“Who are you?”
This is the question the Jews asked Jesus. To us, the answer may seem obvious. It reminds me of an episode of Get Smart in which a man who was supposed to be dead re-appears.
“Montabello!” Max Smart’s sidekick, 99, exclaims out of surprise.
“Montabello!” another character gasps.
“Who are you?” dim-witted Max asks.
The Jews in John 8 are not so much dim-witted as dark-hearted.
Who is Jesus? He Himself has told us, and we’d better listen.
“I AM!” He proclaims. It bothers me that most English translations effectively obscure what Jesus is saying about Himself. 9 times in John’s Gospel, by my count, Jesus proclaims Himself to be “I AM!” (4:20;6:20;8:24, 28 and 58;13:19; 18:5, 6 and 8). Most of the time our English translations come up with something wimpy like, “It is I,” effectively obscuring what Jesus is really saying about Himself. In the original Greek, Jesus says, “ego eimi.” Jesus could have just said, “Ego,” but “ego eimi” suggests an intensification.
For example, in verse 24, Jesus is not saying, “I am he,” but “I AM!” In the context of verse 24, it wouldn’t even make much sense for Him to say, “I am he” because there is not a clear antecedent.
What Jesus says of Himself is this: “If you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.”
Jesus repeats His claim to be I AM in verse 28. In fact, this has been His consistent claim throughout the Gospel of John: I AM!
I AM! Do we remember and truly know what Jesus is claiming here? In Exodus 3, when God appears to Moses at the burning bush, God tells Moses that He is the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob. Moses responds by asking, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
Moses persists and wants to know God’s name. God reveals His Name to be “I AM WHO I AM” and “I AM.”
When Moses looks at himself and knows himself incapable of doing what God has asked him to do, he says, “Who am I?” God’s answer, contrary to the thinking some modern Christians, isn’t to say, “Why Moses, you’re O.K. You’re a good person. You’re smart enough, you’re good enough, and doggone it – people like you!”
God’s answer to Moses’ self doubts was not to say anything at all about Moses himself. God’s answer was to teach or remind Moses about who He was and what He had promised to His people.
“Who am I to do your will?” Moses asks, to which God responds simply: “I AM.”
“Who are you?” the Jews and modern day skeptics and unbelievers ask, to which Jesus Christ says, “I AM.”
There are 2 applications I want to make this morning. First, when trying to speak the Truth to people, focus on Jesus Christ and Who HE IS. The problem most people have with biblical authority and with God’s clear commandments is not just with the need to obey God in ways they don’t want to but is ultimately a problem with God Himself. If you want to get to the heart of people’s problems, ask them who they say Jesus Christ is. Very often, those who say that their favorite variety of fornication (any sex outside of the marriage of a man and a woman) is O.K., for example, will deny that Jesus Christ is I AM and is one with the Father and that He is the only way to the Father.
Some of them will take out their Jeffersonian scissors and tear out all the pages of the Old Testament. But they don’t like St. Paul much either, even though his letters were among the first parts of the New Testament written. So they take out those scissors and cut out Paul. Even the Gospels are not safe from Thomas Scissorshands, and out goes everything they don’t like.
But even the red-letter words of Jesus Himself condemn them, for here is what Jesus says about Himself: “If you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.”
If people reject the truth of Christianity and biblical morality, remember that they are really rejecting Jesus Christ, I AM, Himself.
The second application is more personal. Who do you say and who do you believe Jesus Christ is? Most of you will rightly say that Jesus Christ is I AM and is one with the Father. But I wonder if we really appreciate Who HE IS. We may not have seen God in a bush that burns and is never consumed, but that is the God WHO IS. We may not have seen the 10 plagues or the parting of theRed Sea, but I AM is the One who has done these things. I AM is the One who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing and created all of the delightful people in your life.
Jesus, I AM, is the One WHO IS GOD but became man and the One who died that man might live. HE IS the resurrection and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by Him. Isaiah and Ezekiel saw I AM, and they fell on their faces. Saul of Tarsus was met by I AM on the way toDamascus, and was knocked down and blinded for 3 days (didn’t his mother tell him not to stare at the Son?) St. Johnsaw I AM and falls down at His feet like a dead man.
Jesus says I AM. Not “I am your bestest friend.” Not “I am your lover.” Not “I am your friendly neighborhood non-judgmental, mild-mannered, hang out buddy, carbon credits dude.”
As you come before the Lord today, as you dwell in His presence, above all else remember Who HE IS.
Who is He?
Prayer: Lord God Almighty, the great I AM, I ask that you forgive me for all of the times when I have not acknowledged you to be I AM. Forgive me for thinking that you are a human such as I am. Show me as much of Yourself as I am able to accept. Show Me yourself through the One WHO IS the Bread of Life; the Light of the World; the Gate for the Sheep; the Good Shepherd; the Resurrection and the Life; the Way, the Truth, and the Life; and the Vine.
Points for Meditation:
1. What are some moments in your life when you have experienced God as I AM?
2. As you remember who God is this morning, what is He making you aware of, and what is He asking you to do?
Resolution: I resolve to spend some time remembering and experiencing God as I AM. After I have done this, I resolve to say to Him, “Here I am. Send me.”
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Get Smart – wikipedia article on Get Smart.jpg