John wrote about eight “I Am” sayings of Jesus Christ. These sayings were expressed in such a way that Christ wanted those who heard Him to know exactly what He was talking about. These eight “I Am” sayings are given to those around Jesus in ways that the people will understand. He uses His environment and objects close by to help Him teach those who are listening. People understand bread, light or shepherding in the times of Jesus, it is what they were used to. Jesus uses eight of these circumstances to further his deity and people can now see how it relates to the Old Testament prophecies.
BREAD OF LIFE
In John 6:35 Jesus states that He is the bread of life. The disciples had just eaten a meal provided by the Lord when Jesus fed thousands. They had their fill of food and they are satisfied. Jesus starts talking to them and states that the reason they have believed is not because they saw his miracle, but because they were full. The disciples then bring up the manna that had fulfilled the Israelites during the time of Moses, and Jesus said that He is now the Bread of Life. That bread had sustained life and God gave that manna to provide nourishment and life to the Israelites. Jesus now refers to himself as that bread that will provide life. He says that “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry...” in John 6:35. This is the first time that Jesus refers to Himself as that everlasting nourishment that the disciples will need.
LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Light was an important necessity in the time of Jesus. People had to get their work done during the day because they didn't have the tools we have now for light. So Jesus used this tool to teach those that knew how important light was. Jesus was approached by pharisees that had caught a prostitute in a bad position. The pharisees brought this woman to Jesus to try and trick Jesus. They asked Jesus what should be done with this woman, because according to Old Testament law, she needed to be stoned to death. They knew that if Jesus answered in their favor and to stone her, that Jesus was no friend to the people and would be just like the pharisees, but if Jesus answered in favor of the woman, He would be ignoring the Word of the Lord. After the altercation, Jesus starts teaching the people saying He is the light of the world. Anyone that comes to Him will no longer be in darkness. These people understand how important the light and darkness is. He wanted the people to know that He was the light in moral darkness. For those that try to assume a moral compass, that He was the one they needed to find. As stated by Elmer Towns, Jesus may have also been comparing Himself as a “...reminder to the people of the cloud/pillar of fire a theophany that was a manifestation of God Himself,”1 to show that He is their Light and Guide.
Another thing that Jesus does for the Light of the World “I AM” is the healing of the blind man to show that He is the Light to the world physically. In John 9:5, Jesus once again reminds His disciples that He is the only light of the World after healing the blind man. He physically used earth and spittle to show that man is still made from God and was originally from the Earth.
Jesus is speaking with the Pharisee's and using the example of a shepherd and the area where sheep are contained. They know about these things, so Jesus uses things and objects in people's lives that they know about; even today. But according to John 10:6 the pharisees didn't understand what Jesus was trying to tell them. Jesus was trying to tell the people that the only way to protection or salvation, as a sheep would be protected in it's area, is through Him. He is that door to salvation and He is the only way in to the salvation. Through Jesus we receive life and salvation. As Leon Morris puts it; “If there is but one door for all the race, then once more we are reminded of something very important about Jesus.”2 This is another reminder of His deity and the only way to salvation.
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
The actual word that Jesus uses when describing Himself as the Good Shepherd is kalos,which means good with “moral overtones,” as described by Elmer Towns in The Book of John: Believe and Live. This word is meant to mean noble or beautiful, or many other meanings along that same line. I like how Vincent puts it “The epithet kalos, applied here to the shepherd, points to the essential goodness as nobly realized and appealing to admiring respect and affection.”3 Christ is showing he is worthy of admiration, glory and honor. Everything a shepherd is supposed to be is a guardian, trusting, loving; and Jesus is saying that He is all of these things. He may also be symbolizing that He would give His life for His people as a shepherd would for his sheep. In 1 Samuel 17:34-35 it states “But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from it's mouth. When it turned to me, I seized it by it's hair, struck it and killed it.” (NIV) David was explaining to Saul that as a shepherd he would give his life for his sheep, and that is also what Jesus was trying to explain.
THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE
Jesus' great friend has just passed away. Lazarus, Martha and Mary are considered to be friends of Jesus and Lazarus has passed. While speaking with Martha, Jesus states that Lazarus will rise again. Mary responds with what she comprehends. She says that she knows that he will arise on the last day, and she believes in the teachings of Jesus. But Jesus then responds that He is the resurrection and the life. Jesus is trying to explain that He is bigger than death, that not even this can stand in his way. He is over life and death. Jesus is life and He can bring Lazarus back from the dead. The deity of the Lord and Savior rose a man from the dead.
THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE
In John 14:6 Jesus states that “I am the way, the truth and life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” (NIV) Jesus is the only way to the Father. In the Old Testament the only way to get to the Father was going to priests, and they would approach the father for you on the Day of Atonement. Now, Jesus is the only way you can approach the Father. Jesus saying that He is the Truth is saying to be careful what you believe. There are many false teachings and people saying that the can help you to the Lord, but the truth is through Jesus. While Jesus is in the upper room with the disciples in John 14, the disciples start asking Jesus where He is going. Jesus responds with Life. Jesus is the way to everlasting life. Only through Him can we receive this life. This shows that the deity of Jesus is the only way to approach our Father.
In Old Testament times the vine represents Israel, the Holy land of the people. Now the True Vine is Jesus Christ. In John 15:5, Jesus refers to Himself as the Vine. The Vine connects the fruit to the Gardner, and the only way to get to the Gardner from the fruit is through the vine. Jesus is telling the people that we must remain in Him to bear fruit.Without a vine, the fruit will wither. Without the tender care of the Gardner the fruit will go away, but the only way to do that is through the vine. This is once again explaining Christ's deity for our access to the Lord is through Him. But not only that, Jesus is explaining to have nourishment, that we must stay connected to the vine, and that is Him. The only way to receive nourishment is to stay connected to Christ.
I AM...I AM
Christ uses many “I AM's” throughout Scripture to explain His deity. Some of these are found in John 4:26, John 8:28, John 13:13, John 18:8, and more. Jesus is showing that He is life, that Jesus is the only salvation to His people. The belief is that John is trying hard to express Jesus' “I AM” sayings to stress the deity of Christ and to show the importance of what Christ is saying. The “I AM” is putting the stressor on Jesus, showing that He is the center of what people should be focusing on.
As Slick John's view of Jesus when discussing what John thought of Jesus; “Is it safe to say that John in his gospel merely considers Jesus a man or even a special angel? Is a mere man or an angel the giver of eternal life or is this something God does? Is a mere man or an angel the way, the truth, and the life, or the light of the world. Is a creature one with the Father, or does a creature share in God's glory, or even knowing all things? No. Not at all.”4 John was showing that He truly loved Jesus, knew exactly who Jesus was and wanted generations to know the deity of Christ. John knew exactly who he was writing about, the “I AM!”
1 Town, Elmer. The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. (Chattanooga, TN. AMG Publishers. 2002), 87.
2Morris, Leon. Jesus is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John. (Grand Rapids, MI. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1989), 114.
3Vincent, Marvin R. Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 2. (Grand Rapids, MI. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1965), 190.
4Slick, Matt. Who is Jesus According to John the Apostle? Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. http://carm.org/christianity/christian-doctrine/who-jesus-according-john-apostle. Last accessed 10 Dec 2012.