“I Am” Statement Essay
Bible 102: New Testament Introduction
17 April 2021
Word Count: 1292
Who does this guy think he is? This Jesus who claims to be the great “I am.” Jews know that title is reserved for the redemptive Abrahamic covenant God who promised that his presence stayed with his people through the tabernacle as God moved with ancestors in the wilderness. “The tabernacle was built and the priest-hood prepared so that God could come and take up residence. God had chosen them to his people” (Walton & Hill, 74). When Jewish ancestors entered the Promised Land they built a temple so that God would have a dwelling place among His people. Our Jewish religious sacrificial system is set in rituals and cultural customs. This Jesus challenges all of those by stating that he is the sacrifice and we no longer need a building made by human hands to be atoned for sins, but through Jesus as “I am” of the Old Testament Moses spoke of and fulfilled as the prophets foretold. The crowd stirred with anger against Jesus as Jewish leaders accused him of blasphemy. Jews atoned for sins through the priest in the temple, so when Jesus claimed to be the “bread of life,” light of the world,” and “the good shepherd” so many Jews didn’t understand this promise of a new covenant. “Jesus applies the title “I Am” to himself, he claims to be God. Not a helper to God or a great teacher, but the divine, eternal, pre-existent, infinite, perfect being” (indycrowe). Being dominated by Roman rule, Jews were under great oppression. “There were many in Palestine who were proclaiming that the coming kingdom, predicted in the Old Testament, would come by means of a military overthrow. Jesus came upon the scene and proclaimed God’s kingdom was at hand but said it would belong to the meek, not the strong. His ministry was one of mercy, not judgment” (Stewart).
Jews were so entrenched in their own religious system that they refused to let the Son of God change their lives. Even when Jesus didn’t send the crowd away, but were witnesses to his miracle of feeding everyone they refused to believe his words of “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (New Application Study Bible John 6:41). Bread was a physical necessity so in the wilderness God gave people manna from heaven, so how could this Jesus claim that he came down from heaven as bread? The Jewish people saw Jesus feeding them as temporary and only to meet their physical needs. They could not accept Jesus’ claim of divinity. Jesus continued to speak about himself as the eternal bread from heaven. The people needed spiritual food and he was there to give them that nourishment if they would just listen and receive him. Jesus was from heaven to give his life for all people so they would have access to eternal life.
Jewish people did not understand Jesus as their salvation of all nations as foretold by Old Testament prophets like “I will put my spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations” (Isaiah 42:1). The Jewish people wanted freedom from their physical slavery, so they looked to Jesus to be a leader that would conquer the Romans and take the place his their king. Jesus instead spoke to the crowds that he would lead, but that “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8: 12). Jewish ancestors told of the importance of remembering how God illuminated light through a pillar of fire to guide them to the promised land when they were freed from Egyptian slavery. The crowd didn’t understand that Jesus was speaking about freeing them from the enslavement of sin. The pharisees challenged him because they refused to recognize him as Messiah and Lord. They influenced the crowd to reject Jesus who was there to rescue them from their sin and lead them out of the darkness into his perfect light as He is the only path to eternal kingdom with God.
The pharisees were shocked that Jesus accused them of being spiritually blind. They were unable to recognize their own sinful arrogance and stubbornness so unfit for leadership. The crowd listened to the exchange as Jesus responded that He alone is Israel’s true shepherd. He was there to serve God’s agenda, so challenged the false doctrines of the pharisees. This reference to a being a good shepherd was understood by the crowd as told in Old Testament prophecy “the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch. A King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land” (Jeremiah 23: 5). Jesus explained he came to seek and feed his sheep. Jesus proclaimed the good news that “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:14). Jesus foretold that the Jewish people would reject him, but his focus was on loving and guiding his flock to spiritual forgiveness. Jesus was right as listening to him the people were divided in thinking he was a mad-man or believing because he was able to perform so many miracles that he truly was who he claimed to be; the one true God. The Jewish people didn’t understand that Jesus was offering people abundant life that was eternal. Jesus’ death and resurrection was part of God’s plan for the salvation of the world.
The Jewish people still were set on confining Jesus in a human box, so that limited them because of their restricted vision. “Jesus claimed to be the promised Messiah but was rejected by His people. The hearts of the people were hardened to the truth, there was corrupt religious leadership who would not receive his claims. Therefore it was the sin of the people that kept them from accepting Jesus as the Promised One” (Stewart). Jesus was indeed the Messiah, so his statements that he was the “bread of life,” light of the world,” and “the good shepherd” were metaphors to help explain his divinity. Jesus was not who they were expecting. Jesus did not come to overthrow the rule of Rome, but to give his life as a sacrifice for sins. Jesus was not merely a teacher, but God. Ultimately, the people Jesus gave his life for were not able see him as Messiah as they shouted to crucify him. Christ’s death on the cross made a personal relationship with God available to all. Jesus’ resurrection gave believers a personal and direct path to God. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, through whom all can receive eternal life. “John describes Jesus’s movement toward his ‘glorification’ on the cross: his arrest, trial, crucifixion, and burial. This is no tragedy, but rather a further opportunity to unveil Jesus’ true mission from God” (Burge & Green, 269). Through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus began a movement that changed the point of view of the people to recognize his authority. The people then understood Jesus as greater than they ever imagined possible.
Burge, Gary M., and Gene L. Green. The New Testament in Antiquity: a Survey of the
NewTestament within Its Cultural Contexts. Zondervan Academic, 2020.
“If Jesus Was the Messiah, Why Did His People Reject Him?” Blue Letter Bible, www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_1334.cfm.
indycrowe, Author. “The 7 ‘I AM’ Statements of Jesus: OT Background & NT Meaning.” Indycrowe, 10 Jan. 2021, indycrowe.com/2019/02/13/the-7-i-am-statements-of-jesus-ot-background-nt-meaning/.
Life Application Study Bible: NIV. Zondervan, 2019.
Walton, John H., and Andrew E. Hill. Old Testament Today: a Journey from Original Meaning to Contemporary Significance. Zondervan, 2004.