Sermon: I AM... (5.1.22)
Our first introduction to God’s name came when he shared his name with Moses while meeting with him on Mt. Horeb—known as the mountain of God. Moses noticed a burning bush which wasn’t being consumed by the fire. He wandered over to take a look and God called to him: “Moses, Moses,” to which Moses responded “Here I am.” God said: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
Moses was insecure about giving instructions from the Father to the Israelites camped below. He said to God: “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me ‘What is his name? Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses: “I AM WHO I AM. IAM has sent me to you.”
As God, Jesus also shares the name I AM. Jesus usually followed his name with a further description, such as “I am the vine.” Today, let’s explore the eight “I am” statements Jesus made that the apostle John documented in his gospel.
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you[b] will worship God on this mountain.”
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[c] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord,[d] the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’
“This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.
The apostle John’s close relationship with Jesus was important to the detail captured in John’s gospel. The time they spent together allowed John to feel that he had a special relationship with Jesus. In fact, he referred to himself in John 13:23 as the disciple Jesus loved. We know that’s a one-sided view, because Jesus loved all his disciples with his full ability to love because he was incapable of loving one made in the image of God more than others. Jesus didn’t say it was Ok to love some of your neighbors more than others. He even loved Judas even though he knew what role Judas had to perform.
Throughout the bible, in the Old Testament, we see the Creator reveal himself to his chosen people through a number of names, started with the “I AM, he revealed to Moses first in the book of Exodus. Each of the additional names of the Creator carry different meanings. For example, Elohim means the All Powerful one, or the Creator. Adonai means My Great Lord.
As God, Jesus also claims the name I AM, and in the New Testament, he teaches us about himself by attaching additional meaning to his name. There are eight examples just in John’s gospels, and I’d like to share them with you today.
Let’s start with the name “I am the bread of life” which we find in John 6:35.
John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Thus is a very clear and unmistakable statement by Jesus to the crowd when he realized that they were stuck on physical bread and failed to understand the spiritual implications that Jesus himself was bread. He had been talking about bread that comes down from heaven and which gives life to the world. We might think of manna from heaven as a good example. But when the crowd said “Sir, always give us this bread,” Jesus had to make it clear to them that, as hungry as they were, he was talking about spiritual bread. Our communion with Jesus and the taking of his body is our blessing from him and which we continue to celebrate.
John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Thus is the second “I am” statement recorded by John. John has already used light as a metaphor for Jesus. God as light fighting the evils conveyed in darkness goes back to the OT. For example, in Isaiah the scripture says that in the end times the Lord will be your everlasting light and your God will be your glory. The Pharisees, who should have understood the multiple OT references, were so blind that they didn’t even begin to challenge Jesus on what he said. They challenged him on what we would call procedural grounds—that you need multiple witnesses when delivering a testimony. Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy that he (as light) wasn’t just on earth as the Messiah for the Israelites, he came to redeem all people. In Revelation we read “the city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light and the Lamb is its lamp.”
Then we can combine the next three references to Jesus as the Good Shepherd and as the Lamp of God.
John 10:7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.
John 10:9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.
John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—
These three verses refer to Jesus, as God, in his shepherd role, but also introduce him as the sacrificial lamb sent to redeem all mankind—or at least to give the opportunity for redemption to all people. The word redemption means “purchased,” and through his death the Good Shepherd purchased us for his eternal kingdom. But we have to want to be cleaned. The gate is there, will we walk through it?
The next two references in John’s gospel focus on Jesus’ name of savior and truth-giver.
John 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;
John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Jesus was addressing his friend, Martha, trying to get her to develop a personal trust in him. She should have realized that since he resurrected her brother, Lazarus, but sometimes we are slow to understand and need more examples from the Lord to fully take in what he is saying.
In the second verse, Jesus is addressing the apostle Thomas. Jesus is focusing on himself as the truth of God and the life of God.
John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
This last, long explanation of the vine and the branches may be the most concrete and easiest to understand. It may also be the most compelling because Jesus is not just giving us another example. He is giving us an unmistakable invitation to be healthy branches that bear good fruit. This is a powerful invitation to join him in faith and action. “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.”
Jesus, thank you for giving us many opportunities to learn more about who you are and what you represent. But even more than that, thank you for the invitation and the encouragement to work with you, in faith, to make this earthly kingdom more like your original expectation for this world.
We thank you, Lord, for your gift of salvation and for the opportunity to be with you eternally. We love you, Lord!