I AM Study Introduction
The “I AM” Statements in John are directly connected to his central purpose of establishing Jesus as the God who has come in the flesh to give us life. This gospel was written to establish Jesus’ credentials for the incredibly audacious claim that He is God and He alone can give eternal and abundant life.
John does this in very Hebrew ways. First, throughout his gospel, John tells us of seven signs or miracles – water to wine (2:1-11); healing the nobleman’s son (4:46-54); healing a lame man at Bethesda (5:1-9); feeding of 5000 (6:1-14); walking on water (6:16-21); giving sight to a blind man (9:1-7); raising of Lazarus from the dead (11:17-44) – that Jesus worked throughout His ministry.
Each of these signs was connected to Old Testament language and imagery which John’s audience would know pointed to the divine nature of Jesus. Although these signs are not the focus of this study, a number of them are connected with the “I AM” statements which stand as another means by which John established that Jesus is God.
In Greek, the everyday statement “I am” can be communicated with the simple verb eimi. However, in the Gospel of John, Jesus makes a number of statements in which John adds the explicit pronoun, ego (I), to the verb. Grammatically this is unnecessary, thematically it is essential. By stating “I AM” in such an explicit and unusual manner John would have caught the attention of his original audience. For the Jewish reader, John’s intent would have been both evident and startling. In using the structure ego eimi John was drawing attention to Jesus’ true “identity for in” the Old Testament the Divine Name is – YAHWEH – I AM.
The most jarring and radical “I AM” Statement in John is found in chapter 8 which captures a conflict that took place between Jesus and the Pharisees. Jesus’ ministry had become increasingly disturbing to the Pharisees and other Jewish religious leaders. The things that He was doing and saying cut against the grain of their religious traditions and the tension between them was escalating. In John 8 these tensions boil over into full-blown hostility as the Pharisees accuse Jesus of being possessed by a demon and not one sent from the Father. To this Jesus replied:
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
Jesus’ statement “before Abraham was, I AM,” appears grammatically awkward, but this is deliberate. Jesus is making a tremendous theological claim – I AM Yahweh – that would have been shocking to His audience in ways that are difficult for a modern non-Jewish audience to comprehend. However, in the Pharisees’ response to “pick up stones to throw at Him” we truly see the magnitude of what Jesus has said. What Jesus has done in identifying Himself with the Divine Name caused the Pharisees to attempt to execute Him for blasphemy on the spot. There can be no doubt from Jesus’ words or the Pharisees’ response that He was claiming to be the Great I AM, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If this were true, then John’s message is clear, the Author of Life has come to give us life – life that only He can give.
While John 8:58 is the most direct and radical claim Jesus makes to deity, John uses “I AM” Statements throughout his gospel to prove that Jesus is indeed the One true God who can save us. As we will see throughout this study, Jesus would use the phrase I AM (ego eimi) to proclaim:
I AM the Bread of Life – John 6
I AM the Light of the World – John 8/9
I AM the Good Shepherd – John 10
I AM the Resurrection and the Life – John 11
I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life- John 14
I AM the Vine – John 15
I AM He – John 18
Each of these statements is meant to connect us to some aspect of God’s goodness through the imagery of the Old Testament. As we study these passages over the next weeks, it is our hope that you will see God in new and deeper ways and that you will experience His love for you in new ways. We pray that as you read the words of Jesus, He will become each of these things in your life and that you will come to know the God who is “I AM” through the words of one who walked with Jesus and was deeply loved by Him.
What does the text say?
This stage of learning involves reading repetitively to gain familiarity with the text and looking for detail. We look for any words or phrases that are repeated. We may need to use a dictionary to look up definitions of words we may not fully understand. We look for key transition words (if/then, therefore, but) and see how they connect the text. We write out any questions that arise because it is okay to have questions as you study.
What does the text mean?
This stage of learning involves inferring things from the text beyond what it says. While it is easy to read a blog or listen to a sermon and get the answer, we want to use our own minds in this process. We do our best to answer, allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. We look up cross-references to better answer the question, “what does this mean?”
How should this change me?
While we are now looking at how to apply the text to ourselves, this stage of learning is drawn from a God-centered perspective. We ask questions like- What does this teach me about God? Is there an example to follow? Is there a sin to avoid? Is there a promise to claim? While it is more natural for us to look at others and how the text would apply to them, we must apply the text to ourselves first and foremost. It is only after our own personal application that we are equipped to share how it works in the lives of others.
Study Guide Download Week 8 Throughout our study, we have looked at seven of Jesus’ “I AM” Statements in the Gospel of John: I AM the Bread of Life – John 6 I AM the Light of the World – John 8/9 I AM the Good Shepherd – John 10 I AM the Resurrection and the Life –...
Study Guide Download Week 7 Last week we began looking at Jesus’ final words to His disciples in the Upper Room Discourse. In this section of John, Jesus gives His very last words to the disciples before going to the cross. He is preparing them for His death, but also...
Study Guide Download Week 6 Last week we studied Jesus’ claim, “I AM the resurrection and the life,” in John 11. John 11:25-26 “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...
Study Guide Download Week 5 Last week we discovered in John 10 Jesus’ claim that He is the Good Shepherd. John 10:14-15 “14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the...
Study Guide Download Week 4 Last week we examined John 8 in which Jesus proclaimed that He was the light of the world. John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus made this proclamation...
Study Guide Download Week 3 Last week we examined John 6 in which Jesus proclaimed that He was the bread of life. John 6:35 “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:51 “I am the living bread...
Study Guide Download Week 2 Last week we were introduced to John’s Gospel and looked at an overview of Jesus’ “I AM” statements and their purpose. This week we’ll be looking at one particular “I AM” statement - Jesus’ claim that, “I AM the Bread of Life,” in John 6....
Study Guide Download HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF THIS STUDY Small Group Time Your small group is a place to share what you have been learning and to build community. Small groups are most effective when members follow some simple guidelines: Confidentiality – help...