Tuesday, May 15, 2012

When Does "I am" Mean "Yahweh"?

Bible Gems #86

Question: When Jesus uses the phrase “I am,” how can we tell when He is intentionally referring to Himself as God?

The most famous use of “I Am” by Jesus as a reference to Himself as God comes from John 8:58: “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

Jesus made this claim to the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees while in the temple courts (Jn. 8:2-3). In using the phrase “I Am” this way, Jesus was calling their attention back to the account of the burning bush in Exodus where God identified Himself as “I Am”:
         Ex. 3:13-15  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?”
         God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, 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 by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.

The Jewish leaders understood Jesus correctly when He applied one of God’s titles to Himself, and…
         …they picked up stones to stone him… (John 8:59).

But there are, of course, many other times, especially in the Gospel of John, when Jesus uses the phrase “I am.” The question is, when is He intentionally referring to His own deity?

The tool for discovering that is Context. For example, when the High Priest asks Jesus if He is the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One, Jesus answers:
         Mark 14:62  “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Not only does He use the phrase emphatically, but He connects it to a reference in Daniel’s prophecy of the Messiah, the Son of Man, entering God’s presence (Dan. 7:13).

Context also strongly suggests that Jesus was very intentional when He used “I am” as the “bread of life” (Jn. 6:35), the “light of the world” (Jn. 8:12), as well as many other references (Jn. 8:18, 24, 28; 9:5; 13:19; 15:5, etc). These verses identify Jesus with God the Father, with His home and His eternal nature.

Although Jesus used the phrase in common, everyday speech without any special connotation of His Divine nature (Jn. 13:18; Matt 26:18; Lk. 9:44), there is no mistaking His meaning when He says:
         John 14:6  I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me

Jesus is Yahweh, the great “I Am!”

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