“I AM” Statements of Jesus

Apostle John was a loved disciple of Jesus. He is the receiver of the revelations recorded in the last book of the Bible. He wrote the fourth gospel and three letters that are included in the Bible. John has recorded seven “I AM” statements of Christ in his gospel. We find this statement only in his gospel. It may be because the purpose of writing the gospel and the audience of it were different from that of the other three gospels. John states his purpose of writing the gospel chapter 20 verse 31. He says, “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” The gospel is for all Christians, purposed to confirm and secure their faith. John mainly answers the question, “Who is Jesus?” 


John has recorded seven I AM statements in his gospel. Seven is a significant number in Jewish culture. It represented completeness. John is co-relating the “I AM” statements to the Old Testament traditions and the spiritual mysteries in them as revealed in Jesus Christ. Jesus often spoke in parables and used metaphors to communicate his message objectively to his Jewish audience. He always spoke about His Kingdom. He was describing the character and purpose of His kingdom. So the “I AM” statements also reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.


I AM statements were a part of the Greek religion also. So John might have been contrasting Jesus’s words with the claims of the Greek religion. The gospel had Greek audience also. In Greek, the word “ego eimi” means, “it is I”. It is a way of identifying oneself. The phrase means an emphasis that “it is I” and an absolute sense, “only I am”. It excludes and cancels all other claims. When John wrote the “I AM” statements of Jesus, he meant both emphasis and exclusiveness.

Jesus said the “I AM” statements to explicitly identifying Himself as God. Each them follows a basic pattern. They all are metaphors in which the key element is Jesus, who is the “I AM.” Jesus always states few more statements providing further explanation to it. They explain the metaphor and cancel all possibilities of misunderstanding about its meaning. These metaphorical statements often accompany a miracle. The statement and the miracle help us to understand the purpose and meaning of both the statement and the miracle. The miracle is interpreted by the metaphor and the metaphor is further explained by the miracle.


The first I AM statement in the Holy Bible is found in Exodus 3:14. God met Moses and introduced Himself as, “I AM WHO I AM”. God gave him the assignment of leading the people out of Egypt to the Promised Land. But Moses was sure that the Israelites would not believe him. They would consider the meeting of Moses with God and the appointment as deliverer from their slavery, as mere imaginary stories. Surely Israelites would demand a proof for these things. So Moses asked God, what he should say, if the people ask for the name of the God who appointed him.

This is indeed an interesting demand. God had never revealed any name for Him so far. So Israelites would know no name of God. They knew only that the eternal and true God is the God their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Then why Moses imagined that the people would ask the name of God?

Moses was born and brought up in Egypt where the inhabitants worshiped many gods. They had a god for each and every problem that puzzled them. They had a god to bless and another to protect them. They had a god for peace and another for war. All these gods were different in nature and action. All of them had different names. They were represented by different images, creatures or natural phenomena. Thus their gods were represented by snakes, crocodiles, frogs, fleas, rivers etc. Their gods had different images carved in stone or wood.

The Israelites were living in Egypt for more than 400 years now. That means the fore fathers who migrated died long before and the present generation was born and brought up in Egypt. There are proofs in the Bible that they might have been living as polytheists. Though all of them were not, but some of them worshiped the Egyptian gods and the God of Israel, all together. But the God of Israel, who was the God of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was not known by a name and had no concrete image.  

In this social context, the demand of Moses to reveal the name of God is reasonable. He could tell the people that the God of their fathers, by the name, has appointed him as the deliverer. That would be a convincing claim.

But God the almighty had no name. No name is necessary for His existence. Still God found a reason in the demand of Moses. So He said:


Exodus 3:14 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.'"


Here “I AM” is the name of the eternal God. The name contains all mysteries, character, attributes and existence of God. Everything we need to know about God is contained in the name, “I AM”.


The Vulgate translation of the Holy Bible is the Catholic’s commonly used translation. It is a translation made by St. Jerome in AD 405. In Vulgate translation we read Exodus 3:14 as “I am who am”. But the Septuagint Greek translation is, “I am he who exists”. This phrase may be literally translated as, “I will be what I will be”. So some scholars have assumed that God was simply telling Moses that He is the same God of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and will be the same to them in future also. He had promised the Promised Land to their fathers which he is promising to them and He will fulfill the promise.


But we know that there is more in God’s self-introduction than repeating the assurance of promise. God is simply refusing to contain Himself in a name similar to the names of the Egyptian gods. He is no equal to the gentile gods. He cannot be compared to or understood along with the gentile gods. He is not a rival to the Egyptian god, He is the only God. That makes the Egyptian gods false imaginations and human craftiness. He is God, He alone is God and He will be God to the eternity. God’s eternity is not a time period, it is the beginning and the end or it has no beginning and end. It is always “is”. So God is “I AM”.


Many centuries later the Greek gentile philosopher Plato, in his Parmenides said that, nothing can express God’s nature. No name can be attributed to Him. So the God who introduced Himself as “I AM” to Moses is the self-existent, eternal, and incomprehensible God. He is the only original Being, he is the source of all created beings.


When Jesus used this same phrase, surely He was equating Himself with the eternal God. He was reminding Israelites that, He is the beginning, the present and the end. He is the God of their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the God who delivered them from the slavery in Egypt. Moreover, Jesus was telling the Israelites around Him that He is the only true God and nothing else can save them from the slavery of sin and satan.


When Jesus said, I AM, He was speaking in present tense. It is the truth and reality that they experience in the present tense. Nobody can deny the past and present. The past is a truth about something that has already happened, something cannot be changed or denied. The present is a truth that none can deny. It is the truth in which we are living today. The future has not yet happened. Since anyone can deny it until it becomes the present. No one can resist or change the present. Whishing or wanting does not change the present. Praying can change the future, but not the past or present. 

Jesus was not telling what He was, not what He will be. He is telling what He is. Because in Him there is no past and future. There is only the present that no one can deny or change. Conveying this truth to the people around Him is the purpose of the seven “I AM” statements of Jesus Christ.

1.   I am the Bread of Life


The first I AM statement found in the gospel of John is in 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.”

Jesus repeats this statement in verse 48 and 51 also. This statement is said after the miracle of feeding more than 5000 people with five loaves and two fishes.

Jesus was preaching to a large crowd sitting on a mountain top near the Sea of Galilee. Many people have gathered there because of the signs He has already performed by healing many sick people. The Passover feast of the Jews was near. This is an important information John records. Jesus wished to feed the crowd. But it seems none had anything with them as food, except a boy who had five barley loaves and two small fish. Jesus took the loaves and fish, prayed over it and gave the disciples to distribute it among the people. Miraculously the leaves and fish multiplied as they served. All had enough to eat and a surplus of twelve baskets of barley loaves were collected.

After this incident, Jesus and His disciples went over to the other side of the sea to Capernaum. So on the following day, many people followed Him to Capernaum. And Jesus had a conversation with the people. This conversation is important to understand the “I AM” statement. Jesus openly told the people that they followed Jesus not because they understood the sign, but only because they could eat loaves. That means, the miracle was a sign. But the people did not understand the sign. So Jesus goes on to explain the meaning of the sign.

As an introduction Jesus advised them not to labor for food which perishes but for the food for the everlasting life. (6:27). Only Jesus can give that food. Quickly the people remembered the manna their fathers ate in the desert on the way from Egypt to the Promised Land. (6:31). Manna was a heavenly food that God gave them from heaven to preserve and strengthen them till they inherit the Promised Land. And Jesus want this relation.

Jesus continued to explain the mystery. It was not Moses who gave manna to the Israelites in the desert, but the Heavenly Father gave them the bread. The bread came not from this world, but from Heaven, from God the Father. Manna was a shadow or type for the Heavenly bread God would send in future to give life to this world. Now the same bread has come down to earth in human form. It is Jesus Christ. Jesus can give eternal life to them. (John 6:32, 33). Jesus is the true bread of life. Those who eat from Him shall never hunger and those who drink from shall never thirst.

But Jews could not agree with Him. They saw it as a blasphemy to equate Jesus with anything that is related to heaven. But Jesus goes on to explain to them that anybody who believes in Him will have everlasting life. He is the bread of life (6:48). Once again the conversation went back to the manna that their fathers did eat in the wilderness. But Jesus remained that those who ate manna in the desert are dead now. Jesus is offering the new bread that will lead them to everlasting life. Then Jesus makes this magnificent statement:


John 6: 51 "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."


Jesus is introducing Him as the source of eternal life. Human race is in a perpetual state of hunger, searching for food to satisfy the soul. This hunger refers to the emptiness that a person feels without Jesus in their lives. Manna in the desert satisfied their physical hunger. Jesus as the Bread of Life satisfies spiritual hunger. So Jesus transcended Moses. It is not Jesus will provide bread to humans, but that Jesus is the bread. He is the bread that Moses received from Heaven. He is the bread of life that will sustain us in eternity. 


2. I am the light of the world

The second “I AM” statement of Jesus is in John 8:12.


John 8: 12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."

Early in a morning Jesus went to the temple and taught the people who came to Him. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. They wanted Jesus to sentence her to death by stoning according to the Mosaic Law. But Jesus reinterpreted the law. He declared: "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." Jesus did not cancel the Mosaic Law. He reinterpreted the law by adding a qualification for the executioners of the punishment or in other words, Jesus said, “hi, go on punishing her by stoning her to death according the Mosaic Law. But the executioners must be without any sin.” The interpretation by Rabbi Jesus spoiled all the plans of the Jews. So all of them left her without stoning at her. Then Jesus looked at her, forgave her sins and let her go free with the advice: “go and sin no more”. 

Just after this incident, in verse 12 Jesus said: "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." Jesus is the light for those who live in the darkness of sin. Jesus is the light and hope for those who are condemned and hopeless. He is light for sinners, marginalized, condemned, sick, poor and abandoned people. They will bear the light of Jesus.

The same statement Jesus repeats in John 9:5 also. It is after He heals a blind man. This man was blind from his birth. The disciples related it to the sin committed by this man or his parents. Of course it was not because of his sins. He was born blind. The disciples were expressing a Jewish belief that blindness and leprosy were results of sins. But Jesus once again reinterpreted the Jewish belief. Jesus told that this man was born blind so that he will be healed miraculously by Him, revealing the works of God.

Jesus continued to say that He must work the works of God who send Him to this world, while it is day. The night is coming when no one can work. After this He makes the wonderful statement:


John 9:5  "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."


Healing the blind man was bringing light to him. He was brought to a world of light from a world of darkness. The Jews believed that he is born blind because his parents were sinners. So he was condemned by the Jews for the sins of his parents. But Jesus gave him light, declared that either he or his parents were sinners. Jesus delivered him the condemnation of sin. Jesus is the light and without Him everything is darkness.


3. I am the door

The third I AM statement is an exclusive claim to Himself. In John 10:9, Jesus said: “I am the door”. In verse 7 Jesus said that He was the door of the sheep. So Jesus was talking about the door of a sheep pen. Usually a sheep pen has only one door and the faithful shepherd lies across it. It has an entrance but no door to close it. The shepherded who lay across the entrance is the door. As long as he lies across the entrance the door is closed. When he rise and calls out the sheep, the door is opened. He is the door that closes and opens the entrance to the sheep pen. He is the watchman who closes and opens the door. His presence protects the sheep inside.

Jesus explains this statement in the following words. He is emphasizing on the exclusiveness of the door. The sheep pen has only one door and it is Jesus. Thieves and wolf enter not through the entrance of the pen but through other methods. They may be climb over the walls or break the walls or even through small holes on the wall. Jesus said that all those who enter the sheep pen through other ways are thieves and wolves. And true sheep will not listen to them and they will not follow them. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. Whereas Jesus came to give abundant life. 

Not only that since Jesus is the only door, all those who enters through Him into the pen will be saved. They will inherit the Kingdom of God and only they will inherit the Kingdom.


4. I am the good Shepherd

The fourth I AM statement is, “I am the good shepherd”. John records this statement in chapter 10 verse 11. Here Jesus explicitly states what He means by being the good shepherd. “The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep”. A shepherd has many duties of to perform. Feeding and caring the sheep are important duties of a shepherd. But that is not what Jesus meant when He claimed to be the good shepherd. Jesus says that a good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. He risks his life to protect and save them from wolves.

Whenever we read about a shepherd in the Bible, we remember Psalms 23:1. It is a psalm written by King David. He is the ideal king of Israel. The people who heard Jesus also remembered the same psalm. There David said: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” David goes on to speak about the provisions that a shepherd arranges for a sheep fold. He continues to speak about the protection the shepherd gives to the sheep. All these together gives a sheep a peaceful life free from anxieties and fear.


The imagery of Sheep always remind the Israelites about their exodus from Egypt. In Psalms 80:1, Asaph, the writer of the psalm, refers to journey. “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth!” Israelites knew that only God could have delivered them from the strong hold of Egyptians. Only God could lead them to the Promised Land. It is God who gave them victory over their enemies and an inheritance in the Promised Land.


These are the spiritual thoughts related to a shepherd in their mind. So when someone claims to be a good shepherd in the spiritual sense, he must be God or equaling himself to God. Here Jesus is claiming that He is the good shepherd who gives them victory over their enemies and an inheritance to the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the only good shepherd.

Jesus is speaking not about food, cloth and other material possessions. He is not speaking about an earthly victory over enemies in this world. Jesus is speaking about spiritual food and salvation from the slavery of satan. When He said that a good shepherd gives his life to save the sheep, Jesus wished the people to remember how David saved his sheep from a lion. This story is narrated in the 1 Samuel. The Israelites and King Saul were facing a Philistine giant in the battle field. David went there and he offered to fight against the giant. So Saul asked him whether he had any previous experience in any war field. David narrated an incident from his own life. It is recorded in 1 Samuel 17: 34-36. The story is like this: Once David was looking after his father’s sheep. Suddenly a lion came upon the sheep and took one of them. David ran after the lion to save the sheep. The lion turned back and attacked David. But David was ready to give his life to save the sheep. So he fought with the lion, killed the animal and saved the sheep and his life. A similar thing happened at another occasion when a bear attacked his sheep. David killed the bear also and saved the sheep. David is the shepherd who laid his life to save his father’s sheep from the enemy who came to kill them.

In John 10:12 Jesus makes what he said clearer by contrasting it with a hireling in charge of a sheep fold. A hireling is a daily wager who works for money. He has no other commitment either to the owner of the sheep fold or to the sheep. So when a wolf or any other wild animal comes to catch a sheep, he will not fight with the animal to save the sheep. He simply ran away to save his life. The wolf easily catches the sheep and the rest of them will be scattered. But a true shepherd is not a hireling. He may be the owner of the sheep fold or he may be shepherding the sheep of his father. He will not leave his sheep in times of danger. He is with the sheep not only to feed them but also to save them from the enemies. A hireling lives by the sheep and a true shepherd gives his life for the sheep.

Jesus is claiming that He is the shepherd the heavenly father has appointed to save His sheep from enemies. None other is a true shepherd. He shall prove His claim by giving His life to save the sheep.


5. I am the resurrection and the life

The fifth “I AM” statement is, “I am the resurrection and the life”. Jesus made this statement immediately before raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus claimed to be the resurrection and life and He resurrected Lazarus from the dead and gave him life. The story is narrated in John 11.

When Jesus reached the house of Lazarus at Bethany, Lazarus was already dead and laid in the tomb. Four days have passed after that. Still Jesus assured Martha that Lazarus will rise again. But Martha thought that Jesus was talking about the resurrection of the dead that will happen some day in the future. Then Jesus tells her: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11: 25, 26). After saying this, Jesus resurrected the dead Lazarus.

Many Jews were there watching this incident. The crown surely included the scribes. The scribes were a group of learned Jewish people who were in charge of making copies of the Old Testament. So they knew all scripture by heart. But they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. For them once a person dies, everything is over. There is no life after death and no resurrection. But the other major group among the Jews, the Pharisees believed in resurrection and after life.

Jesus was speaking to all of them. He said that he is the resurrection and life. Those who believes in Him, though he may die, shall live again. Jesus not only made this statement, He proved it by resurrecting Lazarus. He was proving that He could and will resurrect the dead for eternity. Those who believes in Him may die in this world but will be resurrected for an eternal life.

6. I am the way and the truth and the life

The sixth I AM statement of Jesus Christ is John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

He told his disciples that the time has come near for Him to go back to Heaven. The disciples were sad and perplexed. So He comforted them by saying that He is going before them to prepare a place for them to live in the Kingdom of God. And after that He shall come again and receive them. After that they will live eternally where He will be. So their heart should not be troubled. Jesus also said that they already know where He is going and the way to the place. The disciples were more confused. They did not know where he is going. Their expectation was an earthly kingdom for Israelites. Now Jesus is talking about another place where He is going. So Thomas frankly told Jesus that they are totally ignorant about the place He is going and hence know nothing about the way to it. And Jesus replied: "I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

Jesus is telling that He is the way to place where He is going. He continues to clarify that He is going to the Father in Heaven. And Jesus also affirmed that, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Here is the key to understand the first sentence. Jesus was telling that He is the way and there is no other way.

Jews believed that their religion is the way to the eternity. Only Jews will inherit the kingdom of God. Only the rituals and rites of the Jewish religion will atone human sins. To these Jews, Jesus is telling that the Jewish religion is not the way to heaven. The rituals of the Jewish religion is not the way to the heavenly Father. Jesus is the way. Jesus is the only way to the Kingdom of God. He is the truth of the Heavenly kingdom, He is the eternal life.

Jesus in not one way to the Heavenly Kingdom. He is the only way to it. There are not many ways to salvation. Jesus is not one source of eternal life, He is only source of eternal life. And all those who know and believe in Him have already found the way to the eternal life.

7. I am the true vine

The seventh “I AM” statement is in John 15:1. It is, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” The statement shows how we are related to Christ and how we are sustained. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. The branches bears fruit.

We have to note three things in this statement. No branch sustains without being attached to the main tree. The vine is the source of life for a branch. No branch is sustained by itself. If it is cut off from the tree, it will be withered. A withered branch is good only for fire. All branches should bear fruit. The fruit proves that the branch is connected to the exact tree. And the branch, if it a true branch, bears the fruit of the tree. The branch does not choose the fruit, but the tree decides the fruit. The branch, being attached to the tree bears the fruit of the tree. The tree is known by the fruit, not the branch is known by the fruit. The fruit belongs to the tree. The branch just bears it for the world.  

Two more I AM statement

There are two more I AM statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John. But they are not metaphors. They are declarations of God’s names, applied to Jesus Himself. In John 8:58 Jesus told the Pharisees, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." Jesus said, “Abraham was” and “I AM”. He used past tense for Abraham and present tense for Him. Surely He was claiming to be the eternal God incarnate. The Jews understood this and so they took up stones to kill Him (8:59).

Another instance of Jesus applying to Himself the name I AM is in the Garden of Gethsemane. When the soldiers came to arrest Him, Jesus asked, “Whom are you seeking”. When they answered that they were searching of Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus said to them, “I am He”.  (John 18:6). Then something strange happened. The soldiers drew back and fell to the ground. Perhaps Jesus’ word might have echoed the Old Testament phrase God used to introduce Himself to Moses: “I AM WHO I AM”. Jesus meant it. They were arresting God incarnate. And they could arrest Him only because Jesus has surrendered willingly to them for arrest, trial and crucifixion. 

Let me cut short this study. The seven I AM statements confirms the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies about Jesus. It explicitly proves that Jesus is God.

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