08 February 2011

A Survey of the Old Testament Law--Jesus as the "I AM"

We have been talking about how God revealed Himself to Moses using the name “I AM.” And since Jesus Christ IS God, then He is also entitled to refer to Himself by the name “I AM”. Even though He entered our world, being born to the Virgin Mary, He had previously existed with the Father since eternity past, long before the creation of the world. The apostle John calls Christ the Word of God in the first verse of his gospel, and tells us in John 1:1In the beginning was the word…and the Word was God. So not only did the Father exist from eternity past, but the Word of God existed from eternity past. And that is the point that Jesus is making here in this confrontation with the Pharisees. Let me set the scene for you because it is a long exchange, and we’re gonna come in on the tail end of it. The debate was over whether Jesus was a credible witness on His own behalf. According to OT Law, two or three witnesses were required to establish something as being true (see Deuteronomy 19:15). But Jesus makes the point that He did not speak on His own behalf, and He did not come to earth of His own accord, but the Father is still with Him and the Father, therefore, is bearing witness of Him by remaining with Him. (For more on the "I AM" statements of Christ, see Permalink here)

And He lets them know, in no uncertain terms, that anyone who continues in sin is a slave to sin, and is of their father, the devil. That’s when everything goes kablooey. The Pharisees go off the rails and go running to Abraham for their safety and cling to fact that they are physical descendants of Abraham, and they cry out “We have Abraham for our father!” (John 8:39). But Jesus lets them know that their physical descent from Abraham, along with a dollar, will get them a cup of coffee. Jesus then brings up the fact that Abraham is dead—his body is dead, that is—but that anyone who follows Christ will never see death. And this is where we’re going to pick it up.

John 8:52-53--52 Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ 53 Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” Real quick. Remember last week, Jesus told us that God IS the God of Abraham, God IS the God of Isaac and God IS the God of Jacob. Even after Abraham’s body was put in a grave, God IS still the God of Abraham. It was only Abraham’s body that died. So they’ve already got it wrong, and Jesus is about to let them know it. John 8:54-58--54 Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. 55 Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” If you get that knock on the door from folks who claim to be witnesses announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom, they will whip out that little pamphlet called “Should You Believe in the Trinity” and they will jump through all kinds of hoops and twist themselves into a linguistic pretzel to make it sound like Jesus did not say what He said. There’s even a section entitled “I AM”—question mark. It should be “I AM”—exclamation point!

It’s not a question of whether Jesus is “I AM.” It’s a fact. Today we’re going to go through the places where Jesus makes this statement, and to do this I want to mention one more time the quote from the commentary by Keil and Delitzsch on what happened at the burning bush in Exodus 3:
“God would manifest in deeds the nature expressed in His name. God therefore told Moses His name, or, to speak more correctly, He explained the name יהוה [YHVH]…in this way, אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה [hayah asher hayah], “I am that I am,” and designated Himself by this name as the absolute God of the fathers.”
Now, when we see Jesus using the title “I AM” in the gospel of John, that’s the literal way to read it. The Greek is εγω ειμι (ego eimi)—first person, singular, present tense. “I”—first person, singular. “AM”—present tense. Now, the Jehovah's Witnesses will stand there and say that Jesus was simply stating that He had been alive before Abraham was born. They of course teach that Jesus was nothing more than a glorified angel—Michael the archangel to be exact. Well, there are a whole lot of flaws in their thinking.

First of all, look in verse 59, and what are the Pharisees getting ready to do? John 8:59--Then they took up stones to throw at Him. If He were simply claiming to be a couple thousand years old, they would have simply laughed Him to scorn. BUT—they would not take up stones to stone Him just for making such a claim. The fact that they were ready to stone Him is a very strong indicator that Jesus was referring to Himself as “I AM.” Jesus says, in John 10:30“I and My Father are One.” Was He claiming that He and YHVH have one mindset? That He and Elohim are One in agreement? Is He saying that His beliefs and those of The Holy One of Israel are one and the same? NO! Because again, we see the same response from the Pharisees, in John 10:31Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. For what? John 10:32-3332 Jesus answered them, "Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?" 33 The Jews answered Him, saying, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God." The reason these Jews get so angry with Christ saying that He and the Father are “One” I believe is because Jesus is making a reference to Deuteronomy 6:4Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One. This is one of the most sacred—if not THE most sacred—passages in all the Hebrew Scriptures concerning God being the only God. For Jesus to say that He and the Father are ONE—as Deuteronomy 6:4 says that God is One—He was not beating around the bush. He was letting them know, in no uncertain terms, that He was, indeed, God, and that this most cherished text was actually talking about Him. We’ll look at both of those passages when we get to Deuteronomy 6.

Now, we mentioned earlier that when God uses the title “I AM” that it’s not simply a tag He places on Himself—as if He just woke up one day and said, “Hey, I think I'll call myself "I AM". Rather, "I AM" is God’s way of letting us know that everything that is righteous, just, loving, patient, hopeful, faithful, and so forth all exist because God IS those things—when we use those words to talk about God, they're not really adjectives. That is, they're not simply ways of describing God, but rather they are more like nouns, which act as a way of pointing out what God is. To kinda make it a little clearer, think of it this way: What is righteousness? God is! What is lovingkindness and patience? God is! What is faithfulness and truth? God is! And we can take that same idea and apply it to the times when Jesus referred to Himself as "I AM". And we’re really just gonna skim the surface on these, because we could spend weeks on each one.

John 6:35--And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." Background: the day before, He had fed the 5000 with 2 smoked salmon and 5 loaves of pita bread. All their bellies were full, and everybody was happy! So, the next day, the same people go looking for Jesus and they see Him walking around and they run up and they want to hear more of the wonderful teachings He gave them! Right? Well, maybe not so much. John 6:26-27--26 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” The food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give us is Himself—He IS that bread. Jesus does not simply give us eternal life—He IS eternal life. John 1:4In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. 1st John 5:20And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. And we see this a little more clearly in John 11.

Lazarus is dying; Jesus has heard the news that Lazarus is dying. (NOTE--This is NOT the same Lazarus as in the story Jesus recounts in Luke 16:19-31). But He doesn’t go running to the house of Lazarus and Mary and Martha. Why? Wouldn’t you want to see your friend before he died? Well, we see the answer in John 11:4--When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now, in verses 14-15, Jesus says something that doesn’t quite make sense to a lot of people. John 11:14-15--14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” That kinda flies in the face of most people’s thinking. Almost sounds like Jesus is saying, “Boy, I'm sure glad he’s dead.” But Jesus WAS glad that Lazarus was dead because now He can show the world—both His disciples AND those who opposed Him so viciously—that He IS Life. John 11:23-25--23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live." Lazarus’ body was dead. BUT Christ not only HAD the power to raise Him to life, He IS the power to raise dead men to life. What better way to show that than with a man who has been dead for four days.

But the greatest miracle of all—not only does He raise physically dead men to physical life; He raises spiritually dead men to everlasting life. Ephesians 2:1-51 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience…4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. Were it not for Christ Jesus, the Son of God, coming to earth and bringing life to dead men, we would still be estranged from God, and we would have no hope for anything.

Which brings us to our next passage, John 14:3-6--"3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know." 5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." We could spend a month on this one. This goes back to what we were talking about earlier, that not only is God righteous—He is righteousness. Not only is God just—He is justice. So, Christ being God in the flesh, not only does Christ show us the way—He is the way. Not only is He true—He is the truth. Not only does He give life—He is the life. If Christ had not come to earth—if the Son of God had not left His throne in glory to walk among us filthy, dirty humans, we would have had no way of being reconciled to God. If God the Son had not clothed Himself in flesh, we would have no advocate, no mediator with God. We would have been left alone to find our own way to God—something that everyone all around the world is seeking to do. That’s something that hasn’t changed since Adam and Eve tried to cover their sin with fig leaves when God required death. And when you tell people that Christ is the only way to God, you will get one of two responses. God will either open their eyes and draw them to Himself, so that they can accept that truth and love that truth and be saved by that truth—or they will reject it, turn away form it, call you all kinds of names because of that truth. Nothing has really changed in 2000 years. As one fellow put it, “The enemies of God still hate God. And they don’t care for you either.”

Sinful man still wants to find his own way to God. But there is only one door that leads to Heaven. And that is Christ. He says that in John 10:7-10--7 Then Jesus said to them again, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." Used to be that if you wanted to get into the city of Oak Ridge, there were a few gates you could enter through. That’s it. And you weren’t getting into Oak Ridge unless you belonged there. If you didn’t belong there, and you were caught trying to sneak in some other way, you were shot on sight, no questions asked. Now, getting into Heaven is a process that is quite a bit more peaceful than that. But it’s the same principle—if you want to get into Heaven, there is only ONE way—that is Christ. You either go through Him, or you ain't getting in. Period, paragraph, end of story. Saying this to someone today will have them telling you that you're a bigot, that you're a simpleton, and mostly they will say that you're narrow-minded. That’s when we say “Yes, I am narrow-minded. I've got my mind on the narrow way!” Matthew 7:13-14"13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." Don’t listen to anyone who says that “All roads lead to Heaven” or something like “Well, everybody’s going to Heaven, they just have to find their own way.” Christ did not die on a cross so people could worship a false God and be allowed into the presence of the Father. The cross is the only way that anybody’s getting into Heaven, and if they don’t like it then they're lost! One door, one way, one gate.

Finally, Jesus shows us that He is the One who will lead us on that Way, through that door, through that gate. John 10:11--"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep." Psalm 23, how does it start? You could ask 100 people to quote a passage of Scripture, and most of them would probably quote Psalm 23. They may not know what it means, but they know what it says. Most people who don’t know Christ think of it as some kind of secret password that helps get you out of some kind of jam they're in. But it’s more than that. Many times in the Scripture, those who belong to God are referred to as “sheep.” Leave a bunch of sheep by themselves, and they won’t last a day. Why? Because sheep are dumb. We’re sheep. I think you can do the math on that one. Sheep are dumb and they need a shepherd. And if we are sheep, then we need a shepherd. A shepherd does not hate his sheep. He nurtures them, takes care of the, feeds them, waters them, and drives off any kind of animal that would try to attack them. Jesus is our Shepherd. I think you can do the math on that one.

Let’s finish up with what Jesus said about His role as our shepherd. John 10:11-18--11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. 17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” The Lord—Jesus—is our Shepherd. He leads us by still waters, He feeds us the bread which leads to eternal life. And He is that bread. He is the way to the Father, He is our resurrection. He is all these things because HE IS.

Jesus is Lord