The “I AM,” the Flesh-and-Bone God for Us

In many ways, our lives are all about knowing God.  For this to be, we must understand Jesus, God’s Son, as God incarnate, for “no one comes to the Father except through [Him]” (John 14:6).  Still, how can this take place for us creatures born separated from God (Ephesians 2:12)?  The Scriptures of God reveal this to us—the story of His yearning for us to be reunited with Him.  An unfolding drama of our heavenly Father’s never-ending desire unfolds in its sacred pages. 

The way our Lord chooses to interact with us, however, decides how we can relate to Him.  The highest expression of God’s wish for us is the gift of Himself through Jesus, His Son—and apart from Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15:5).  Only after we are His, can we “come close to God and he will draw near to [us]” (James 4:8). 

In this divine descent, we learn who He is, as He declared Himself: The “I AM.”  To ancient Israel, God revealed Himself as Yahweh, which is a form of the third-person singular, “HE IS.”  So, Jesus as “I AM,” lets all the world understand He is God in human flesh.

The Lenten series for this year will revolve around our Lord’s “I AM” declarations.  In the gospel of John, Jesus utters “I am” some 26 times.  In some of them, He makes astounding claims, stunning hearers and still startling readers today. 

To comprehend the significance of Jesus’ bold proclamations of self-identity, to grasp why hearing Jesus voicing them became such a scandal, we must journey backward in time.  The first exploration for us will be to marvel at God disclosing Himself in the burning bush.  Ash Wednesday will focus on God lifting the mysterious curtain, to show Himself to Moses during the Exodus.

Next, we’ll transition to Peter’s confession written down by Matthew in the New Testament.  What follows Peter will be many of the “I AM” statements John later recorded. 

In this series, we will not be able to investigate every “I AM” statement of Jesus, not unless Lent will last the rest of the year.  So, we’ll explore the most prominent ones, but also allow ourselves to be a bit adventurous!  With our death-defying Lord, we’ll continue forth on this topic into Easter.  On Easter Day, the Christ-centric, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life,” will be a wholesome place to stop (John 11:25).

For two weeks following, we’ll break away from John’s Gospel like Jesus broke away from the tomb.  In the first Sunday after Easter, we’ll take in Christ’s words in the final chapter of Matthew, considering what He promised “until the end of the age.”  A strong follow-up to this is what will happen after this current age ceases to be.  On the Last Day, our bodies will resurrect, and the life of the world to come will come into being.  To understand this more, we’ll ponder our Lord’s words, found in Revelation 22.

Though Jesus made those statements of identity 2,000 years ago, this doesn’t mean they don’t hold value for us today.  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).  For us, the past, our present reality, and future certainty all unite in Jesus, the “I AM.” 

So, what does this mean for us now?  Other than Jesus, all the founders of the world’s philosophies and religious systems can only cry, “I was.”  For they are dead and can’t help you; not so with a risen Jesus, who rose from death.  For He still lives—and so His words of “I AM” are still in the present tense for us!  Yes, He can meet our needs today because He is alive and gives us life, to this day.

The present-tenseness of these “I AM” pronouncements reveal the depths of the Christian life and how we live with Jesus here, today.  For “the life [you] now live in the body, [you] live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved [you] and gave himself for [you]” (Galatians 2:20).  The better we understand our Savior’s “I AM” statements, the more our strength will equal our days (Deuteronomy 33:25), and we will “run and not grow weary [and] …  walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).  So, join me as we flourish in faith by understanding our Savior all the more.  Amen.

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