Jesus using the symbolism of the vine, which was one of ancient Israel’s symbols. You would have seen the vine engraved in the temple, on ceremonial vessels, and represented in the priest’s clothing. Israel was originally called to be a fruitful vine, but by the time Jesus arrived in Judea, Israel had become a barren, spiritual wasteland, a barren vine, with the religious leaders teaching the doctrines of men, and avoiding the weightier matters of justice and mercy. Israel, as the vine, had withered, and was in danger of being cut and burned. Perhaps this is what John the Baptist meant when he warned the Jews, “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:9). A branch cannot produce fruit without abiding in the vine, which means we can’t produce any fruits unless we’re abiding in Him (John 15:5). On the other hand, wax fruit might look good, but it is useless when you’re hungry. And it melts under fiery trials.
The Apostle John met the resurrected “I AM” and writes, “I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades’” (Rev 1:17). Some glorious day, we will see Jesus “coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen” (Rev 1:7), and we shall finally see the Great I AM Who says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev 1:8).
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.