Who do you say I am?



A few weeks ago, we had a Weekend with Jesus retreat designed for ladies to discover their story within “His-Story” and one of the topics was “I am” statements for followers of Jesus.  After the retreat I spoke about Moses and his encounter with God at the burning bush.  It was then that God revealed himself to Moses as - “I AM WHO I AM”.  This was a life changing moment for Moses and propelled him into becoming the deliverer of the Nation of Israel held captive in Egypt.  The “I AM” of God was a progressive revelation throughout the Old Testament becoming fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.  This morning I want to introduce to us the “I AM” sayings of the New Testament in relation to Jesus Christ.

“I AM” Sayings

Jesus often used the saying “I am” (Ego eimi in the Greek) within the Gospels, especially in John’s Gospel as we shall see in the weeks ahead.  Jesus uses this expression in several ways, which describes who he is in character and capabilities.  In one sense, he states “I am the good shepherd” revealing his love and caring.  In a more profound sense, he states, “I am he” declaring his divinity.   Jesus draws on Exodus 3:14 and Moses encounter with super-natural Yahweh,  “asserting His eternality, self-existence, and changelessness, and claiming to bear Yahweh’s presence on Earth.”   (Jeffrey E. Miller, “I Am Sayings,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).)

Exodus 3:14 NIV84

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”

He is our true deliver who sets us free from captivity to Satan, self and sin.  Jesus does not say “I was” which would diminish or devalue his divine nature.  In many translation the word “he” (“I am he”) is used to remind us that Jesus is present with us.  In other words, when Jesus states, “I am” to us in the Scriptures, he is saying - “I am all you need me to be when you need me to be it.”  When we need a deliverer from the evil one, Jesus says, “I am He, our deliverer.”  When we need transformation in our inner life, Jesus says “I am He, our sanctifier.”  When we need forgiveness of sins, Jesus says “I am He, our Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Hallelujah... 

Who do you say I am?

There is an interesting interaction between Jesus and his disciples in Matt 16:13-20. 

The New International Version (1984) Peter’s Confession of Christ

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock,  I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

Those of Jesus’ day respond to the question by saying, John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.  They were uncertain of Jesus - “I am.”  People today have a view of who Jesus is,  although it often has nothing to do with what the Bible tells us.  Some would say he was a good teacher, some a good man,  a would say we should live like him,  others that he was just some guy in the past.  Other religions have a view of who Jesus is,  but it does not line up with the Bible.  Some would say he was a god not the God, some say he is a godly prophet or teacher, others would say he is one of the sons of a god, some say he is the brother of Satan or just a man sent by god.  The various responses to idea behind the question, “Who do you say I am?”  simply reveal that many people do not know Jesus as “I AM”.

•    The religious leaders of Jesus day responded to Jesus “I am” statements by picking up stones, John 8:58-59. 

John 8:58–59 NIV84

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

•    In another passage, John 18:6, those who came to arrest Jesus fell on their faces.

John 18:6 NIV84

When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

•    “Who do you say I am?”  Simon’s response to the “I am” question, is powerful -  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 

Why are there such differences to the same question?  Simon (Peter) got it, but what were the others missing?  Most of the people did not understand Jesus’ purpose and were looking for the wrong thing.  Moses delivered the people of God from the captivity and corruption of Egypt.  Once again, the people of Israel needed a deliverer.  They were under the harsh, tyrannical rule of the Roman Empire and were looking for a conqueror or a military ruler.  So, they missed the point of Jesus living in their midst and all that scripture was speaking of in regard to a Messiah.   There can be times in our lives when we get so wrapped up in the moment, whether the excitement or the mess, we miss the meaning of what a person is telling us because we are so overjoyed or upset. 

Jesus was coming to set the captives free, Luke 4:18-19.

Luke 4:18–19 NIV84

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Two Roads to Travel

We have looked at a few passages of Jesus speaking to us throughout the gospels about himself.  When Jesus finished preaching in his hometown, Nazareth of Galilee, about how the Spirit of God was empowering him (Luke 4:16-30), the reaction of his friends was to throw him off a cliff.  Jesus evaded the crowd and walked right through them.  Jesus did not focus on the negative, or succumb to rejection.  He moved forward in his calling and drove out demons on a Sabbath in the near future.

There are times when our troubles seem to get the best of us, and our mole hills become mountains and we feel overcome by our challenges.  Maybe we feel sting of rejection, or the consequences of bad decisions.  In the midst of these times, Jesus is asking, “who do you say I am?”  We can travel the road of self-pity or fear and find ourselves wandering from God.  Our response to him determines what path we will take in life.  We need to be careful so that we do not find ourselves growing distant from God.

On the other hand, Simon’s response was to declare that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16).  Jesus in turn brings blessing down upon Simon.  The blessing involved a name change.  Simon becomes Peter as a result of divine revelation from the Father.  This is a good experience similar to the burning bush but far more personal.  Jesus, the “I am” of Heaven on earth, is blessing Simon, now Peter, by speaking blessing which often involved the laying on of hands, physical touch.  I am sure that Jesus would often rub shoulders, so to speak, with his disciples as they ate together, or as they walked along the road.  But in this case Jesus is spiritually and physically reaching out to touch Simon Peter.  This wasn’t the touch of deliverance from demons or healing from sickness.  This was a supernatural blessing that was to establish God’s church (ekklesia - gathering of saints) on earth. 

In conclusion

The “I AM” sayings of Jesus found in the Scriptures give us great insight into who Jesus is in both character and capabilities.  The sayings are to be part of our normal faith journey with God.  He is our “I AM” in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.  He is all that we need right when we need it.  He is our God who calls us by name and at times changes our name to reveal more of himself to us (Onesimus - personal story)…  When the road seems challenging in life, Jesus is ready to spiritually and physically touch us with his blessings and encouragement.  There are times when I or you may become the hands and mouth of Jesus extending his blessings. 

Because I am a follower of Jesus, I too, can make I am statements that are true of my life in Christ. 

In my devotions this week I wrote:

•    I am forgiven completely but sometimes sin…

•    I am healed fully but sometimes sick…

•    I am a child of God all the time…

•    I am blessed in Christ…

Amen, Let’s pray