Jesus said, “I Am…” in John

Cefalu_Christus_Pantokrator_cropped

The Gospel of John records the testimony of many eyewitnesses to Jesus’ work and teachings. It also records many of the things Jesus said about himself.

To the Roman Governor Pilate, he affirms that he is king (John 18:37, 19:21), but his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).

Jesus uses the prophetic title “the Son of Man” (John 1:51; 3:13-14; 5:27; 6:27,53; 8:28; 9:35-37; 12:23,34; 13:31), a term which emphasizes his humanity while recalling that this was the title God used for his prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:1,2,6,8 and 90 other times throughout the book) and a phrase used of a Messianic figure in Daniel 7:13-14 (and in later Jewish usage). Sometimes it is not immediately clear that Jesus is using this term to refer to himself.

Jesus also calls himself “the Son of God” (John 10:36), and often calls God not “our Father”–a common title for God among the Jews (John 4:12; 8:37,53), but “my Father” (John 5:17; 6:32, 40; 8:19,38,49,54; 10:18,29,37; 14:7,20-21,23; 15:1,8,15,23-24; 20:17). He also speaks of his close relationship with God: “I and the father are one” (John 10:30); “I am from above; …I am not of this world” (John 8:23).

In John 8:58 when Jesus says “…before Abraham was, I am” he uses a phrase (“ego eimi” in Greek) that echoes Exodus 14:3, where God identifies himself to Moses as “I am”. It is a rather odd word in Hebrew (“yhvh”)—difficult to translate, and the source of the name “Jehovah”. The Greek is likewise unusual, using an emphatic phrase which seems here to have as its main purpose identifying Jesus with the sacred name of God. Here, the phrase stands alone; elsewhere Jesus uses same phrase to identify himself in other ways: in response to the Samaritan woman when she speaks of the Messiah (John 4:25-26), and in response to the band in the garden seeking to arrest “Jesus of Nazareth” (John 18:3-5,8) he positively identifies himself as the one being sought.

Seven times Jesus uses the emphatic “I am” construction (“ego eimi”) in teaching about himself.

  1. “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35,48,51)
  2. “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12)
  3. “I am the door of the sheep.” (John 10:7) “I am the door.” (John 10:9)
  4. “I am the Good Shepherd.” (John 10:14)
  5. “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25)
  6. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)
  7. “I am the true vine.” (John 15:1) “I am the vine” (John 15:5)

Each passage in which these seven “I am” statements occur gives insight as to who Jesus is and what he does, and provide rich material for devotional study.

AD 6/2018

Apse mosaic from Cefalu Cathedral, Sicily showing Christ as Pantocrator (all powerful) with a book saying, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me….” (John 8:12)

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