The gospel of John is a very peculiar gospel in the fact that John does not copy from the three Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. The other striking thing is that John makes no mention of his own name as one of the disciples of Jesus Christ. His aim is to have the reader to focus only on Christ as the Son of God, and at the same time, God the Son. It is clear that his aim of writing is in chapter 20:30-31, that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and in believing, have life in His name.
In chapter 1 we see there are at least seven titles given to the Lord Jesus Christ, mentioned by various people.
- The Word – chapter 1:1. In this chapter, the beginning is from eternity past, in which there is no beginning of time. Jesus Christ was there from before the beginning of time. In Genesis 1:1 there is another beginning, which is the beginning of time, the Creation of the Earth. We see Jesus Christ with God the Father and the Holy Spirit as all three divine Persons in the Godhead worked to create the wonderful earth in which we live. In 1 John 1:1 we also see a beginning, which is the beginning of the manifestation of Jesus Christ come on earth in a human body.
- Lamb of God – chapter 1:29, 36, the testimony given by John the Baptist, pointing to Christ as the Lamb of God, and then John’s disciples start to follow Jesus. There are many things to write about the Lamb of God, but we can see in Exodus 12 in the Passover Lamb only a picture of the perfect sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Rabbi – chapter 1:38, 49. Two of John the Baptist’s disciples recognise Christ as Rabbi, which means ‘Teacher’. They saw Him as the unique One and desired to follow Him. The other person who recognised Christ as Rabbi was Nathanael, in chapter 1:49, where he gives Christ a three-fold title – Rabbi, Son of God, and King of Israel.
- Messiah – chapter 1:41, where Andrew tells his brother Simon that they have found the Messiah, which is interpreted Christ. This signifies that He was anointed of God.
- Son of God – chapter 1:49, where Nathanael calls Jesus the Son of God. After Jesus told him that He knew Nathanael, he immediately recognised Christ as far more than just a man, by giving Him the testimony that He is the Son of God.
- King of Israel – chapter 1:49, the testimony is also given by Nathanael. He must have recognised the authority of Christ to be able to testify of Him that He is the King of Israel.
- Son of Man – chapter 1:51, the Lord Jesus speaking of Himself as the Son of Man. He is God, and He is also Man in the same person.
Now we come to another peculiar aspect of the gospel of John. There are seven instances where the Lord Jesus Christ says ‘I am’ and then followed by a statement. We remember well that the title ‘I AM’ was a title God Himself revealed to Moses in Exodus 3 in the scene of the burning bush, when God sent Moses back to the children of Israel, Moses asked Him about His name, and God told him that ‘I AM has sent you’ (Ex 3:14). When Jesus Christ mentioned the ‘I am’ followed by statements, He confirmed that He is God Himself, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ex 3:6).
The ‘I am’ statements are as follows:
- John 6:31-35 the bread of life. In this chapter, the Lord Jesus explained to the Jews that they were eating the manna that God gave to Moses while Israel was in the wilderness. However, He is the bread of life and any one who comes to Him will never hunger. The right type of bread will always be provided and satisfaction of heart and soul will be evident.
- John 8:12 and 9:5 the light of the world. Here the Lord tells the audience that He is the light of the world, that anyone who follows Him will not walk in darkness. If anyone follows a light on a normal road, of-course the person will not walk in darkness. The addition is that following Christ will give us the light of life – life with Him.
- Ch 10:7 the door, and the door of the sheep. Here the Lord is saying that all who came before Him are robbers, but His sheep did not hear them. The mention of being the door signifies that anyone who enters by Him, shall be saved, and shall find pasture – see Psalm 23:2. The Lord provides pasture and nourishment for those who come to Him.
- Ch 10:11, 14 the good shepherd (twice). Here the Lord compares Himself with other shepherds who are paid for doing the job. This was not a job the Lord did, but out of His love for us, He is the good shepherd who gave His life for His sheep. As the good shepherd, the sheep hear His voice, and do not hear a stranger’s voice. If you ever saw a flock of sheep and tried to call them, they will not hear your voice, because they simply are used to hearing the familiar shepherd’s voice, and not that of a stranger. May we take heed to hear the voice of the Lord, the Good Shepherd, and not listen to the voice of another person attempting to lead us astray. Furthermore, the shepherd who works for wages does not care for the sheep. Seeing a wolf (speaking of grave danger), he runs for his life and leaves the sheep. Did the Lord ever do this? Far be the thought! The Lord knows His sheep, and in addition, they too know Him. May we be the same.
- Ch 11:25 the resurrection and the life. The Lord tells Martha in her grief over Lazarus’ death that He is the resurrection and the life. Martha certainly believed that her brother would rise again in the last day, but here the Lord wanted to tell her that He has the power to resurrect and give life. He rose from the dead Himself, and therefore is able to give life to all who come to Him. Anyone who believes in Him, though they die, will live, because they are in Christ. Martha here testifies of Him that He is the Christ, the Son of God.
- Ch 14:6 the way, the truth and the life. Here, Thomas asked the Lord to show them the way, because he still did not know the way. This is one of the most popular gospel verses ever quoted. There are many sects that state there are many was, and many truths to get to heaven, or that leads to some kind of after-life. I am by no means degrading or discriminating against the people who are of this thought, but the Lord Jesus said that He is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE. It tells us that He is the only way to get to heaven, and to accept the truth, there is only one truth, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. This does not mean that He chooses some people and others are not chosen, but if anyone would address God as Father, it must be through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Ch 15:1 the true vine. Here, the Lord Jesus talks with His disciples and it is about believers abiding in Him and bearing fruit. There is no mention or thought of salvation, or unbelief. It is simply a matter of fruit-bearing. The branches speak of each individual person who abides in Christ, he/she will simply show fruit. It could be a little fruit, more fruit, or much fruit, but there has to be fruit as a result of believing in Christ and abiding in Him.
This is the seven instances where the Lord Jesus Christ states ‘I am’, followed by a particular statement, with much teaching, encouragement, and a gospel message. There are a few other instances in the gospel of John where Christ simply states ‘I am’ without a statement that follows.
8. Ch 8:58 before Abraham was, ‘I am’. Here the Lord Jesus was trying to tell the Jews that He is God, and when the Jews questioned Him about seeing Abraham, He wonderfully states the title of ‘I AM’, which the Jews knew very well that this was the title that God, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, revealed to Moses. After all these clues, they did not recognise that Jesus Christ is the Jehovah of the Old Testament, and they even tried to take up stones that they might stone Him. They chose not to recognise Him and were blinded by their own religion, beliefs and laws, and would not accept Him. May we see these clues as real evidence, and see that Jesus is not only God, but that He loves us and gave Himself for us.
9. Ch 18:5-8 ‘I am’ – in the garden before His arrest. In the garden, the Lord knew all that was coming upon Him. He asks the people who they are seeking, and when they simply said ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, he said to them ‘I am [He]’. In the original manuscript, the word ‘he’ is not there, so without this word, it reads, ‘I am’. Why did the people all fall back to the ground? Because the statement is that of God Himself. Back in Exodus 3, God revealed Himself to Moses as ‘I AM’, and when Christ used that title, the Jews especially knew that this title is reserved for God. It is clear that the Lord Jesus Christ is indeed the God, the Jehovah of the Old Testament.
This is the wonderful design of the gospel of John, not copying from any of the other gospels, but with one view, to present the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and God the Son. Yet after all this, He is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us, and took it up again, that as a result of His death and resurrection, anyone who believes, has eternal life.
One thought on “The ‘I AM’s in the Gospel of John”
There is a marvelous corresponding passage in Exodus to this. From our sermon a few years ago – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51t1YzXgjpU&t=1s