During Jesus’s ministry on earth, He said many things that challenged His listeners. In fact, He often spoke in parables, or, as we will see in this article, in metaphors. He used figurative language to relate common objects or concepts with Himself or His Kingdom so that people could better understand His character and purpose.
In the book of John, there are seven times in which Jesus says “I am ____.” Each statement gives us a glimpse into God’s character and what He’s like. One important point: it’s imperative to read these “I am” statements in context so we form an accurate understanding of what Jesus was really saying.
1. Jesus is the Bread of Life
“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.’” (John 6:35)
Jesus had just fed several thousand people with only a few loaves of bread, yet some people were asking for a sign from Jesus to prove He was from God. They reminded Jesus that God gave their ancestors manna (bread) from heaven while they wandered in the desert so they wouldn’t die (Exodus 16:35).
Jesus’s response surprised them: “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:32-33)
Like in many cultures, bread was a staple in the diet of the Jewish people, and when Jesus said that He was the “bread of life,” He was saying that, as bread sustains them physically, He would sustain them spiritually. They didn’t need to look elsewhere for spiritual food, for nourishment, for sustenance – HE was their life! All they needed to do was believe in Him.
2. Jesus is the Light of the World
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘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)
Some religious people had just finished accusing a woman caught in adultery. They wanted to ensnare Jesus as well, so they asked Him what should be done with her.
Surprisingly, Jesus responded, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7).
The woman’s accusers left one by one because none of them were without sin themselves. Jesus told her that He wouldn’t condemn her either, so she should go and sin no more.
Jesus then declared that He was the light of the world. He wanted His followers to know that they didn’t have to live in darkness, hopelessness and bondage to sin. If they would follow Him, then He would bring His “light of life” into their lives, transforming them and restoring them with His power.
3. Jesus is the Door
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9)
Right before this verse, Jesus stated, “All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them” (John 10:8). Clearly, Jesus is teaching that He is the only way to salvation, the only way to the heavenly Father.
Others may come and try to declare that they are the way to life, but they are “thieves and robbers”; Jesus is the only true way (see point six). There is no other door to eternal life except through Him.
4. Jesus is the Good Shepherd
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
Sheep and shepherds were commonly known and understood concepts in Jesus’s culture (which is probably why Jesus chose this metaphor). Just like our dog or cat knows our voice, sheep know their shepherd’s voice (John 10:3-5). Sheep want safety, pasture, food and water; it’s the job of the shepherd to guide and protect their flock.
Jesus speaks prophetically indicating that He will willingly lay down His life for people just like a good shepherd does for his sheep. He will give His life because He is good and because it pleases His Father to redeem people back to His Father.
King David declared in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd”. As sheep trust and follow their shepherd, we too can follow and trust Jesus not only for our eternal salvation but also for safety, provision and restoration of our souls. Jesus is our good shepherd.
5. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)
Jesus spoke these powerful declarations to a heartbroken sister whose brother had just died. She told Jesus that if He had been there, her brother wouldn’t have died.
But she wouldn’t have to wait until the final resurrection to see her brother again because the one who embodied the resurrection was standing in front of her, full of power and ready to act. After Jesus stated that HE was the resurrection and the life, He raised her brother from the dead, and many believed in Him.
This verse also teaches us that even though we may die physically, we will live on spiritually in the Lord’s presence in heaven. On the other hand, there will be people who continue to live and never physically die because they are alive when Jesus returns to fully establish His Kingdom on the earth.
The take-away: Jesus is resurrection life—he brings life to the physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually dead!
6. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
There should be no confusion here. This is a bold statement. Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life. There are not multiple ways to God the Father; there’s One. And Jesus Himself is the ONLY Truth.
Any ideas or concepts or philosophies that go against Jesus’ teachings or the Word of God (the Bible) are not truth. Many people seem to be searching for truth, and they’ll go to great lengths to find it; Jesus is the Truth they are looking for. Only in Him do we find true Life!
In John 8:32, Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” He was talking about Himself in this statement. When we come to know Jesus (the Truth), we will find freedom. Jesus sets us free!
7. Jesus is the Vine
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Understanding this important concept helps believers to live fruitful and victorious lives. Jesus describes Himself as a vine and His followers as branches. In order for us to bear fruit (which brings much glory to the Father according to verse 8), we must be rooted and connected to Jesus.
We must remain dependent on Him and resist doing things in our own strength. Why? Because without Him, we can do nothing—nothing of eternal value, anyway.
Tying it All Together
In Exodus 3:13-14, Moses and God were having a conversation. God had just told Moses to go and tell His people that their deliverance was near, but Moses wondered how the people would believe that God sent him:
“Then Moses said to God, ‘Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they say to me, “What is His name?” what shall I say to them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”’”
Jesus is a type of Moses because He came to deliver people from their sins and spiritual captivity. John demonstrated that the “I AM” in Exodus was now physically standing in front of people, ready to be their Shepherd, their Door to the Father, their Life, their Vine, their Light, their Bread of Life, and their Truth.
He’s the “I AM”—the God of the NOW—ready to be whatever we need Him to be in our lives.
~ By Jennell Houts
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