I Am: Part 1

John Plunkett
June 30, 2012

We all have favourite scriptures, don't we?  What are some of yours?  Most of mine were written by the apostle John, whose style of writing I really love.

One of my greatest favourites is Jesus’ wonderful prayer in John chapter 17.  But today I'd like to discuss two others of my favourites – both of them also in John’s gospel account.

In the first one, we read of Jesus having an exchange with some belligerent Jews – an event which was not so very unusual:

John 8:51-58:
"Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word he shall never see death."  Then the Jews said to Him, "Now we know that you have a demon!  Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word he shall never taste death.’  Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead?  And the prophets are dead.  Whom do you make yourself out to be?"  Jesus answered, "If I honour myself, My honour is nothing.  It is my Father who honours me, of whom you say that He is your God.  Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him.  And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.  Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.  Then the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."

They asked Him, "Whom do you make yourself out to be?"  “I AM” is who Jesus made Himself out to be.  Please note those two little words “I Am,” because they are the inspiring subject of my split sermon today and of my next few sermons.  I get shivers when I read that verse, and I get shivers when I read these ones too in my second favourite verse:

John 18:1-4:
When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered.  And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples.  Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.  Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, "Whom are you seeking?"

Notice that He went forward to say this to them.  I love the way John puts these things together.

Verses 5-6:  They answered Him, "Jesus of Nazareth."  Jesus said to them, "I am He."  And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them.  Now when He said to them, "I am He," they drew back and fell to the ground.  Then He asked them again, "Whom are you seeking?"  And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus answered, "I have told you that I am He.  Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,"

It is interesting that Jesus moved forward to say these words and when He said them they drew back and fell to the ground.

Verses 7-8:  Then He asked them again, "Whom are you seeking?"  And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus answered, "I have told you that I am He.  Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,"

When Jesus said this the second time, we can imagine His captors cowering, because they don’t want to be bowled over again.  Please look in your own Bible at verses 5, 6 and 8.  In most Bibles the word “He” is in italics, indicating that the word was added in by the translators.  The more accurate English translation of what Jesus actually said was, “I Am.”  He said it three times here. 

These two words might be tiny ones; but as you can see, when spoken by the Son of God, they can possess great power.  In this split sermon, and in my next few sermons as well, I would like to examine Jesus’ use of this term “I Am.” 

I really do believe that it is important, specifically from the New Testament standpoint, and more specifically from the pen of the apostle John in His gospel account and later on in the Book of Revelation.

Why would I give this sermon series at this particular time?  What is the potential benefit of it to you?  Many of you are long-time Christians.  Let me partially answer this question with another question: Have you ever been approached on the street or in shopping mall by some wide-eyed Pentecostal or Evangelical, urgently demanding. “Do you know the Lord?” 

The main benefit of our study of Jesus’ use of the words “I Am” will be that, at the end of this series, both you and I will "know the Lord."  We will all know the Lord Jesus Christ; and we will all know Him, hopefully, better than we do now.  Not because of my words; but because of God’s Word.  As a result, we will all know God the Father better too, because Jesus and His Father are one and because He who has seen and known Jesus, has also seen and known God the Father:

John 10:30:
I and My Father are one.

John 14:7-9:
"If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him."  Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us."  Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known me, Philip?  He who has seen me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Then, as more additional positive results, we will be better able to appreciate and worship both Jesus Christ and God the Father, and we will also be able to emulate Jesus as the apostle Paul emulated Him.

When Jesus used the phrase “I Am,” He was either speaking Aramaic or Greek, and His words come down to us in the written Greek language.  The most frequently used Greek words He used for "I am" are transliterated as “ego eimi,” which appears thirty-four times in the New Testament. 

When He used the term “I Am,” just what and who did He say He was... and is?  The answer to this question is the whole subject of this sermons series.  If we Christians wish to truly know the Lord, we need to be familiar with the answer to this question.  

In this series I want to ask and answer these questions:

Jesus does not keep us in the dark with regard to these questions; He gives us clear answers to all of them in His inspired and written Word.  He tells us over and over again, every time He utters these words “I Am,” He is telling us who and what He is.

Let us get started with our first “I Am” verse in which our Lord Jesus Christ tells us:

I AM the Messiah

John 4:25-26:
The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ).  When He comes, He will tell us all things."  Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am

Again, the word “He” was added in here by the translators.  Here again, Jesus was telling this Samaritan woman that He was – and of course He still is – the Messiah.  He was the Christos – the Anointed One who was prophesied to come to reveal all things.  

I find this statement by this Samaritan lady to be very interesting, because the Samaritans only accepted the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible –  as inspired scripture.  Still do!  There is still a very small group of Samaritans in what we call "the Holy Land" who still only accept the first five books of the Bible.  So the prophecies that this lady was familiar with were likely from the first five books of the Old Testament.  She had a lot of the truth right there in those first five books.

In the second section, Jesus said:

I AM Come

For the rest of the sermon today, I would like to concentrate on these words.  This section can actually be subdivided into five very closely linked parts:
1. I AM come in My Father’s name
2. I AM come from God the Father (slightly different wording here; but with a different accent)
3. I AM come from above
4. I AM come from heaven (sounds the same; but, again, different wording)
5. I AM come into the world.

Let us take a look at all five of these in this same order.  We will only have time for four of them today.  We must leave Number Five until next time.

I AM Come in my Father’s Name

John 5:43:
I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.

So Jesus told them that He had come in the name of God the Father. The Jews He was talking to claimed to know God the Father; but they really didn’t.  They would not receive or accept Jesus as the Son of God the Father.  But Jesus, really was the Son of God; and as such, He had the gift of prophecy and was able to foresee that another man – a false Messiah – would come to them – not in God’s name; but in his own name – and the Jews would accept him. 

This raises an interesting question: Did this false Messiah appear during their lifetimes?  Maybe he did.  Maybe he didn’t.  Some Bible scholars think that Jesus might have been referring here to Hillel or Shammai – two popular Jewish teachers of that time.  Perhaps these Jews had a preference for the teaching of either or both of these men.  This is one possibility.  Other scholars think that Jesus might have been referring to the well-known Simon Magus – Simon the Sorcerer – who we read about in Acts chapter 8.
Another possibility – a remote one which does not bear much credibility – is Simon Bar Kokhba, a man who led a major Jewish revolt against the Romans in 132AD.  The date of the revolt is what makes it very unlikely that Jesus was referring to him, because most of the Jews He was talking to would not have been alive one hundred years later.  Yet others believe that this could be a prophecy for the end-times and it is referring to the Beast, the False Prophet or even both of them.

Whichever one of these (or more of these, as dual prophecy certainly is a fact) Jesus was referring to, or yet another one altogether, the main point of this verse for you and me is this:  It is of the greatest importance that we receive Jesus Christ – the true “I AM” – that we receive the One who comes in the name of God the Father, and that we receive no other – no false Messiah. 

Please do not misunderstand.  I am not saying that we should not listen to God's true ministers who are preaching the truth.  We certainly should!  But  we should receive no other than Jesus Christ as the Messiah.

Let us now move on to the next sub-heading:

I AM Come from God the Father

Here we see Jesus Christ in the Temple on the Last Great Day; and He still has Jews arguing against Him:

John 7:25-29:
Now some of them from Jerusalem said, "Is this not He whom they seek to kill?  But look!  He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him.  Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ?  However, we know where this man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from.  Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, "You both know me, and you know where I am from; and I am not come of myself...

We will be coming back in later sermons to the “I Am not” verses to find out just that... what Jesus is not.  Continuing, still in verse 29:

... but He who sent me is true, whom you do not know.  But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent me."

Who is the “Him” that Jesus is talking about here?  Who is “He that sent me?”  We know that it is God the Father.  Jesus was telling the Jews once again that He came from His heavenly Father. 

It is really interesting to note that Jesus said that although these Jews who rejected Him did not know His Father, they did know who He – Jesus – was and they knew where He came from.  These very facts that they knew His origin and who He really was would work against any possibility for their confession, repentance and forgiveness.  It is not I who condemns them; but I believe that, because they knew who He was and where He came from, but refused to accept Him, they were in serious trouble. 

In Luke 23:34, we read that, when Jesus was on the stake, He cried out to His Father, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."  He gave them some leeway by asking His Father to forgive them because they didn’t know what they were doing.  One day those soldiers will probably repent; but these Jews did know what they were doing, and they refused to repent.  They also forfeited being forgiven.  In Luke 17:3-4 and other scriptures, Jesus tells us that, in order to be forgiven, we need to repent.

But again, what was Jesus’ origin?  Where had He come from?”  He came "from Him" – from God the Father.  It was He who sent Jesus into the world. This is confirmed in other scriptures, for example:

John 13:3:
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God,

John 17:18:
As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.

Jesus backs that fact up even more with His next "I AM" statement:

John 8:23:
And He said to them, "You are from beneath; I am from above.  You are of this world; I am not of this world."

This hammers home the point of what Jesus’ origin was. Where had Jesus come from?  He was not a created being, as some erroneously believe and teach.  Jesus Christ was the Eternal God.  He was from the beginning with God – with God the Father.  He was God and He is God.  What was Jesus’ origin?  

Where had He come from?  Not from some place on earth; not just from Bethlehem or from Nazareth.  Not from any place in this world "beneath" as those Jews were; but rather "from above."  From where above?  From His Father’s throne in heaven.  Jesus said this to the Pharisees, thus bolstering His previous statements of who He was and that He had come from God the Father and from heaven.  

This is reiterated yet again in our next sub-topic, (still part of “I AM Come”) which is based around a set of “I AM” verses which together give a three-part message:

I AM Come from Heaven – as the Bread of Life – to give life

Here are the three points that Jesus gives us here in John 6, which we know to be so important, as we go through it at the Passover services every year.

John 6:35, 41, 48, 51:
And Jesus said unto them, "I am the Bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes on me shall never thirst... The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, "I am the Bread which came down from heaven."... "I am the bread of life"...  "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."

Firstly He repeats, “I AM come... from heaven.”  He hammers that fact home yet again.  

Secondly, He says: “I AM come... as the living Bre
ad of life.”  

And thirdly He says, “I AM come... to give life.”

Yes.  We read these verses at the Passover every year, and God tells us that we are to hunger for this heavenly Bread of Life. We are to eat this heavenly Bread of Life.  Jesus wants us to have a lifelong "feeding frenzy" for it – to fill ourselves with it.  In this way, He and His Father will dwell in us through their Holy Spirit and through their Word. 

What was the origin of this life-giving Bread of Life?  Where had He come from?  He came down from heaven.  Why did He come down from heaven?  He came down from heaven to give abundant, eternal life to the world.  

Yes.  To the world. The whole world!  Eventually, your neighbours and my neighbours are going to be called, chosen, converted!  They are our future brothers and sisters in the Kingdom of God.  Yes, Jesus came to give life to you and to me; but to them too:

John 3:16:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 10:10:
The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Abundant and eternal life is what Jesus promises us now, and eventually to the world, as well.

We have one more of the five “I AM Come” sub-topics to discuss, and that fifth one is quite long; so we must defer it until next time.

In conclusion, let us review what we have learned today:
- We have learned that Jesus Christ is the one and only Messiah. 
- We have learned that He came in His Father’s name. 
- That He came from God the Father. 
- That He came from above. 
-That He came from heaven.
- That He came as the living Bread of Life. 
- And that He came to give life.

It  may be true that many of us already knew these things before today’s split sermon. Nevertheless, for Jesus to repeat these things over and over again and to put so much accent on them means that they must be very important things for Jesus’ brothers and sisters to burn into our memories and into our very beings, because one day we will be born again as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.