The Seven “I AM” Statements of Jesus

Statement 2
I Am the Light of the World

Part 1

Monday, June 21, 2021

Last week we began a seven-week journey to get to know Jesus better through His own words, particularly focusing on the seven “I am” sayings of Jesus that are recorded in John’s Gospel. As we discovered last week, with each of those seven sayings, Jesus is very clearly identifying Himself as God as He uses the words “I AM” in describing Himself. These are the very words God the Father used to identify Himself to Moses when He spoke from within a burning bush thousands of years earlier.

 

We also discovered that the people who heard Jesus speak those words had no doubt in their minds that He was claiming to be God. On at least one occasion, his listeners even picked up stones to kill Him because they thought He was committing blasphemy in claiming to be God.

We began last week with Jesus describing Himself as the “Bread of Life.” As the Bread of Life, Jesus revealed that the essence of life is spiritual, not physical. We learned that the answer to our spiritual hunger is to pursue a person – Jesus – rather than to seek a solution through some method or practice. We also found that in order to pursue Jesus we must have the kind of faith that results in action, and that we have to make Jesus our consistent spiritual diet not just a single meal.

The second of Jesus’ seven claims is found in John chapter 8. Let’s read together: “Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am The Light of the World. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the Light that leads to life” John 8:12 NLT.

Unlike last week (where we needed to read a good part of a chapter to find all that Jesus said about being The Bread of Life), Jesus doesn’t go into a whole lot of detail here about what it means for Him to be the Light of the World.  But when we consider the surrounding context, and other relevant Scripture passages, we develop a fuller understanding of Jesus being the “Light of the World.”

Let’s begin with a little background information. Historically we understand that about six months have passed since Jesus claimed to be the Bread of Life. That took place while He was ministering in Capernaum, just before the Passover (which would have been in the spring). He then returned to Galilee and ministered there until the early fall, at which time He returned to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles.

During this feast, the people lived in booths, commemorating how God had provided for His people as they journeyed through the wilderness for 40 years. During the Feast, four huge candelabras were placed in the Court of the Women in the Temple. Each night these lamps were lit to remind the people of the pillar of fire that had guided them in the wilderness. The light from these four candelabra was so great that the entire city of Jerusalem was lit up.

 

Continued tomorrow

The Seven “I AM” Statements of Jesus

Statement 2
I Am the Light of the World

Part 2

Wednesday, June 22, 2021

We know from John 8:20 that Jesus spoke these words about the Light of the World while He was standing in the treasury of the Temple. The Temple treasury was located in the Court of the Women and consisted of thirteen trumpet shaped treasure chests that were placed around the walls of the court. Each of those chests was used to make collections for some aspect of the operation of the Temple. Only the most devoted Jews would spend much time in this area of the Temple.

Now, on the last day of the Feast, as the people gathered in the Court of the Women with these four massive candelabra in their midst, and within their sight, Jesus proclaims that He is not merely, The Light of Jerusalem; He is the Light of the entire World.

With just seven words, “I am The Light of the World,” Jesus reveals to His audience, and to us, much about who He is.

 

This week we are going to look at just four of the most significant things we can learn about Jesus, the Light of the World. We must keep in mind that Jesus’ audience that day would have understood what He was saying in the context of the Feast of Tabernacles and the huge lights in the Temple court which were a reminder of the pillar of fire that had guided them in the wilderness.

 

So the first three aspects of who Jesus is are drawn directly from the nature and purpose of that pillar of fire. As the Light of the World, Jesus is:

God’s Presence

The primary purpose of the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night was to be a visible reminder to God’s people of His continual presence with them. We can see that very clearly the very first time we see this mentioned in the Bible: Exodus 13:21 “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night” NIV. It was very clear to the Israelites that it was God Himself who went before the people. He is described as being IN the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire.

In the opening verses of his Gospel, John describes Jesus as the True Light, who came to earth in order to be present among His people, in fact, lets read John 1:9 and 14 (shown here in the ESV): “The True Light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world…  14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Jesus, The True Light, came into the world. He became flesh and dwelt among us. The word “dwelt” that John uses in verse 14 literally means “to pitch a tent near.” It comes from the same root word that is translated “booth” or “tabernacle.” In other words, Jesus came and pitched His tent next to His people. And as He did that, the people got to experience God’s presence in the flesh in their midst.

As good as that was, though, that particular operation of God’s presence was only temporary. Jesus was crucified, raised from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father, so we can no longer experience His presence physically. But we actually get something much better. Look with me at Ephesians 3:14–17 NLT: “When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”

 

The beginning of verse 17 is powerful: Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. In other words, the one who has placed his or her faith in Jesus will experience the permanent presence of Jesus, the Light of the World, moving into their hearts and taking up residence.

God’s Protection

This aspect of the pillar is vividly seen when the Egyptian armies pursue the Israelites after they were allowed to leave Egypt. Exodus 14:19-20 “Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them. 20 The cloud settled between the Egyptian and Israelite camps. As darkness fell, the cloud turned to fire, lighting up the night. But the Egyptians and Israelites did not approach each other all night” NLT.

How incredible is that?! The pillar moved right smack between the Egyptian armies and the people of Israel and protected the Israelites by giving them Light while the Egyptian armies were hindered by complete, thick, darkness.   Continued tomorrow   

 

The Seven “I AM” Statements of Jesus

Statement 2
I Am the Light of the World

Part 3

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

John also alludes to this aspect of Jesus’ character – being the Light of the World - in the opening verses of His Gospel: John 1:4-5 “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought Light to everyone. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” NLT. Jesus entered into a world that is characterized by darkness. But as Light, Jesus overcomes that darkness and those who choose to follow Him in faith are protected from the eternal consequences of that darkness.

Later in His ministry, Jesus spoke these comforting words to His followers: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” John 16: 33 NLT. Because we live in a world full of darkness we should expect that we are going to face times of tribulation. However, we can have peace in the midst of the darkness because Jesus, the Light of the World, has overcome the darkness. As a result of that, His followers can have confidence that they will not face the eternal consequence of everlasting darkness that those who have chosen not to follow Him will experience.

God’s Path

This third function of the pillar is again seen in Exodus 13. Not only was God PRESENT in the pillar, but He also led His people on the path He had chosen for them to follow: Exodus 13:21 “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night” NIV. When the Israelites left Egypt, they had no idea where they were going. But God already had a plan for them and He led them along the path that He had chosen for them.

 

Friends, if you’re like me, you have learned that God still does this with His people today. More often than not, He simply asks me to follow Him, without telling me where we’re going, or the path we will take to get there. He just says, “Follow the Light.”

 

Sometime after Jesus had declared Himself to be the Light of the World, He expanded on this aspect of His character. We can see that in John 12:35-36… “Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36 Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become children of the light” NIV.

I have shared with you my experience of being deep in a salt mine in Austria a couple of different times. I will never forget how total and absolute the darkness was when we were in the mine and our guide shut all the lights off. That was such an incredible feeling! Some in our group actually began crying because the darkness was so dark.

Without Jesus, that is exactly what our lives are like. We live in the midst of total darkness and without the Light of Jesus we have no idea which path to follow and we would make some incredibly bad decisions. We will dive deeper into this idea when we get to where Jesus said, “I am the way…”

 

The last aspect of Jesus, the Light of the World, that we are going to look at this week is one that would have been especially clear not only to the religious leaders who were listening to Jesus that day, but, also to those in His audience who were familiar with the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah.

 

Continued

The Seven "I AM" Statements of Jesus

Statement 1

I am the Bread of Life

Part 1

Monday, June 14, 2021

Near the end of his Gospel account, John describes why he has written his Gospel: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name” John 20:30-31 ESV. The whole purpose of John writing his Gospel is to help people see and understand that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God so that his readers might believe and receive eternal life.

 

One of the ways John does this is by recording the accounts of seven miracles, or signs, that reveal Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. In addition, John also records seven times that Jesus describes who He is, using the words “I am.” 

 

In this series, we will see that Jesus was clearly identifying Himself as God by using the very same words that His Heavenly Father had used to describe Himself as He spoke to Moses from within the burning bush. Over the next seven weeks we’ll take some time to look into each of these seven, “I Am” sayings, and as we do, we’ll let Jesus reveal Himself to us in His own words.

Over 2,000 years ago Jesus shared a sermon that used bread as an object lesson. That sermon is recorded for us in John chapter 6. Grab a Bible and turn to the Gospel of John, chapter 6 and get ready to read His message in just a moment.

 

Before we begin reading, let’s first set the scene. Passover was approaching and Jesus went up on a mountain, near the Sea of Galilee, and prepared to teach. But even before He began to teach, Jesus fed the entire crowd with only five loaves of bread and two fish. After that, Jesus withdrew from the crowd to a place of prayer. Later that evening, He walked on the water across the Sea to join His disciples, who were in a boat on their way to Capernaum. The next morning, when the crowds realized He was gone they also got into their boats and crossed over to Capernaum. We’ll pick up the account in John 6:25.

 

They found Him on the other side of the lake and asked, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” 26 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of His approval.” 

28 They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” 29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the One He has sent.”  30 They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? 31 After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now He offers you the true bread from heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”

35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. 37 However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. 38 For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. 39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those He has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. 40 For it is my Father’s will that all who see His Son and believe in Him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

41 Then the people began to murmur in disagreement because He had said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph? We know His father and mother. How can He say, ‘I came down from heaven?’”

43 But Jesus replied, “Stop complaining about what I said. 44 For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up. 45 As it is written in the Scriptures, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from Him comes to me. 46 (Not that anyone has ever seen the Father; only I, who was sent from God, have seen Him.) 47 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. 48 Yes, I am the bread of life! 49 Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. 50 Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.” 

52 Then the people began arguing with each other about what he meant. “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” they asked.

53 So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54 But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.” 

59 He said these things while He was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum” John 6:25-59 NLT.

 

Continued tomorrow

The Seven “I AM” statements of Jesus

Statement 1

I Am the Bread of Life

Part 2

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

As I pointed out yesterday, this is the first of seven times in the Gospel of John where Jesus reveals Himself using the phrase, “I Am.” This week, we’re fixing our eyes on Jesus, and what He reveals to us when He identifies Himself as “The Bread of Life.”

As the Bread of Life, Jesus reveals that the essence of human life is spiritual, not physical. In this passage, the people in the crowd speak to Jesus six times, either asking a question or making a statement. And in every single instance, it is clear that they are focusing on physical matters, not spiritual matters. Let’s look at each of the six briefly.

“Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus’ response to that question makes it clear that the people are only seeking Him out because He filled their stomachs the previous day and they want to see what else Jesus might provide for them physically. 

“What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Even though Jesus had already told them not to work for food that perishes, they were still focused on what they could do in order to get something from God.

“Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” They are challenging Jesus to give them more. In essence, they are saying something like this: “Jesus, Moses gave our ancestors manna in the wilderness day after day. Sure, you gave us some bread yesterday, but, what do you have for us today?” 

“Sir, give us this bread always.” The people still don’t get it. They still want Jesus to feed them physical bread every day.

“Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Many of these people have watched Jesus grow up, or at least know of His earthly family, and they just cannot seem to get past that knowledge in order to understand how Jesus could possibly have come down from heaven.

“How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” We’ll look at this one a little more later, but, when Jesus told the people they must eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to receive eternal life, they couldn’t get past the physical to understand the spiritual meaning of what Jesus was saying.

Despite the fact that the crowds didn’t want to focus on spiritual matters, Jesus consistently brought the conversation back to that which is the essence of our lives. In His message to the crowd, Jesus focuses on the stark contrasts between the physical and the spiritual. 

The physical will perish, the spiritual endures. Although Jesus specifically uses the example of food to distinguish between that which will perish and that which will endure, the principle obviously has a much broader application, one that can be seen elsewhere in Scripture. For instance, Paul confirms the temporary nature of the physical and the eternal nature of the spiritual in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” NLT.

Those things which are seen – the physical things – are only temporary and they are all wasting away. Those things which cannot be experienced with our five senses – the spiritual things – are eternal and that is where we are to set our focus.

 

Continued tomorrow

The Seven “I AM” statements of Jesus

Statement 1
I Am the Bread of Life

Part 3

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The principle we were talking about yesterday was confirmed by Jesus in Matthew 10:28: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” ESV. Because our physical bodies will all perish someday but our soul will live forever, then it follows that we should be focusing our time and effort on developing the one that will last for eternity.

 

The truth is that if we want to experience Jesus as the Bread of Life, then we must focus on developing our souls, rather than only providing for our physical needs. This is what Fasting is about.

 

Another passage from Paul’s first letter to Timothy speaks to this matter. “Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. 8 “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come’” 1 Timothy 4:7-8 NLT. The physical focuses on what we can do, the spiritual focuses on what God has already done. 

 

The crowd was focused on what they could do. As we saw earlier, they asked Jesus what they should be doing, in order to be doing the works of God. Jesus attempts to turn their focus from what they could do to what God had already done for them because that is what really counts.

 

In this larger passage Jesus makes it clear that everything that is required in order to have a relationship with God is all God’s work and not ours: He came down to earth in bodily form in order to give life. He draws people unto Himself. He holds firm those who belong to Him. He will raise up those who belong to Him in the last day. He gives His flesh in order to provide life. It’s all HIM!

These things form a truth that is really hard for most people to accept. Even when it comes to spiritual matters, it is natural for people to still feel like they need to do something in order to gain favor with God. But Jesus makes it clear that if we want to be right with God, it begins with recognizing what God has already done for us, and then relying on that rather than what we can do.

As we’ll see in a moment, that doesn’t in any way imply that what we do isn’t important. God is certainly concerned with how we choose to live our lives. But the real issue here is our motivation. Are we serving God out of a desire to earn favor with Him or are we doing it out of gratitude for what He has already done for us?

Ephesians 2 contains a familiar passage that can help us develop the proper understanding of this principle. “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago” Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT. Our salvation is a gift from God. It is not based at all on our works. But at the same time, we are created for the purpose of doing good works. We do them as a result of our salvation and not as the basis for our salvation.

The physical focuses on what we can get; the spiritual focuses on who we can become. The crowd followed Jesus only because they were looking to get something from Him. He had already provided a meal for them and now they want to see what other miracles He might perform and what they might get from Jesus as a result of those miracles. But Jesus wanted them to focus on becoming more and more like Him, to fix their eyes on Him. 

When we focus on becoming more like Jesus rather than trying to get something from God, we end up receiving far more than we could ever ask for or even imagine. We get an abundant life on earth right now, and an eternity spent in the presence of Jesus, being taught face to face by Him. And, as Jesus points out, we get also the physical things we need for our life here on earth, “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” Matthew 6:33 ESV.

 

Continued tomorrow

The Seven "I Am" Statements of Jesus

Statement 1

I am the Bread of Life

Part 4

Thursday, June 17, 2021

As the Bread of Life, Jesus reveals that the answer to our spiritual hunger is to pursue a Person, not seek a solution. French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal once wrote: There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.

Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus makes it really clear why people are never going to find the solution they are seeking apart from Him: “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” John 17:3 ESV. Satisfying our spiritual hunger requires a spiritual remedy, and that remedy is not some program or method, it is a Person. The only way we will ever satisfy our spiritual hunger is by pursuing a relationship with Jesus, a relationship in which we continually strive to know Him better.

As we read through this account, it becomes very clear that Jesus is revealing Himself as the only one who can fill that God-shaped vacuum in the lives of His audience. But the people are blinded by their familiarity with Jesus. Unfortunately, that familiarity actually keeps them from seeing that the answer to their deepest need stands right there before them.

Sadly, not much has changed in the last 2,000 years. There are still people today who refuse to accept Jesus as the answer to their spiritual needs, because their familiarity with Him prevents them from surrendering their lives to Him. Some only know Jesus as a good moral man or a fine teacher. They might even believe that He died on a cross and rose from the dead, but they, like most of the crowd in Capernaum that day, refuse to accept Him as He reveals Himself: as the Bread of Life, who came down from heaven to offer His body on the cross in order to give us eternal life. So they keep looking for something to fill the void in their lives they look everywhere, except to the one person who could actually do that for them.

Fortunately for us, the Word provides us with some very practical guidance regarding what is required to pursue Jesus so that He can fill the God-shaped vacuum in each of our lives. Pursuing Jesus requires a belief that results in action. When the people ask what they must do to be doing the works of God, Jesus replies that they must believe in the one God had sent (obviously referring to Himself). Later in His teaching, Jesus confirms that those who believe in the One God had sent have eternal life.

 

Continued tomorrow  

 

The Seven “I AM” statements of Jesus

Statement 1
I Am the Bread of Life

Part 5

Friday, June 18, 2021

But according to Jesus not just any kind of belief will do. He goes on to say that if anyone wants to live forever they must eat of the bread He is offering. And just to make sure they get the point, He then goes on to say that unless they eat His flesh and drink His blood they have no life in them.

Unfortunately, this particular part of this larger passage has been abused by taking it out of context and trying to use it to support all kinds of false teaching. Obviously, Jesus is not saying that His followers are to literally be cannibals and physically eat His body and drink His blood. For one thing, that would clearly violate many of the Old Testament Scriptures that Jesus came to fulfill. And, this has nothing to do with the Lord’s Supper (which was not even instituted until at least a year later). So Jesus is clearly not teaching that the bread and wine used in the Lord’s Supper actually become His body and His blood as some teach.

Jesus is obviously using hyperbole as He often does in His teaching to make a point (hyperbole is an exaggerated and symbolic language to make the point): while belief is required, not just any belief will do. The kind of faith that results in eternal life requires a depth of belief that causes one to act upon their belief.

James further describes this kind of faith in his letter: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder!” James 2:14-19 ESV. 

Of course, James is not saying that works are required for salvation. He is merely pointing out that the kind of faith that consists merely of words (and is not put into action) is insufficient for salvation. To demonstrate his point, he uses demons as an example. They believe in Jesus. They even fear Him - but they never act based on that kind of belief.

What it takes is a consistent diet, not just a meal. Jesus actually uses two different words for eating in this passage. In verse 53, the word He used refers to eating a meal. In verse 54, the word He uses refers to a pattern of eating meals. It is also instructive to note that Jesus uses present tense verbs in this part of the passage: “Whoever feeds and keeps on feeding on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” “Whoever feeds and keeps on feeding on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”

 

When we put all of this together, the understanding we get is this: it is not enough to just come to Jesus once and taste of Him. We must consistently chew on His Word so that we can really get to know Him. We must fix our eyes on Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” What are you doing each day to feed on that living bread? END