I AM: Part 4 

John Plunkett
September 15, 2012

This is Part 4 of our series in which we have been discussing Jesus’ frequent use of the term “I AM” – principally in the books written by the apostle John.

Let me bring you up to date as to what we have read so far:
- I AM the One and only Messiah,
- I AM come in my Father’s name,
- I AM come from above,
- I AM come from heaven,
- I AM come into this world,
- I AM going to a humanly inaccessible place,
- I AM One who bears witness of Myself,
- I AM a King,
- I AM the I AM.
- I AM the Door of the sheep-fold,
- I AM the Shepherd,
- I AM the Son of God,
- I AM glad,
- Where I AM,
- I AM in the Father,
- I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life,
- I AM the Resurrection and the Life.

That was about twenty so far; and we haven’t finished yet!

Last time, in Part 3, we briefly mentioned the “simplicity that is in Christ” (II Corinthians 11:3).  It is true that there is a simplicity that is in Jesus Christ; but there is also a wonderful complexity.  We need to be careful of misusing the words 'simplicity' and 'simple' when it comes to Jesus Christ.  All one needs to do is to think about the so-called “simple cell,” and how complex is this building block of all life – of all creation.  Please keep this in mind as we continue with Part 4 of our series.

I AM Lord and Master

A few months ago, earlier in this series, we read of Jesus telling us that He was and is a King.  He is the most important King who is going to be coming back to earth at the fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets.  In our first “I AM” scripture for today, we will read about Jesus expanding on who and what else He was – and is:

John 13:19: 
Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, you may believe that I am

Yes, it is true that the word ‘He’ has been added in by the translators.  But still, let’s ask a question as if the word ‘He’ really was still in the sentence: Who was this that said to His listeners (the disciples at the Passover service) that they would believe that He was? 

Yes, we know that He was the great I AM – the “Hayah” who appeared to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). We know also that He was the LORD (YHVH) of all of the Old Testament.  We know that He was Melchizedek who appeared to Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 14:18-20).  We know that He was the Word (Logos) of John Chapter 1 who had reigned with God the Father for eternity.  But that’s not all.  What else?  Still in John 13:

Verse 3:  Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God, and went to God…
Verse 13:  “You call me Master and Lord: and you say well; for so I am.
14:  If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

So Jesus tells us here that He is the Lord and Master.  We saw earlier that He came to this earth from heaven, from God the Father.  And in addition here, we see that He, as well as being a King, was and is the Lord and Master. 

But who is He Lord and Master of?  Of the disciples, of course; and by extension, all Christians – all of us!  But please think about this: By further extension, Jesus is Lord and Master of every single human being who ever lived!  He is the Lord and Master of all of those people – even though the vast majority don’t know it right now.  They may even, in ignorance, reject Him right now; but one day, every knee shall bow to Jesus Christ:

Isaiah 45:23: 
I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.

Romans 14:11: 
For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”

Philippians 2:10: 
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.

II Peter 3:9: 
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 

Yes, one day, every knee shall bow to Jesus Christ.  We will celebrate that future certainty every year on the Last Great Day.

I AM the true Vine

Now let us move on to our second “I AM” sub-topic for today.  Like so many others, these sub-topics deserve at least one full sermon of their own; and that is true with this one too:

John 15:1: 
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

This is another scripture that we often read at the Passover service. Let’s examine it in a little more detail.  

Jesus likens Himself to the true vine.  What is a vine?  Here is a short excerpt from the Wikipedia article: “Vine”:

From the Latin ‘vinea’, which means ‘grapevine’… In the narrower sense is the grapevine, but more generally it can refer to any plant with a growth habit of trailing or climbing stems or runners.

Jesus says that He is the true Vine; and He also says that His Father is the “husbandman” (KJV).  In the New King James Version, this is translated “vine-dresser.”  The Greek word is ‘georgos.’  Other translations render this word as farmer, vineyard keeper, gardener, or cultivator.  So, if your name is George, that is a really good name, because you are named after a symbol of God the Father!

Verse 2:  Every branch in me that bears not fruit He (the Husbandman – God the Father) takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, He (the Father) purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

What are these "branches"?  Jesus says here that God the Father is the One who removes the branches that do not bear fruit, and purges (or prunes) the good fruit-bearing vine-branches in order to remove excess useless shoots.  That is another sermon in itself – to go into the concept of the pruning of these vine-branches.

Verse 4: Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me.

Here, Jesus strongly hints at what these branches symbolize – His disciples.  And us as well!  What He says here is very important. In order for physical vine-branches to bear physical fruit, they must abide in the physical vine. They must be solidly attached to the physical vine; they must be integral parts of it. 

In exactly the same way, in order for spiritual branches (you and me) to bear spiritual fruit, we must abide in the spiritual Vine –  Jesus Christ.  Not only must we be solidly attached to Him, we must be integral parts of the spiritual Vine. 

When Jesus says “Abide in Me,” this is exactly what He is talking about.  We have to abide in Jesus Christ – and hence in God the Father.  Jesus promises to abide in us; and God the Father also will abide in us.  This is wonderful, astounding symbolism!

Jesus firmly and unmistakably ties down the identity of the Vine and the branches in our very next verse, which is our very next “I AM” verse:

Verse 5:  I am the vine, you are the branches: he that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.

So, we have to abide in Jesus Christ and He has to abide in us.  He says that if His human branches abide in Him and if He abides in us, we will bring forth lots of fruit.  But, He adds, without Him – separated from Him – we cannot do anything!

What Jesus says here might remind us of a couple of other scriptures that I would like to look at in order to clarify this statement:

John 5:
19: Then answered Jesus and said unto them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do: for what things soever He does, these also does the Son likewise...
erse 30:  I can of my own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father which has sent me.

Just as with the disciples and us, if we are separated from the true Vine, which is Jesus, we would be barren and useless.  So, in the same way, even Jesus Himself, if He were to be separated from His Father, He too would have been barren and useless.

A short time later Jesus said this:

John 8:
28:  Then said Jesus unto them, “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then shall you know that I am
[He], and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father has taught me, I speak these things”….
Verse 54:  Jesus answered, “If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honours me; of whom you say that He is your God:”

Here, again, Jesus said that, without God the Father, He was nothing.  And likewise, without Jesus and His Father, we are nothing. One of the men Jesus healed of blindness clearly recognized this fact. Here’s what he said to his Jewish persecutors:

John 9:33:  
If this man were not of God, He could do nothing.

Moving right along – and back again to chapter 15:

John 15:6: 
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

Again, we are spiritual vine branches.  If we do not abide in Jesus – if we are not solidly attached to Him – if we are not part of Him, His spiritual sap will not be able to flow into us and through us.  We will be spiritually fruitless and useless.  We will spiritually wither and die.  We will be gathered along with the other spiritual “dead-wood” and be thrown into the fire and burned.  Not just spiritually; but literally!  We don’t want this, of course; but if we do fall into that condition – that of spiritual dead-wood – then God will at least get some practical use out of us – as firewood (Revelation 20:15).

Continuing in John 15:

7:  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you.
8: Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples.

If we abide in Jesus, and if He and His words abide in us, He and God the Father will give us our requests.  The context indicates that these requests are not for frivolous things or for luxury items; but for things that are connected to our ability to bear spiritual fruit. 

Please notice also what Jesus said in verse 8:  If and when the children of God the Father bear much fruit, He (the Father) is glorified.  This leads us right into our next sub-topic where Jesus says:

I AM Glorified

John 17:10:
And all mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I am glorified in them.

This was part of Jesus’ prayer to His Father shortly before He was crucified.  The subject of glorification is an absolutely huge one – another one that needs its own sermon.  We touched on it last time in Part 3 when we studied the raising of Lazarus in John chapter 11, and where we learned that Jesus and His Father can be further glorified by an increase in our faith and our belief.  Let’s go through a couple of other scriptural mentions of the glorification of God the Father and Jesus Christ which reveal some other ways that they can be glorified:

John 17:
1:  These words spoke Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour is come; glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you…
Verse 4:  I have glorified you on the earth: I have finished the work which you gave me to do. 
5:  And now, O Father, glorify me with your own self with the glory which I had with you before the world was...
Verse 10:  And all mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I am glorified in them.”

The words of Jesus Christ in this prayer recorded in John 17 are vast, the concepts are absolutely huge, the words are powerful and the words are glorious.  The glory and glorification of God the Father and Jesus apparently bear much power.  

In verse 1, Jesus opens His prayer by asking His Father to glorify Him.  Why?  Because He was selfish?  No!  Because He was power-hungry?  No!  Why then?  He says that, if God the Father glorifies Him (Jesus), then in turn, He can glorify the Father.  Glorification is something that is hard for us to wrap our finite human minds around.

In verse 4, Jesus respectfully reminds His Father that He (Jesus) had glorified Him (the Father) during His brief sojourn on earth.  How did He do this?  Through the work that His Father gave Him to complete.  Here at the time of this prayer, Jesus was almost at the very end of completing that work.  This is a great example for us.  We can glorify God the Father by doing whatever work He gives us to do.

In verse 5, Jesus asked His Father again to glorify Him – actually and more accurately in this case – to re-glorify Him – to restore Him to the glorious state that He and the Father had shared for all eternity before Jesus’ short sojourn on earth.

Repeating verse 10:  “And all mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I am glorified in them.”

We know, from verses 23 and 26, that God the Father loves us as much as He does His Son.  It is hard for us to get our mind around that fact.  Jesus’ words here refer right back to verse 4 – to Jesus’ work with and for His people.

Jesus’ John 17 prayer contains another three “I AM” verses; but they are actually “I AM not” verses; so I want to leave them for today because I want to discuss all of the “I AM not” verses together.

Before we move off this “I AM Glorified” sub-topic, I would like to point out that the glory and glorification of God the Father and Jesus Christ is not like human glory.  The glorification and the glory of God is, to a certain extent, impossible for us to fully understand because of our human limitations.  The glory and the glorification of the Father and Jesus is not like the mere lesser glory of a human monarch, and is certainly not like the so-called “glory” of sacrifice or victory in war. 

In this regard, I would like to read you a short excerpt from a book by William M. Thackeray, whose middle name, by the way, was “Makepeace” and who was especially famous for his satirical novel, “Vanity Fair.”  But here in his “Travels and Roadside Sketches” book, he gives his impressions of his visit to the battlefield in Belgium where the Battle of Waterloo was fought on June 18, 1815 between the English and French forces and their allies, resulting in 72,000 casualties.  This excerpt is Thackeray’s criticism of the misnaming of the so-called “glory” of human war:

English glory is too genteel to meddle with those humble fellows (i.e. low-ranking soldiers) as she does not condescend to ask the names of the poor devils whom she kills in her service…  But let an Englishman go and see that field (the battlefield of Waterloo) and he never forgets it… The sight is an event in his life; and, though it has been seen by millions of peaceable gents -- grocers from Bond Street, meek attorneys from Chancery Lane, and timid tailors from Piccadilly -- I will wager that there is not one of them but feels a glow as he looks at the place and remembers that he too, is an Englishman.  It is wrong, egotistical, savage, unchristian a feeling, and that’s the truth of it.  A man of peace has no right to be dazzled by that red-coated glory, and to intoxicate his vanity with those remembrances of carnage and triumph…  The same sentence which tells us that on earth there ought to be peace and goodwill amongst men, tells us to whom glory belongs.

Mr. Thackeray was right, of course.  He was quoting the words of God’s angels:

Luke 2:14: 
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

I repeat: The glorification of God the Father and Jesus Christ are not like any glory that we human beings can understand, and certainly not the so-called misnamed “glory” of victory in war.

I AM He who searches the Hearts and the Kidneys

When I mentioned this at the end of my last sermon, you may have thought that I speaking tongue-in-cheek. But I wasn’t!  Still with the authorship of John, we will now start into the book of Revelation:

Revelation 2:23: 
… And all the churches shall know that I am He which searches the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

What is it here that Jesus says He is capable of searching?  Our "reins and our hearts."
Reins?  I would think that the vast majority of us have never had reins on us at all.  Perhaps some of you older folks, especially if you are English, may have had reins on you when you were toddlers – to keep you from wandering.  Although this might seem like a valid explanation of Jesus' use of the term, the Greek word translated here as ‘reins’ is ‘nephros’ and the word is only used this once in the whole Bible.  Its primary meaning is ‘kidneys.’  It can also mean ‘loins.’ 

Although it alludes to one’s innermost thoughts, feelings and purposes, let us look first of all at its primary translation: Kidneys.  What are the purposes of our kidneys?  Again, let’s go back to Wikipedia:

The kidneys serve essential regulatory roles in most animals, including vertebrates and some invertebrates.  They are essential in the urinary system and also serve functions such as the regulation of electrolytes, maintenance of acid-base balance, and regulation of blood pressure (via maintaining salt and water balance.)  The kidneys serve the body as a natural filter of the blood, and remove wastes which are diverted to the bladder.  The kidneys excrete wastes such as urea and ammonium, and they are also responsible for the re-absorption of water, glucose, and amino acids.  The kidneys also produce hormones including calcitriol, erythropoietin, and the enzyme rennin.

In my unscientific mind, these functions evidently all deal with bodily fluids and so draw my mind to these well-known verses:

John 7:
37:  In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 
38:  He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’” 
39:  (But this spoke He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Our modern sensitive minds do not like to admit the possibility of the human urinary system symbolizing the flow of God’s Holy Spirit.  But the urinary system is certainly not a dirty organism.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  It filters and cleanses and is just as necessary to our bodies as our municipal sewage and garbage collection systems are necessary in keeping our home environments clean.

God the Father and Jesus designed and created the human eliminative system.  If they wish to use it as a spiritual symbol, who are we to argue?  We find the word ‘bowels’ mentioned thirty-seven times in the scriptures – mainly symbolic of very positive things such as mercy and compassion.  Even “the bowels of Jesus Christ” are mentioned in one scripture.

If this translation of the Greek word nephros is true in this respect – that Jesus is able to “search our kidneys” – exactly what is He doing?  Perhaps He is searching the health of our spiritual kidneys.  Are they healthy or are they unhealthy?  Are they clear?  Or are they plugged up with spiritual kidney stones, thus blocking the natural flow of the water of the Holy Spirit out of our spiritual bellies?

The second possible meaning of the Greek word nephros, is ‘loins.’  Loins are often used in the Bible to picture the human reproductive system.  Again, this could take us back to John chapter 7:

John 7:38:
He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”

The Greek word for ‘belly’ here is ‘koilia’ which can mean either the stomach of the digestive/eliminative system or the womb of the reproductive system.  If the latter was Jesus’ meaning in Revelation 2:23 then, by searching our loins, He is in effect examining our spiritual reproductive health and effectiveness.  Are we being spiritually fruitful as He wants us to be?  Are we spiritually multiplying the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit?  Are we bearing and bringing forth much spiritual fruit – just like those healthy spiritual vine branches mentioned earlier?  Are we contributing to the increase of the Family of God?

The other relevant Greek word in Revelation 2:23 is ‘kardia’ which is translated as the ‘heart.’  Jesus is the One, He says, who is able to search our hearts.  The heart, as everybody knows, is the central organ of the blood circulation system.  Hence, it is regarded as the seat of physical life.  If the heart packs it in, then it’s game over!  But the heart is also symbolic of the centre and seat of spiritual life – the mind, the fountain of our thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes and endeavours.  It is also symbolic of our understanding – the seat of our intelligence, especially spiritually.  Finally, it is also symbolic of our will and character.

Yes, Jesus says that He is able to search our hearts and our kidneys.  But some are of the opinion that Jesus Christ is not one hundred percent omniscient – all knowing.  Again, this needs another sermon of its own; but suffice it to say right now that a deeper Bible study on this concept will certainly prove that He certainly is omniscient and fully able to search our spiritual hearts and our kidneys – even in advance.

I AM Alpha and Omega

We will now go back to Revelation chapter 1, where we are going to move into what is the largest section of “I AM” verses in the Book of Revelation:

Revelation 1:
8:  “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending,” says the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty…
Verse 11:  Saying, “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last”… 
Verse 17:  ... And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, “Fear not; I am the first and the last.”

There is quite a lot of repetition and overlap in these verses.  Just before the end of the great culmination of God’s Word, there appears to be much necessary emphasis required on these very, very important proclamations.  

What do these terms mean: ‘Alpha,’ ‘Omega,’ ‘Beginning,’ ‘End,’ ‘First,’ ‘Last’ – and not forgetting ‘the Almighty’?  Let us do a quick Greek language study on these words:

Alpha and the Omega, as most of us know, are the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet.  They are very well known in this respect; but the other five Greek words are not so very well known.

The word “Beginning” comes from the Greek word ‘Arche’ and it means:  
- First; 
- First place; 
- The first person or thing in a series; 
- The origin; 
- The person or thing that commences; 
- The leader; 
- That by which anything begins to be (i.e. “I AM”); 
- The active cause; 
- The extremity of a thing; 
- The corner (as in the word “cornerstone” or the corner of a sail on a ship).

The word “Ending” comes from the Greek word ‘Telos’ and it also can mean
- Uttermost; 
- Finally; 
- Termination; 
- The limit at which a thing ceases to be; 
- The last in any succession or series; 
- Eternal (there’s the “I AM” again); 
- That by which a thing is finished or closed; 
- The end to which all things relate; 
- The aim; 
- The purpose.

The word “First” comes from the Greek word ‘Protos’ and it means:
- First in time or place; 
- First in any succession of things or persons; 
- First in rank, influence and honour; 
- Principal;
- Chief.

The word “Last” comes from the Greek word ‘Eschatos’ and it can mean:
- Last in time or place; 
- Last in a series; 
- Uttermost; 
- The latter end; 
- The extreme.

Finally, the word “Almighty” comes from the Greek word ‘Pantokrator’ and it can mean:
- Omnipotent; 
- He who holds sway over all things; 
- The Ruler of all; 
- The Almighty God.

These are technically what the Greek words mean, and we could dig even deeper into their meanings.  But what does Jesus mean by these words?  He tells us back in verse 8:

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, says the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

These terms are simply  – and significantly  – the present tense, the past tense, and the future tense of the verb “I AM”!  It all comes right back to the “I AM” once again!  Jesus and His Father know very well that our human perception and understanding are relatively weak; so to aid us, Jesus expands on this even more in:

Verse 18: 
I am He that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

As we draw close to the end of the Book of Revelation and to the end of the Holy Bible, Jesus inspires the apostle John to return to this hugely important concept:

Revelation 21:6: 
And He said unto me, “It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.”

Then once more, even closer to the end of The Book – just nine verses from the end – we again read six of those seven names showing the true, vast importance of the “I AM” and the very concept of the “I AM” – Jesus Christ:  Who He was; what He was; and what He is:

Revelation 22:13:
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

Let us summarize today’s sub-topics:  Jesus tells us: 
- I AM your Lord and Master,
- I AM” the true Vine, 
- I AM glorified, 
- I AM He who searches the hearts and the kidneys (or loins), 
- I AM the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last, 
- I AM the Almighty.

We will continue next time in Part 5; and we will see more of Jesus’ “I AM” statements in the book of Revelation.