ReMAP – The “I AM” statements of Jesus (‘Reading the Red’ series, part 1)

See also post added: “I AM the True Vine”

Table of Contents

Exodus 3:13 – The origin of “I AM” as God speaks to Moses

The covenant connection: This is a fundamental promise, and the fundamental name and identity of God with many if not all of the characteristics of a covenant. In continuing to look at Jesus’ “I AM” statements, we will also explore how Jesus demonstrated the different aspects of who God is, which had been put into words in the form of covenant names (recently explored in School of Ministry)

Exodus 3:12-15 NLT

God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”

But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”

God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you. This is My eternal name, My name to remember for all generations.”

God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.”

Read, and re-read

This is Moses’ first encounter with God at Sinai, “The mountain of God” traditionally the 7,400ft Jebel Musa. Horeb, the other name used, meaning ‘desolation’, may be the same place or Ras es-Safsaf next to it. It is a picture of an empty, uninviting wilderness place where, surprisingly, “an angel of the Lord”, a phrase used interchangeably with “God” and “the LORD” in vv.4-5, appeared in a blazing fire and called to Moses and warns him to keep his distance, shoes off to stand on holy ground, Exodus 3:1-5.

The Lord identifies Himself, but by description rather than name: “I am… the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses now hears his call to go, sent by God, to bring God’s people out of Egypt and Pharaoh’s oppression — but He needs more than a description. Name, in Hebrew culture, was identity (as in Wales and ‘Jones the Bread’). Hence Moses’ persistence, v.13, “They will ask me, ‘What is [Your] name? ‘Then what should I tell them?” He is asking not just ‘who’, but ‘what’ can I say about the ‘who’? As we would say colloquially, “This is where He is coming from”.

Now God reveals His name – He has not done this in any previous encounter – to be the consonants YHWH. Scholars have added vowels to make the word pronounceable as Yahweh (or historically Jehovah) and often indicated in Bible texts as LORD in capitals. So what does Yahweh mean? It is related to the Hebrew word for “to be”, hence “I AM WHO I AM” or more simply, “I AM”.

Meditate

“I AM” – a personal statement of God’s eternity, pre-existing time and enduring beyond time, not dependent on anyone or anything. “I AM” exists, independent and sovereign. Dwell on who God is — then consider what Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am”, John 8:58. More on this verse tomorrow.

Apply

This is one occasion not to step into someone else’s shoes — we are standing on holy ground here, a desolate place of the most sparse vegetation where, inexplicably, a fire is burning through a bush without consuming it. Out of this, God Himself speaks… and reveals who He is. And begins to unfold a call…

It could be you.

God is One who speaks, and who reveals Himself. Usually in quieter, less dramatic ways — pilgrimage to a remote mountain not always needed. But separation and quiet are two ways we hear the voice of I AM.

As followers of Jesus, who are in Jesus, with Jesus in us, we have a call to what the Father shows us He is doing, John 5:19-20, always to be light in the darkness but to be deployed to encourage others as God reveals them to us. That requires us to step out of our activity, take our shoes off – and listen.

Pray

“Father, I thank you for Jesus, who has given me a way to know You, to approach You and to treasure the hearing of your voice. Give me a growing resolve, in this New Year, to step out of my activity, ‘take my shoes off’ and listen for what You may reveal and instruct me in. May I be more truly part of Your purpose in a world that hardly knows You. In and through Jesus I pray. Amen.”

John 8:58 – “Before Abraham was, I AM”

Covenant connection: Genesis 1:1, John 1:1-3. “In the beginning… the Word already existed…was with God… was God… [and] gave life to everything that was created…”

John 8:52-59 NLT

“…You say, ‘Anyone who obeys My teaching will never die!’ Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think You are?”

Jesus answered, “If I want glory for Myself, it doesn’t count. But it is My Father who will glorify Me. You say, ‘He is our God,’ but you don’t even know Him. I know Him. If I said otherwise, I would be as great a liar as you! But I do know Him and obey Him. Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to My coming. He saw it and was glad.”

The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say You have seen Abraham?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!”

At that point they picked up stones to throw at Him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.

Read, and re-read

This exchange occurred in Jerusalem in the Temple courts, John 8:20, during the Festival of Shelters and forms part of a conflicted debate, continuing from John 7:52, about who Jesus was and particularly about recognising the Messiah.

The scene is the area around the Temple treasury. Jesus’ opponents are getting more and more angry. They have heard Him use this phrase “I AM” again and again. Whatever language they were speaking, the connotations were becoming more and more obvious. Now he uses this phrase reserved for God, and Jews would routinely read YHWH as ‘Adonai’ out of religious reluctance to actually pronounce the name of God. Jesus was just coming out with it, to their shock and horror, and then claimed that He preceded the Father of the Nation, Abraham. This to the religious Jewish mind was nothing less than blasphemy. Could this be the Messiah, supported by all the signs that had been talked about? They didn’t even reach for the question, but reached for stones – and Jesus disappeared because it was not yet His time to be captured.

Meditate

The Jews seemed to work so hard to not even mention the name of God, yet Jesus prayed in familiar terms to ‘Abba’ and modelled to those around Him a very purposeful intimacy, keeping the Father’s priorities fresh.

• What is the difference of mind-set here and what can we learn from it?

• The Jews were asking, “Who do you think You are?”. What would have been a better question?

“Before Abraham was even born, I AM” was a hard saying for Jesus’ hearers – or was it? If Messiah was of God and sent by God, it follows that Messiah’s origins were before creation itself. Consider how we know that Jesus was co-creator with God, at the beginning of all things, John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-16, and how that makes a difference for us.

Apply

Do we lose sight of Jesus and what He is doing, as we find ourselves ‘majoring on the minors’ again? Unlike the Jews of His time, we know who He is. But do we allow Him to be who we know He is? What needs to change?

Pray

Ask the Lord in your own words to show you where He needs to be allowed to be who He is. Ask Him to show you how He is Lord of time and of eternity – difficult for us to grasp but essential if we are to grasp the extent of His Lordship.

John 6:35 – Jesus says “I am the Bread of Life” (1)

Covenant connection: Genesis 22:14, Yahweh Yireh — the LORD will provide

(Part 1 of 3)

John 6:25-36 NLT

25-29 They found Him on the other side of the lake and asked, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with Me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food.

“Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given Me the seal of his approval.”

They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”

Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the One He has sent.”

30-36 They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in You. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now He offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”

Jesus replied, “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.

“But you haven’t believed in Me even though you have seen Me.”

Read, and re-read

This episode occurred immediately after the miraculous Feeding of the Five Thousand, after which Jesus and the disciples took a boat across the Sea of Galilee and landed near Capernaum. Some of the crowd, guessing where Jesus would be found, found their way there around the shoreline – and in a cynical quirk of expectation, asked Him for a greater sign. There was a popular expectation that the Messiah would repeat the sending of manna. Jesus has fed a crowd once, multiplying ordinary bread; Moses fed a nation for 40 years with ‘bread from heaven’. Hence, “What can you do?” They were also wrongly concerned about “doing” as a means to experiencing God’s favour — or power: “What must we do?”

“I AM” the Bread of Life (2)

Re-read: John 6:25-36 NLT

25-29 They found Him on the other side of the lake and asked, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with Me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food.

“Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given Me the seal of his approval.”

They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”

Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the One He has sent.”

30-36 They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in You. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now He offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”

Jesus replied, “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.

“But you haven’t believed in Me even though you have seen Me.”

Meditate

It’s simple but also profound. Believing and receiving is not an intellectual stretch ~not complicated) but it is a faith stretch. In each of these I AM sayings, Jesus was making a statement that looked He like a son of Man, but He was also God incarnate, the Messiah. Each one represented a facet, a particular covenant name, of God. What was the need here? Jesus was saying that He was the living provision, not just bread but the Living Bread because Yahweh Jireh – the God who provides – had come to them. This is looks back to the story in Genesis 22 of Abraham’s desperate need of a sacrificial offering with His precious son Isaac the only candidate, and God’s miraculous provision, Genesis 22:14 – “Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the LORD will provide”). The ultimate provision was, of course, Jesus who was God’s precious and only Son and who became the sacrifice that provides salvation and new life for us all.

Truthfully, we would rather be given something to do, to work at and achieve. Coming to Jesus and simply receiving from Him the Bread of Life is not complicated; in a strange way, this makes it unfamiliar (‘no pain, no gain!’) and therefore, in our minds, difficult to achieve.

What was the crowd calling out about Moses and the manna (from the Scriptures?) and why did they think Jesus should “do” as Moses did? Where did their expectation go astray between the ‘being’ and the ‘doing’ of Jesus?

• For further study, read Psalm 78:23–24, Exodus 16:4, 15; Nehemiah 9:15; Psalm 105:40.

“I AM the Bread of Life (3)

Re-read again: John 6:25-36 NLT

25-29 They found Him on the other side of the lake and asked, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with Me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food.

“Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given Me the seal of his approval.”

They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”

Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the One He has sent.”

30-36 They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in You. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now He offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”

Jesus replied, “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.

“But you haven’t believed in Me even though you have seen Me.”

Apply

When we get caught up in what we think we must do, in all sorts of ‘good’ observances and disciplines, here is a reminder of the one ‘work’ that Is demanded of us: believing in the One God has sent. He is the Bread of Life, and rather than (human nature) finding more things to do, we are to reduce the list to coming to Jesus and believing in Jesus. The way we come to know God is also the way we come to ‘have’ God more, or let Him have us. It’s the difference between making the front garden perfect, and just opening the door.

There’s another lesson here to dwell on. It’s about whether we allow God to speak His way through His word, or create a man-centred version and man-centred beliefs. God may do the same again but looking different this time, if we allow Him!

Pray

“Jesus, give me this bread — give me more of You — this day and every day. And help me not to try to satisfy my need of You in ways I have constructed, but to stick with Your way, truth and life. Amen.”

John 8:12 – Jesus said: “I am the Light of the World, the Light that leads to life” (1)

(1 of 2)

Covenant connection: Yahweh Shammah – the Lord who is there, overflowing and filling everything, as light does.  Ezekiel 48:35.

Read – John 8:12-19 NLT

12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow Me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

13 The Pharisees replied, “You are making those claims about yourself! Such testimony is not valid.”

14-16 Jesus told them, “These claims are valid even though I make them about Myself. For I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don’t know this about Me. You judge Me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. And if I did, My judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent Me is with Me.

17-18 “Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact. I am one witness, and My Father who sent Me is the other.”

19 “Where is your father?” they asked.

Jesus answered, “Since you don’t know who I am, you don’t know who My Father is. If you knew Me, you would also know My Father.”

Read, and re-read

The City of Jerusalem was lit up in a more extravagant way during its festivals and the lighting ceremony was an important part of celebrating Tabernacles, or Shelters, a bit like our switching on of Christmas lights in town centres. In the inner courts of the temple were 16 gold bowls of oil, lit as lamps. Jesus stood under these lights, in the Temple, and said that He was now the source of the light, not just in the sense of salvation for Israel, but salvation for the world, v.12.

Meditate

in John 5:19-30 Jesus sets out His position clearly as doing the will of the Father who sent Him, not some scheme of His own. This argument continues and becomes more heated as Jesus teaches at the Festival of Shelters through chapter 7 and from 8:12. The story of the uncaring judgment of the woman caught in adultery at the beginning of chapter 8 is a graphic illustration of the need for God’s light to penetrate the darkness of religious attitudes. (continued)

“I AM the Light of the World ” (3)

Re-read – John 8:12-19 NLT

12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow Me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

13 The Pharisees replied, “You are making those claims about yourself! Such testimony is not valid.”

14-16 Jesus told them, “These claims are valid even though I make them about Myself. For I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don’t know this about Me. You judge Me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. And if I did, My judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent Me is with Me.

17-18 “Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact. I am one witness, and My Father who sent Me is the other.”

19 “Where is your father?” they asked.

Jesus answered, “Since you don’t know who I am, you don’t know who My Father is. If you knew Me, you would also know My Father.”

Meditate further

What does “Light of the world” and the “light that leads to life” mean? Also in John 1:4, “His life brought light to everyone”? “Light” and “life” are closely associated.

The coming of the “light” of God was long promised, which was to be light for Gentiles also. Read these Scriptures and see how the picture builds: Exodus 25:37; Leviticus 24:2; Ps. 27:1; Isa. 9:2; 42:6; 49:6; John 9:5; Acts 13:47; 26:18, 23; Eph. 5:8–14; 1 John 1:5–7

The ‘light’ that Jesus represents has a number of closely related facets:

Apply

Jesus is urging His first hearers to trust the light, and so become ‘children of light’, John 12:35-36.

Pray…

…in your own words, seeking God’s grace for further and deeper revelation of the light that brings ‘life’ and which impacts others by reflecting God’s light and life to them, as we learn to walk as “children of the light”.

John 10:7,9 — Jesus said: “I AM the gate for the sheep”

(1 of 3)

Covenant connection: Yahweh Tsidkenu, The Lord our Righteousness 

John 10:1-10 NLT

1 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber!

2 “But the one who enters through the gate is the Shepherd of the sheep.

3-4 “The gatekeeper opens the gate for Him, and the sheep recognise His voice and come to Him. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. After He has gathered His own flock, He walks ahead of them, and they follow Him because they know His voice.

5 “They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

6-7 Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what He meant, so He explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.

“All who came before Me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them.

9 “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through Me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.

10 “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Read, and re-read

It is also teaching that explains a healing miracle, John 9. Jesus often took opportunity to teach how the kingdom of God was working, in the broader significance of signs and wonders that people witnessed.

The previous chapter, John 9, details the healing of a man blind from birth, the memorable story of Jesus rubbing spit and mud into his blind eyes and telling him to wash out the blindness in the Pool of Siloam. The Pharisees who observed this said the healing was wrong and offered three contradictory reasons: Jesus, they said, was a sinner for doing His ‘work’ on the Sabbath; the man was obviously a sinner because he was born blind; or he was pretending, not blind, and had not received his sight at all, John 10:14-21.

What follows (chapter 10) is about spiritually blind, false shepherds resenting someone who had been given sight – and failing to discern the true shepherd and His call – using a picture of everyday Palestinian sheep husbandry practice. It is full of allusions to things familiar to Jesus’ hearers, but  unfamiliar to us, even in a sheep farming area.

We’ll take a closer look at the characters, especially the Gate character, in the next post.

“I AM the gate for the sheep” (2)

Re-read again – John 10:1-10 NLT

1 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber!

2 “But the one who enters through the gate is the Shepherd of the sheep.

3-4 “The gatekeeper opens the gate for Him, and the sheep recognise His voice and come to Him. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. After He has gathered His own flock, He walks ahead of them, and they follow Him because they know His voice.

5 “They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

6-7 Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what He meant, so He explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.

“All who came before Me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them.

9 “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through Me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.

10 “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

More on the context

The characters in the illustration are, in order of appearance:

  • The thief, v.1 and v.10
  • The Shepherd of the sheep, v.2
  • The gatekeeper, v.3
  • The sheep, vv.2-7
  • The stranger, v.5
  • The gate (figure of speech for a person), v.7 and v.9

Several families’ flocks would be quartered together at night, especially in winter, in a stone enclosure, often next to a house. It was a place of safety from wolves and other predators, with one narrow entry point. A gatekeeper was a hired hand who looked after the enclosure for all the shepherds; they would come in the morning and call out their own sheep. The sheep responded to their voice and their call, and the shepherd would know the sheep that were his, from among the mass of similar animals.

It is the personification of the Gate as Jesus that we focus on here. There is a distinction between Jesus the Gate and Jesus the Shepherd which we will come to.

Meditate

Wilderness shepherds made enclosures to keep the sheep safe, bringing them in at night and leading them out to pasture at daybreak. The nation’s ‘shepherds’ should have looked after their flock — but didn’t. They should have pointed people to the way of salvation through living in the spirit of the law. Instead they turned it into a mass of regulations, to which the prophet Micah said:

No, O people, the LORD [Yahweh] has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 NLT

Jesus is pointing out that corrupt leaders, including those in His time, were effectively barring the gate to people rather than pointing to the gate. On the other hand, He has come as the true Gate for the sheep to come into the kingdom, the Way to salvation. There is only one Way through, one Gate, and Jesus is it. He knows them and they know His  voice. They recognise that He is the Way.

“I AM the gate for the sheep” (3)

Re-read Scripture againJohn 10:1-10 NLT

1 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber!

2 “But the one who enters through the gate is the Shepherd of the sheep.

3-4 “The gatekeeper opens the gate for Him, and the sheep recognise His voice and come to Him. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. After He has gathered His own flock, He walks ahead of them, and they follow Him because they know His voice.

5 “They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

6-7 Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what He meant, so He explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.

“All who came before Me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them.

9 “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through Me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.

10 “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Apply

Jesus is fully God and fully man, so He is both the Good Shepherd and the Shepherd of Israel in being the incarnate Son of Yahweh. He is also the Gate for the sheep, the person who acts as the avenue of salvation for all who recognise who He is.

Where was Jesus coming from, in saying that he was the Gate for the sheep? He is telling us that he is the incarnation of Jeremiah’s prophetic designation of the Lord, the covenant name of Yahweh Tsidkenu, the Lord our Righteousness:

“In those days and at that time I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. In that day Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this will be its name: ‘The LORD [Yahweh] Is Our Righteousness.’ Jeremiah 33:15-16 NLT, also Jer. 23:5-6.

Judah and Jerusalem are places but here represent the totality of the people of God, which soon extended beyond Judaism and transitioned to become the Christian church, believing Jews and increasingly, believing non-Jews.

In our culture, exclusive claims do not sit well. One of the most argued-against truths in the Bible relates to there only being one way in and out of the enclosure:

There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 NLT

This truth becomes more clear (and more reasonable!) in the context of the Old Covenant roots in Yahweh Tsidkenu.

Jesus is the Gate because only through Jesus can we be saved. Jesus is the Gate because only He represents the ‘how’ of our being saved. How we do it is by encountering Jesus, the reality of Yahweh Tsidkenu, the righteousness of God, and recognising that in Him is the righteousness that we could not earn or achieve. When we give up our independence and submit to His Lordship, we submit to His righteousness over us as well – and the Gate brings us through.

We are transformed by the LORD our righteousness, who we know as Jesus Christ. We are saved, spiritually and also emotionally and physically. It is an event, but as we encounter Jesus the Gate more and more, also a process of ongoing saving and healing. The revelation grows that we ARE the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, in line with 2 Cor. 5:21.

Pray

Lord Jesus, we are so grateful to have been called by Your Holy Spirit and given the revelation of how You are our righteousness, the Gate out of darkness and the devil’s dominion and into to salvation and freedom and living in the light. We say again that You are our Lord, and You are the righteousness we could never achieve, the Gate allowing us to enter heaven’s courts and to  be able to know the love and acceptance of our Father. We praise you with words – and with our lives. Amen.

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd” – John 10:11,14 (1)

(1 of 2)

John 10:1-5, 11-16 

1-2 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the Shepherd of the sheep.

3 “The gatekeeper opens the gate for Him, and the sheep recognise His voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

4-5 “After He has gathered His own flock, He walks ahead of them, and they follow Him because they know His voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

11-13 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd sacrifices His life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

14-15 “I am the Good Shepherd; I know My own sheep, and they know Me, just as My Father knows Me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice My life for the sheep.

16 “I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to My voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.”

Read, and re-read 

Jesus is talking about something very familiar to His first-century Palestine hearers. At the end of the day, sheep were kept safe from predators and thieves in a walled enclosure, often near a house, with one gate for access. Several families’ flocks would be corralled together and at daybreak, each shepherd would come and call out his own flock, who would know his voice. They were used to following their shepherd to grazing and water.

‘Shepherd’ is used widely in the OT as a synonym for ‘leader’. The Bible talks about shepherds, shepherds of the nation and the Shepherd of Israel.

People left without leadership to look to were described in both OT and NT as ‘sheep without a shepherd’, a graphic picture of being vulnerable. The prophets draw contrasts between true and caring shepherds, who keep God’s covenant values, and abusive leaders who have diverged to be independent from God’s way, and who are profiting at the expense of those they should be protecting. Some leaders were seen as shepherds of the nation, with a role to lead the nation in and out e.g. Joshua who was appointed by Moses with God’s call to lead Israel into the promised land, Numbers 27:15-18. The Shepherd of Israel is a title of the Lord (Yahweh) used in Psalm 80:1.

• For further study, read Psalm 80:1, and 23:1, Isaiah 40:10-11, Ezekiel 34:11-16, Zechariah 10:2, Mark 6:34

“I AM the Good Shepherd” (2)

Re-read Scripture again – John 10:1-5, 11-16 

1-2 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the Shepherd of the sheep.

3 “The gatekeeper opens the gate for Him, and the sheep recognise His voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

4-5 “After He has gathered His own flock, He walks ahead of them, and they follow Him because they know His voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

11-13 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd sacrifices His life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

14-15 “I am the Good Shepherd; I know My own sheep, and they know Me, just as My Father knows Me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice My life for the sheep.

16 “I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to My voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.”

Meditate

In and around John 10:11-15 Jesus is talking about coming to the ‘pen’ with its mixture of sheep as the Shepherd of His flock, and calling for those who will follow Him. That is a different kind call, a call to come to Jesus out of religious legalistic Judaism. We see some who are recognising it and some, especially the religious institution, opposing it. The healed man in John 9 is one of the ‘sheep’ who hear the Lord’s voice. By contrast, those who expelled him from the synagogue are “strangers”, v.5, who Jesus likens to conventional thieves and robbers, and to the ‘false shepherds’ of Ezekiel 34:2-4.

The discourse in chapter 10 is about the failure of the nation’s spiritual leaders who did not lead people in the way of salvation. “Those who came before” were like robbers who exploited the sheep, John 10:10, who didn’t see God’s kingdom, let alone lead others into it — because they were blind. The blind were the most critical of Jesus opening blind eyes– both literally and in the spiritual sense.

Apply

Jesus’ pen contains sheep, not goats. They are people with some sense of belonging to God, people of some faith. The challenge is whether they will recognise who He is, a key person whose coming was taught by their faith, and whether they will break with tradition to follow Him.

Our society is very different. It is mostly goats and some sheep, and only God can truly tell the difference because, like Palestinian sheep and goats, they look the same, Matt. 25:22-23. What we can say objectively is that 94% do not attend (Christian) church with any regularity (British Social Attitudes, 2017). Of the 6%, a proportion are listening for the voice of the Shepherd of the Sheep, and some are not – and can be as harsh as those who turned on the man who had received His sight from Jesus. The ones who know the voice of the shepherd, can tell the difference between Him and other voices that call. There are plenty of ‘other voices’ and ‘strangers’ in what society calls the Church.

How do we work with this? Jesus wants to love goats into becoming sheep, and wants everyone to love hearing His voice and finding His provision of (spiritual and material) food and water. So we who love Him, and love hearing His voice, need to be out and about, conversing about this. The church of Word and Spirit is quite practised at creating an environment for people who know the Shepherd’s voice, to hear His voice some more. We are not so good at loving goats (who look just like us) and pointing them to the Good Shepherd. However, with the Holy Spirit active in us, we are positioned to speak with something of the Shepherd’s voice and tone, and to help Him call people to Him.

Pray

Pray in your own words, thanking God that He chose you to hear the Shepherd’s voice and the Holy Spirit helped you to respond. Pray a prayer of commitment to the task of helping others, in a noisy world of many confusing voices, to hear and know the Good Shepherd of the Sheep.

Jesus said: “I AM the resurrection and the Life” – John 11:25 (1)

(1 of 2)

Covenant connection: Yahweh Rophe – The Lord your healer, Exodus 15:26

John 11:17-27 NLT

17-20 When Jesus arrived at Bethany, He was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him. But Mary stayed in the house. 

21-22 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give You whatever You ask.”

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

25-26 Jesus told her, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes in Me will never ever die. Do you believe this…?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed You are the Messiah, the Son of God, the One who has come into the world from God.”

Read, and re-read

This “I AM” saying Jesus is part of the story of Lazarus’ death and being raised again to life by Jesus, and it takes place in Bethany, a village with the Arabic name El-Azariyeh  – that recalls Lazarus – a couple of miles outside Jerusalem on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives.

Lazarus, Martha and Mary were one of the more prominent families in Bethany, an almshouse village whose name, from Beth ăniyyâ, means house of the poor, or house of the afflicted. This is important context for the last and greatest of Jesus’ miraculous signs where Lazarus was called back into life.

Bethany was associated with Jesus in a number of ways. 

He was one of many Galileans who stayed there on their way to Jerusalem – it was on their preferred route that skirted Samaria and approached the city from the east.

Simon the Leper lived there – he might have been re-settled there – and it was at his house that Jesus was anointed with the ointment worth a year’s wages, before His trial and death. This ‘almshouse village’ was the context of His saying “You will always have the poor among you…”, John 12:8 (Deut. 15:11).

Meditate

Miracles that Jesus performed, and His sayings that went with the miracles, all worked towards one end – proving who He was, vv.15, 42. He was on a mission primarily to Jews, to call them out of religious Judaism and into new life in Him by recognising Him as their Immanuel. So He had to be seen as more than the rabbi with a northern accent, more than a prophet, more than someone associated with wonders, more than a teacher of authority – they had to ‘get’ that He was their Messiah. Martha had to ‘get’ this – v.27.

Jesus said: “I AM the resurrection and the Life” (2)

Re-read Scripture again – John 11:17-27 NLT

17-20 When Jesus arrived at Bethany, He was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him. But Mary stayed in the house. 

21-22 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give You whatever You ask.”

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

25-26 Jesus told her, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes in Me will never ever die. Do you believe this…?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed You are the Messiah, the Son of God, the One who has come into the world from God.”

Meditate further

Miracles that Jesus performed, and His sayings that went with the miracles, all worked towards one end – proving who He was, vv.15, 42. He was on a mission primarily to Jews, to call them out of religious Judaism and into new life in Him by recognising Him as their Immanuel. So He had to be seen as more than the rabbi with a northern accent, more than a prophet, more than someone associated with wonders, more than a teacher of authority – they had to ‘get’ that He was their Messiah. Martha had to ‘get’ this – v.27.

Lazarus had been dead for four days when Jesus, who had been sent for earlier, but had delayed two days, finally arrived, having received a word of knowledge from God and a word of wisdom about what He was to do, John 11:4-7.

Jews had a cultural belief (long before the Resurrection of Jesus!) that the soul stayed in the body for three days; the delay until the fourth day made it definite, in the minds of observers, that all hope was gone. Lazarus was well and truly dead.

And then Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out of the grave while instructed his family and others around him: 

“Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?… Father, thank you for hearing Me. You always hear Me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent Me…Lazarus, come out!”

“Unwrap him and let him go!”

And Bethany, the house of the afflicted, received a new identity – the place of the resurrected.

Later, according to Luke, who is careful with details, it was near Bethany, the disciples’ home from home, that Jesus called the disciples to witness his ascension to heaven, Luke 24:50-51.

Apply

This is about believing in Jesus and taking Him at His word. Just as He received a specific word and sense of the Father’s direction for Lazarus’ situation and the grief of his family, so it helps to ask for, and receive a word about whatever present challenging situation we face.

But will we believe? Will we trust Jesus to be the resurrection, and the life?

This is about more than human life and death, important though that is. But we face many more bereavements of a more common kind. The Christian life and gospel is, uniquely, about dying well as much as it is about living well. Things have to die. Things in us have to die. Only then can the next resurrection take place.

Things that we hold dear in life and church, things we have invested in or gained a sense of identity from, have to be submitted to God. That’s basic. But sometimes He will determine that they have to die. That confronts us with the real question, “Whose glory is in view here?” Asking God to share His glory is not on, and so sometimes we are reminded of that. But it is out of things that die, that new things are raised up. Jesus is Lord over death because He has conquered death and He is also Lord of life – in fact He is the Way, the Life and the Reality. To what will you apply the lesson of Lazarus, today?

Pray

– Lord show me what in me has to die, so that You can bring Your new life out of that dying. Lord, show me what around me is dying, so that I can join my prayer with others to see the new thing you are doing. Lord, as a word of revelation guided Your response to difficult events in the lives of Your close friends, so help me to ask for and receive revelation of what You are doing in difficult circumstances I face – so I can agree with Your plan and Your timing. Amen.

Jesus said: “I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life” (1)

(1 of 2)

Covenant connection: Yahweh M’keddesh – The Lord our holiness, Leviticus 20:8

John 14:1-7 NLT

1-2 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in Me. There is more than enough room in My Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?

3-4 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with Me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”

5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where You are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus told him, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.

7 If you had really known Me, you would know who My Father is. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him!”

Read and re-read

Jesus said elsewhere that His followers would be received into “eternal habitations” or “an eternal home” — the sense of a place prepared for them, Luke 16:9; 1 Cor. 2:9. The most immediate way Jesus would “come and get” the disciples was in His post-resurrection appearances, but clearly Jesus was looking far ahead to His final return, the Day of the Lord. Whatever the timing, He told the disciples that they knew the way to where He was going. It was the kind of argument often used by Greek orators and rabbis: You know the way, because I am the Way, and you know Me!

The Old Testament teachings, and the symbolism around the tabernacle and temple, emphasised exclusivity of relationship with God. They were to have no other gods, no idols, no objects of worship except Yahweh. They were to be mindful that He was jealous in seeking their undivided affection, Exodus 20:3-5. The curtain was a physical reminder that God’s presence was out of bounds to all except the high priest.

Now this exclusivity has turned into something else — the exclusive role of Jesus in being the way of salvation and the way to the Father. He has the exclusive right, to be the inclusive way, for all who choose to make Him the way. Only through Jesus can we gain access to God. He is Yahweh M’keddesh, the Lord our holiness. There is no other name, no other way to God, Acts 4:12.

In the early church, followers of Jesus were first known as followers of the Way, Acts 9:2, before the somewhat mocking label ‘Christians’, or ‘little Christs’ became widespread.

Meditate

Jesus’ statement means two things. Firstly, it means that He is the way of God, the truth of God and the life of God, incarnate. It is a clear claim to deity. Secondly, it expresses that He, standing as our holiness, stands to usher us in to God’s presence, whereas the heavy temple curtain hung as a barrier to prevent us from entering.

Jesus as the Truth is the fulfilment of the teaching of the OT. John emphasises this in his gospel.

Similarly, Jesus is the only one who fulfils the OT promise of life given by God, having life in Himself and being uniquely equipped to confer life on others.

Jesus said: “I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life” (2)

Re-read the Scripture again – John 14:1-7 NLT

1-2 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in Me. There is more than enough room in My Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?

3-4 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with Me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”

5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where You are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus told him, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.

7 If you had really known Me, you would know who My Father is. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him!”

Meditate (continued)

Jesus as the Truth is the fulfilment of the teaching of the OT. John emphasises this in his gospel.

Similarly, Jesus is the only one who fulfils the OT promise of life given by God, having life in Himself and being uniquely equipped to confer life on others.

• For further study on Jesus as Truth (or reality) see John 1:14, 17; 5:33; 18:37; also John 8:40, 45-46; 14:9.

• For further study in Jesus as Life in Himself, and life for others, see John 1:4; 5:26; 11:25-26 and 3:16.

Apply

Simply receiving Jesus as the Saviour who has done it all for us, is so disarmingly simple, it is also alarmingly simplistic to the religious mindset we all carry to a greater or lesser extent. Because we so want to be found worthy of this grace, it ceases to be grace any more until we recognise our error. This mindset will always try to creep in; life has programmed us for this thinking. But the challenge of “I AM the Way… Truth… and Life” is to discern what, in our thinking, is “earthly and unspiritual” because its leading is fundamentally selfish and ambitious. The challenge is to remember the Way and choose better.

What is this passage about, in a sentence? There are seven occurrences in seven verses of the words ‘know’ and ‘see’ — building towards the climax of knowing and seeing the Father. This passage is about knowing God, and it tells us that the only way to do this, is through knowing — really knowing — Jesus. Knowing Jesus is knowing his holiness, and so we become people who others can see have Yahweh M’keddesh in us.

Pray

Lord God, I confess that too often I forget what Jesus has done for me, and lapse into the world’s thinking that I am the Way for me. Help me, Lord Jesus, to know You In a way that grows ever deeper and more trusting, and to submit all I do to seeking Your way, truth and life. Amen.

Post added to this series: “I AM the True Vine”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *