Is Jesus The “I Am” of The Old Testament?

i-am-title-bright

Most Christians understand that Jesus is God in some way or another, but how does He relate to the God revealed in the Old Testament who He claimed was His Father? In the first of 2 short studies we will look at how this question is answered by the New Testament writers, starting today with the apostle John.

In Exodus 3 :14 God introduces Himself to Moses as I am that I am, this strange name is a play on words that Hebrew speakers would understand as pointing to His transcendent, omnipresent and unlimited nature. To my mind it seems that Moses introduced Yahweh to Israel as I Am to help them understand just who it was that was about to deliver them from slavery.

14 And God said to Moses, “I am that I am.” And he said, “So you must say to the Israelites, ‘I am sent me to you.’ ” 15 And God said again to Moses, “So you must say to the Israelites, ‘Yahweh, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. Exodus 3:14-15 LEB  

The Crowd Went Nuts!

The Gospels are written in Greek, and when these amazing mini-biographies, or witness accounts were put together, they weren’t thrown onto the parchment in a vague hope that they might help someone, they were deliberately and ingeniously crafted to help us understand who Jesus is and what He has done. In John 8:58-59 we see the people reacting angrily to what Jesus had said, in fact they were so angry they picked up stones to kill Him with. Why would they do such a thing? To understand this we have to look at Leviticus 24:16 where Yahweh commanded the Israelites to execute anyone who misused the name of God, and as far as Jesus’ listeners were concerned that is exactly what Jesus had done, and as such He deserved to die.

Jesus’ perceived crime was saying “Before Abraham was, I am”; at this point we need to remember that we are reading a carefully constructed text, where each sentence is deliberately chosen to add to the overall message. When Jesus’ saying  “I am” was written by John in Greek, the translation is  “ego eimi”, which is exactly the same as Exodus 3:14 in the Greek translation of the Old Testament – as a God fearing Jew, John would not have let those words been written in such a way as to even give the slightest hint that Jesus was “I am”, unless of course that is what Jesus actually meant.  John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, deliberately used his choice of words to reveal that Jesus was actually claiming to be the I AM Himself! It is no wonder the crowd went nuts – a thirty something prophet was claiming to be the Creator God who spoke to Moses and Abraham – for more of Johns perspective on Jesus see my post, Is Jesus God?

 

Another Set of Seven

John’s Gospel is famous for recording seven of Jesus’ miracles ( when he knew there were many more John 21:25), in Revelation he records seven blessings and in his gospel he gives us another set of seven that develop Jesus’ claim to ‘I am’ in what are sometimes called the ‘seven declarations of grace’; these declarations are what is known as an implicit teaching – meaning John doesn’t come out and say “Jesus is the I AM from Exodus” directly, but the repetition of “ego eimi” puts the meaning beyond doubt. Each of the seven declarations start with I am:

  1. The Bread of Life, giving us spiritual food (John 6:35, 48, 51)
  2. The Light of the World, banishing darkness (John 8:12; 9:5)
  3. The gate for the sheep, giving us access to God (John 10:7, 9)
  4. The Good Shepherd, protecting us from peril (John 10:11, 14)
  5. The Resurrection and Life, overcoming our death (John 11:25)
  6. The Way, Truth, and Life, guiding us to fellowship with the Father (John 14:6)
  7. The true Vine, nurturing us for fruitfulness (John 15:1, 5)

The list reaches its climax in John 20:28, when Thomas worships Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (20:28). Jesus then pronounces a blessing on all who share Thomas’s faith and John urges his readers to join their number (20:29–31).

Realising who Jesus is makes my heart beat faster, my mind to step back to take in even more of the amazing Good News of Jesus and my knees to bow at the majestic mystery and unfathomable mercy of our God. Selah!

Go well my friends 😀

 

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