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Religious Study and Theology. I AM statements

‘I AM’ is derived from Greek words. I AM statements are found both in the New and Old Testament. In the New Testament, the Gospel according to John emphasizes on the statements. The book of John opens up with a strong relationship between God and the Word. John 1:1-2 states that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning”. The verse talks of Jesus Christ being the word and the Word being God. The gospel of John seeks to prove that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He does this by giving an account of his life, talking about works of Jesus, miracles performed by Jesus, His death and resurrection. As stated by Morris Leon, “Jesus uses an emphatic “I AM” to bring out important teachings about His person”. He adds that “when Jesus used the “I AM” construction, He was speaking in the style of deity.1 The Gospel of John is the only book in the New Testament that comprehensively talks about the “I AM” statements that Jesus made. This treatise discusses the “I AM” statements made by Jesus. It points out the events that surround the statements. The paper further relates the “I AM” statements with the Old Testament. It also talks about the divinity of Jesus Christ.

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Examples of the I AM statements made by Jesus

According to Milne Bruce, the I Am statements made by Jesus can be categorized in to three. The first category is the symbolic statements. In this category, Jesus identified himself in comparison to something. More often, he compared himself to some miracles (signs) or actions he executed. For instance in John 6:51, he states that “I am the living bread of life that come down from heaven”, 9:5 states that “as long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world”, and 10.9 states that “I am the door whoever enters by me shall be saved” among others. The second category is the self-identification formula. In most instances, Jesus Identified himself in relation to God the Father. For instance in John 18:5, he replied “I am he”. The final category is the statement of existence. For instance, in John 8:58 Jesus said to them “very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am”.2 Some of the I AM statements are discussed below.

“I AM the Door”

This statement is in the category of symbolic statements. Jesus used this statement after healing a blind man. The healed blind man then went out to spread the name of Jesus. He also defended Him against those who were against his mission. This is because he believed in Him. The Pharisees treated the blind man badly for supporting Jesus. These actions lead Jesus to use the metaphor as the Pharisees could not understand Him. He makes the statement that “I Am the door by which the sheep of the sheep pen enters”. The sheep pen has one door where the shepherds act as the door. Before the sheep enters the pen, then they have to go through the door. Therefore, in this statement, Jesus reveals that He is the only one way to the Father. He is the only one. This implies that the only way to receive salvation and eternal life is though Him. Morris expands on this statement by saying that there is only one door to salvation, that is, through Jesus Christ.3 The “I AM” statement also shows the divinity of Jesus Christ.

“I AM the Resurrection and Life”

This statement is also symbolic. It is found in John 11:23-24. Jesus said the statement to Martha. This was few days after Martha’s brother, Lazarus, had passed way. Martha misunderstood Jesus and she thought that Jesus meant resurrection in the last day. In John 11:25-26, Jesus came out clearly and stated that “I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, even if he dies, he will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will certainly not die”. According to Morris, “John is writing about one who is supremely great and who has breathtaking superiority over death”. He further states that, John is writing about one who has power over death. However, no ordinary human being has power over the life after death. It is only divine Jesus Christ.

“I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life”

The I AM statement is also symbolic. Jesus made this statement when he was about to be crucified. This happened during the Last Supper. During the function Jesus asked the disciples a question. He asked them whether they knew where He was going. All the disciples didn’t know what Jesus meant. Jesus said to them (in John 14:6), “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me”. The verse emphasizes on three things about Jesus, these are, He is “the way”, “the truth”, and “the life”. The way adds to the point that there is only one unique way to God the Father and no other way. Therefore, there are no substitutions to the way leading to the father. The truth affirms the point that Jesus Christ is the word of God in flesh (Human). “The life” assures that there is eternal life after physical death. These words can only be spoken by a divine person4.

The Old Testaments

In the Old Testament, there are several ‘I AM’ statements that are used by Lord. He used the statements to reveal his identity. For instance, at the burning bush on Mount Horeb, God revealed himself to Moses as “I AM” (Exodus 3:10-14). As God lead the Israelites from Egypt to the proposed land, He revealed Himself in several instances as “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2).5 John 8:58 states that “very truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am”. In this verse, John brings out the point that God who was revealing Himself to the Israelites, in the book of Exodus and in other revelations in the books of Old Testament, is the same one who is back at work in human form revealing himself as Jesus Christ. To conclude, God was already at work before any human being was created. He is the same God who revealed Himself in Human nature as Jesus Christ. He is still at work in human history as the God of deliverance, eternal life and grace.

Bibliography

  1. Carson, D. The Gospel According to John. UK: Apollo, 1991.
  2. Milne, Bruce. The Message of John: He is your King. USA: Inter- Varsity Press, 1994.
  3. Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. USA: Wm. B. Eermans Publishing Co., 1995.
  4. Morris, Leon. Jesus Is The Christ: Studies in the Theology of John. USA: Wm. B. Eermans Publishing Co., 2009.
  5. Towns, Elmer, L. and Mal Couch. The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. USA: AMG Publishers, 2002.

Footnotes

  1. Morris, Leon. Jesus Is The Christ: Studies in the Theology of John (USA: Wm. B. Eermans Publishing Co., 2009.)
  2. Milne, Bruce. The Message of John: He is your King (USA: Inter- Varsity Press, 1994.)
  3. Carson, D. The Gospel According to John (UK: Apollo, 1991.)
  4. Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John (USA: Wm. B. Eermans Publishing Co., 1995.)
  5. Towns, Elmer, L. and Mal Couch. The Gospel of John: Believe and Live (USA: AMG Publishers, 2002.)

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