- Day 22. Luke 22-24
- Day 23. John 1-3
- Day 24. John 4-6
- Day 25. John 7-9
- Day 26. John 10-12
- Day 27. John 13-16
- Day 28. John 17-18
This is now our fourth week of the Summer Reading Program! For the majority of your readings this week, you will encounter the life of Jesus through the lenses of the apostle John. And as you begin to read the first chapter, you might immediately recognise that this gospel is unlike the Synoptic gospels. Among the numerous differences in the style, plot, and presentation of Jesus’s words and acts, one of the key themes you will examine is how John uniquely presents Jesus through the seven “I am” statements he proclaims about himself. Each of these “I am” statements employs vivid images (such as bread, light, water, shepherd) to paint for us different pictures of Jesus’ ministry on earth, in order that we have greater insight to the personhood of Jesus as the promised Messiah and the Son of God (Jn. 20:31). So without further ado, let’s look at all the ‘I am’ statements to see what Jesus has to say.
1. The Bread of Life
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (Jn. 6:35, cf. 6:41, 48, 51)
Jesus does not beat around the bush with this first ‘I am’ statement, when he declares himself to be the ‘bread of life’ to the crowds of Jews who, not long ago, fed their stomachs full of the barley loaves from his miraculous sign. Jesus’ messianic sign of the feeding of the multitude modeled God’s provision of manna to the Israelites back in the wilderness in the OT (Jn. 6:30-31, see also Ex. 16:4). But furthermore we can go further to say that this miracle ultimately verified Jesus’s statement as the One who brings spiritual nourishment to the deepest spiritual longings of one’s soul. Those who trust in Jesus will know God and find that their deepest desires will be fulfilled, never experiencing hunger or thirst ever again.
2. The Light of the World
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn. 8:12, cf. 9:5)
This statement fulfills OT promises of the coming of the ‘light’ of salvation and the ‘light’ of God against the backdrop of spiritual darkness that engulfs the hearts of every sinful human being in the world (see also Ex. 25:37; Lev. 24:2; Isa 9:2 etc.). It is of no coincidence that Jesus makes this statement shortly before he heals a broken man from his blindness, which reinforces his claim that he is the One who has come to bring moral purity, true understanding and knowledge, to which we can come to know and be in the presence of God. By holding Jesus’ hand and entrusting ourselves to Him, we will never be led astray by the menacing influences that try to pull us away from walking the path of light.
3. The Door
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (Jn. 10:9; cf. 10:7)
Jesus uses the imagery of a sheepfold to illustrate that Jesus is the only way by which one can gain membership into God’s family. When the sheep returned to the sheepfold at night after spending the whole day grazing, the shepherd would stand in the doorway of the pen and that door was the only entrance to the pen. At the door, the shepherd inspects the sheep for injuries and would quench their thirst with water, as well as keeping the wolves out of the sheep pens. This metaphor parallels Jesus’ statement that no one can enter the Kingdom except through him (see also Jn. 3:3).
4. The Good Shepherd
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (Jn. 10:11; cf. 10:14)
Jesus continues to use the sheepfold metaphor to teach us that he becomes our Good Shepherd, who is willing to give his whole life for his sheep, his people. He knows and loves his sheep all by name, and he assures us that by his provision and power we will never be exposed to death and separation. Wherever we might presently be in our spiritual walks, our Good Shepherd will make sure that he won’t only point us to the gate of eternal life, but he will hold our hand and guide us towards the gate. He knows where all his sheep are located and they will never be lost outside of his sight.
5. The Resurrection and the Life
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. (Jn. 11:25-26)
In chapter 11, we see yet another demonstration of Jesus proving this statement when he raises Lazarus from the dead (see Jn. 11:43-44). And this statement is profound for a number of reasons. one of which is that Jesus does not declare that he merely causes resurrections to happen (though this is certainly true). He doesn’t say, “I give the resurrection and the life.”, but in fact, he says, “I AM the resurrection and the life.” Resurrection from the dead and eternal life is so intimately connected to the very personhood of Jesus that the only way to attain those divine blessings is to be united with Jesus himself in genuine faith and repentance. In him, death has no rule over us but instead, we are ushered through to new life and to be in fellowship with God.
6. The Way, The Truth, and The Life
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (Jn. 14:6)
The apostle Peter puts it another way that is just as succinct, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) This statement is utterly countercultural to our pluralistic society, where we would hear an abundance of loud voices and opinions that contend to kick the truth of the gospel off its rightful throne. Yet, despite how this claim is exclusive in its objectivity to the truth, it is a claim that is inclusive to all who desire access to the Father’s presence. Anyone who trusts in Jesus – irrespective of their ethnicity, sex, gender – will know the true way of access to God, will know the truth about the very nature of God, and will attain liberation from the bondage of sin and securing life in himself.
7. The Vine
“I am the true vine.” (Jn. 15:1; cf. 15:5)
Lastly, Jesus makes this statement as the true vine to depict himself as the ultimate source of power to which he sustains every believer’s spiritual vitality and ministry. Believers in Christ can only bear good fruit in their lives (bringing benefit to others and advancing the work of the gospel) if they continue to abide in Jesus and developing that personal relationship with him with trust, prayer, and submission to his will. Unless we continue in our union with Christ, none of our activities in our ministries will bear any fruit of any eternal value.
There is a lot more that can be said for each of these enriching seven statements that portray our Lord in so many different facets. Every statement enhances our comprehension of the nature of Jesus’ ministry to us, and the quality of our adoration for him also must increase in proportion.
And as you dive into John’s gospel this week, make a worthwhile effort to also study the other subtle literary features in the book (including the heightened contrasts between light vs. darkness, life vs. death). These literary motifs are intended to communicate who Jesus is and his ministry from a refreshing perspective that you won’t see in the Synoptic gospels, and you will be surprised by the amount of gold you can mine out of these theologically-rich passages!
1. Which ‘I am’ statement spoke most profoundly to you? Why is this the case?
2. What are some other themes and characteristics of John’s gospel that makes it distinct from the Synoptic Gospels that you were able to observe?
3. How does John’s account of the life of Jesus contribute to Christian theology?
4. What are some of the other statements Jesus makes of himself in John’s gospel that you still struggle to understand?
Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank you that we get to saturate our minds with the Word that you have given to us. Father, we ask that as we continue to explore the Scriptures to know who your Son is, that you would use the Holy Spirit, whom you and the Son has sent to us, for us to understand spiritual realities. Help us to long deeply for the things that will fill the God-shaped holes in our hearts and to not be satisfied by fleeting pleasures that are only second best. We know that without the Spirit’s work of illumination in this way, we will be utterly stuck at only knowing your Son and never coming to appreciate your Son.
We ask this in your Son’s precious name, Amen.