Jesus is the Eternal "I AM"
JESUS IS THE ETERNAL “I AM!”
by Dr. D. W. Ekstrand
God (Yahweh) repeatedly disclosed Himself in the Old Testament with the words “I AM.”
Printable pdf Version of this StudyWhenGodtoldMosesthatHehadchosenhimtodeliverHispeoplefromoutofthehandsof the Egyptians, he responded to God saying, “What shall I say to the sons of Israel when they ask WHO sent me? God told to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM — tell them ‘I AM’ has sent you”. Though the phrase seems strange and awkward to those of us in theEnglish speaking world, in Hebrew it was not — literally this phrase means, “I am the One who is… I am that I am… I am who I am… I will be what I will be… I am the Existing One… I am the Absolute One.” If you blend all of those ideas into a “single idea,” that is the essence of who God is. In the book of Isaiah, the meaning of God as the “Absolute One” is revealedby His attributes — He is sovereign, uncreated, unimaginable, personal, master of history, holy, the universal monarch whose purposes cannot ultimately be thwarted.
- When God told Moses that He had chosen him to deliver His people from out of the hands of the Egyptians,he responded to God saying, “What shall I say to the sons of Israel when they ask WHO sent me? God told to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM — tell them ‘I AM’ has sent you”. Though the phrase seems strange and awkward to those of us in theEnglish speaking world, in Hebrew it was not — literally this phrase means, “I am the One who is… I am that I am… I am who I am… I will be what I will be… I am the Existing One… I am the Absolute One.” If you blend all of those ideas into a “single idea,” that is the essence of who God is. In the book of Isaiah, the meaning of God as the “Absolute One” is revealedby His attributes — He is sovereign, uncreated, unimaginable, personal, masterof history, holy, the universal monarch whose purposes cannot ultimately be thwarted.
- God said to Abraham, “I am the LORD (Yahweh) who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans”… “I am God Almighty” .
- God said to Moses, “I am the LORD (Yahweh) your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt” .
- God said to Moses, “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD (Yahweh), Idid not make Myself known to them”… so the name YAHWEH (Jehovah) was unknown to the patriarchs. Up until the time of Moses,God was known as the transcendent, sovereign supreme deity, the almighty, all-powerful Creator of the universe — ELOHIM — not as Jehovah, the personal name of the covenant-keeping God. So during the time in which God delivered His people out of bondageinEgypt,He revealedHispersonalcharacterasagracious, loving, merciful, redemptive, compassionate God — this is what is embodied in the nameYAHWEH. So Yahweh denotes that aspect of God’s character that is personal rather than transcendent. Notice the twenty-five personal pronouns used by God in first twelve verses of Exodus , and the seven “I will’s” in verses . Though the name “Jehovah” was used by Moses in the writing of the Pentateuch (thefirstfivebooksoftheLaw),the name“Jehovah”tookon new significance when the children of Israel were delivered out of Egyptian bondage. By the way,intheOld Testament when the name YAHWEH (Jehovah) is being translated into English,it is generally rendered “LORD” (using all capitals withnolower case letters). To illustrate, read the following passages: : Ps 1:1-2; 3:1-3; 5:1-2; 6:1-2; 7:1; 8:1; 9:1-2; 10:1; 11:1; 13:1).
In the New Testament Jesus responded to a group of Jews who were questioning Him, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM” (Jn 8:58). Notice what Jesus did not say: He did not say, “Before Abraham was, I was” — that might simply mean that He came into existence before Abraham; rather, He used the Name of God: “I AM.” There was never a time when Jesus came into being, or when He did not exist — therefore He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” God transcends time… He exists outside of time… He is eternal! Jesus’ applica- tion of the words “I am” to Himself not only denoted His preexistence but associated Him with Yahweh. Jesus used ego eimi (“I am” in Greek) in an absolute, unqualified sense (Jn 4:26; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5-8) to appropriate for Himself the Old Testament name of God (Ex 3:14). Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise given to Abraham (Jn 8:56). Incidentally, the Jews understood exactly what Jesus meant — that He was claiming to be Yahweh! It was for this reason they sought to stone Him (Jn 8:59), because to them this was blasphemy! The fact that Jesus claimed an explicit self-identification with Yahweh (Jn 8:58-59; 13:19-20), caused His opponents to ultimately have Him crucified (Mt 26:63-67; Mk 14:61-65; 15:2-3, 12-13; Lk 22:66-71; Jn 19:1-22). In the New Testament, many of Jesus’ “I am” sayings possess a subjective completion; by examining His “truth claims” we will gain a better understanding of exactly who He is. In short, Jesus made the following ten claims —
- I am the Christ (Mt 26:63-64; Mk 14:61-62) — Jesus is the Messiah, God’s anointed One.
- I am the bread of life (Jn 6:35) — Jesus is our spiritual food.
- I am the light of the world (Jn 8:12) — Jesus gives us spiritual sight.
- I am the door (Jn 10:9) — Jesus is the way of salvation.
- I am the good shepherd (Jn 10:11) — Jesus provides us with spiritual guidance.
- I am the Son of God (Mt 26:63-64; 27:43; Lk 1:32; Jn 10:36; Rom 1:3) — Jesus is God incarnate.
- I am the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25) — Jesus is our spiritual life.
- I am the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6) — Jesus is the way to heaven and source of truth & life.
- I am the true vine (Jn 15:1) — Jesus is the source of spiritual life.
- I am the King of the Jews (Jn 19:21) — Jesus is the Eternal King of God’s Eternal Kingdom.
THE TEN “TRUTH CLAIMS” OF JESUS
1. I am “the Christ” (Mt 26:63-64; Mk 14:61-62) — The Hebrew word Mehssiuh meaning “anointed one,” was translated into Greek as Christos… so since apostolic times the name Christ has become the proper name of Jesus, the God-given Redeemer of Israel and the Church. In all the thirty-nine instances that this word occurs in the Old Testament, it was translated “Christos” by the Jewish scholars when they translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek in the 3rd century BC. In the Old Testament this word “anointed” had to do with installing a person in an office in a way that the person would be regarded as accredited by Jehovah God — prophets such as Elisha were set apart in this way (1 Kg 19:16)… Israelite kings were particu-larly hailed as “the Lord’s anointed” (Jud 9:8-15; 1 Sam 2:10; 12:3; 24:6, 10; 2 Sam 23:1; Ps 2:2; 20:6:132:17; Lam 4:20) — beginning with Saul (1 Sam 9-10), David (1 Sam 9:16; 16:3, 6, 13; 2 Sam 2:4; 5:3; Ps 89:20), and Solomon (1 Kg 1:39). The royal family of David are mentioned by the title of the “anointed ones” (2 Sam 22:51; 2 Kg 11:12; 23:30; Ps 2:2; 20:6; 28:8; 84:9). The king in Israel thus became a sacred person to whom loyalty and respect were to be accorded (1 Sam 24:6; 4:10; 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Sam 1:14, 16). The oracle spoken by Nathan the prophet (2 Sam 7:12-16) is important since it centers the hope of Israel on the dynasty of David for succeeding generations. The high priest was also set apart and anointed (Ex 28:41; 29:7; 40:15; Lev 4:3, 5, 16; Num 3:3) — after the Exile in Babylon the priesthood came into prominence; in the absence of a king the high priest took on a central role in the community, and the rite of “anointing” was the outward sign of his authority to function as God’s representative; this authority was traced back to Aaron and his sons (Ex 29:7-9; 30:22-33; Ps 133:2). In biblical usage, anointing is an “act of consecration” — the setting apart of someone for the holy work of God. The “anointing” was done by applying oil (generally olive oil) or perfume on persons or things for holy use (Ex 29:1, 7; 30:22-30; 40:13). In the New Testament we’re told that Jesus’ feet were anointed with myrrh (Lk 7:38) and nard (Jn 12:3).
During and following the Exile, the expectation of a “coming Messiah” came into sharper focus, commencing with Jeremiah’s and Ezekiel’s vision of a Messiah who would combine the traits of royalty and priestly dignity (Jer 33:14-18; Ezek 46:1-8). Of this Messiah nearly all of the Old Testament prophets prophesied (Is 7:14; 9:1-6; 11:1-16; 49:6; 52:13-53:12; 61:1-3; Mic 5:1-4; Amos 9:11-15; Jer 23:5-6; Ezek 34 & 36; Hag 2:20-22; Zech 4:1-14; 6:9-15; 9:9-10; Mal 3:1-4; 4:1-3). During the time of Jesus a question was posed, “Is this not the Christ, the Messiah?” (Jn 4:29; 7:40-43). The issue of the “Messiah’s identity and role” was much debated among the Jews in the first century. Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” a question to which Peter replied, “Thou art the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One” (Mk 8:29). For Peter and other Jews during the first century, the concept of “Messiah” was a title of a glorious personage both nationalistic and victorious in battle. Jesus, however, saw His destiny in terms of a suffering Son of man and Servant of God (Mk 8:31-38; Mk 9:31; 10:33-34). The course of Jesus’ ministry is one in which He sought to wean the disciples away from the traditional notion of a “warring Messiah;” instead He tried to instill in their minds the prospect that the road to His future glory was by way of the cross. At His trial before Jewish judges (Mt 26-63-66) He reinterpreted the title “Messiah/Christ” and gave it a content in terms of the Son of man figure, based on Daniel the prophet (7:13-14); this confession secured His condemnation, and He went to the cross as a “crucified Messiah” because the Jewish leaders failed to perceive the true nature of “Messiahship” as Scripture and Jesus presented it. It was only after the resurrection that the disciples were in a position to see how Jesus was truly a “King Messiah” and how He then opened their minds to what “true Messiahship” meant (Lk 24:45-46). The national title “Messiah” then took on a broader connotation, involving a kingly role which was to embrace all people everywhere (Lk 24:46-47). Incidentally, Jewish scholars during the time of Christ believed the Tanakh (i.e., Jewish Scriptures / the Old Testament) contained more than one hundred Messianic prophecies. Following are a few of the “Messianic Prophecies” that were fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ —
- The Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham (Gen 22:18).
- The Messiah was to be another prophet like Moses (Deut 18:15-18).
- The Messiah would sit on the throne of King David forever (2 Sam 7:16).
- The Messiah would be born of a virgin (Is 7:14).
- The Messiah would be a son called God (Is 9:6-7).
- The Messiah would perform miracles (Is 35:4-6).
- The Messiah would be preceded by a messenger (Is 40:1-5, 9).
- The Messiah would be spat upon and beaten (Is 50:6).
- The Messiah would be rejected (Is 53:1-3; Dan 9:24-26).
- The Messiah (God’s Servant) would die for our sins (Is 53:4-6).
- The Messiah (God’s Servant) would be silent before His accusers (Is 53:7).
- The Messiah (God’s Servant) would be numbered with transgressors (Is 53:12).
- The Messiah would be a descendant of King David (Jer 23:5).
- The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Mic 5:1-2; cf. Mt 2:1-18).
- The Messiah would be betrayed by a friend (Ps 41:9).
- The Messiah would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey (Zech 9:9).
- The Messiah would be pierced; foreshadowing the crucifixion (Zech 12:10).
Jesus was the Messiah by divine appointment (Acts 2:36; Rom 1:3-4) — “God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and power when He was baptized by John the Baptist” (Lk 4:16-22; Acts 10:38); this was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Is 61:1); the letter to the Hebrews is rich in this theme (cf. Heb 1:9; 2:2-4; 9:14-15). Jesus is the One promised of God as the Great Deliverer, the Anointed One of God, the Messiah, the Christ (Jn 1:41; 6:14; Mk 8: 29; Acts 10: 38). The whole of the Old Testament is to be looked upon as bearing a prophetic character of God’s gracious manifestation of Himself to man, and the establishment of His kingdom on the earth… thus Judaism points to a transcendent Messiah from heaven (both human and divine) who would establish the kingdom of God on earth (cf. Is 9, 11; Zech 9, 12). The highest glory of Israel lay in the fact that from her as a nation would come forth this “Anointed One” who would relate God to all humanity. After Jesus was betrayed and arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was taken before “Caiaphas” the high priest for questioning. The Law of Moses required that a Jew testify when put under oath by the high priest (Lev 5:1), so He said to Jesus, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God” — Jesus responded “I am” (Mk 14:61-62), “It is as you say” (Jn 4:25-26). Jesus then went on to assert His Messiahship and deity even more strongly by declaring that “a day is coming when you shall see Me as the glorified One, sitting at the right hand of God and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mt 26:64). During His first advent Jesus’ glory was veiled in a human body… He simply appeared to be just another human being… so men only saw Him in His humiliation (Phil 2:7)… but a day is coming when Jesus will be seen in all His glory! Caiaphas did not miss the point! He understood exactly what Jesus was saying — “He was claiming equality with God!” (Jn 5:18), so Caiaphas immediately “tore his priestly robes,” and along with the other members of the Jewish supreme court (known as the Council or Sanhedrin) said, “He has blasphemed and is deserving of death!” (Mt 26:65-66). The Mosaic Law clearly taught that one who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death” (Lev 24:16) — but a claim to deity would only be blasphemous “if it were false.”
2. I am the “Bread of Life” (Jn 6:35) — Bread was a staple food in ancient Israel and made daily in every household; the root word for “bread” in Hebrew is lechem. Wheat and barley were the primary components of bread (Ex 29:2; 2 Kg 4:42); wheat was preferred, but it was also more expensive than barley, and more scarce in hard times. When God chastened the Israelites, He would threaten to “break their staff of bread” by severely limiting it (Lev 26:26), which was the very source of their survival. On the other hand, when God promised “a land where you may eat bread (lechem) without scarcity” (Deut 8:9), He was offering them life. The importance of bread extended to the religious life of the Jews as well — “grain offerings” were part of the sacrificial system (Lev 2:4)… furthermore, the Law of Moses required “setting showbread (the bread of His presence) on the table of showbread in the Tabernacle before the face of LORD at all times” (Ex 25:20) — the showbread was replaced every Sabbath and eaten by the priests; this foreshadowed the bread of the Lord’s Supper that is eaten by Christians (1 Cor 11:23-26). When the children of Israel were in the wilderness after exiting Egypt, God fed them “manna” saying, “I will rain bread from heaven for you” (Ex 16:4) — this bread was a miracle food from heaven that God provided for His people (Ex 16:4-21). Incidentally, both bread and wine were the most significant foods in both the Jewish and Christian cultures, and were central to the rituals of both religions (the Passover meal and the Lord’s Supper).
Technically, when bread is consumed in Jewish culture it is considered a “meal,” so Jewish meals begin with the “blessing of the bread” and then the sharing of bread together. The words of the blessings are succinct and to the point: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” Though most people today in our culture simply “buy bread,” everywhere in antiquity, and in much of the world even today, farmers first plough the earth by animal-drawn implements that are hard to use (Gen 3:17-19)… then they sow the seed by hand, and anxiously wait and pray for rain, without which there would be no crops come spring (1 Cor 3:6). Once the grain grows and ripens, there is still the hard task of reaping it and sorting it so that inedible matter is removed… the grain must be extracted from the husk by threshing… then it is winnowed (tossed in the air with a pitch-fork) so that the lightweight chaff is blown away and separated from the heavier kernels… which are then ground into flour… the flour is then sifted again to separate out any foreign matter… then it is mixed with liquid and kneaded into dough — only then can baking occur. So intense labor goes into the making of bread; thus there is a profound moral lesson against taking the bread one eats for granted. In the Western world today, few people have much regard for the labor involved in the production of bread; hence they don’t have a very high level of appreciation for the food they eat (i.e., the staple bread was without peer; essentially it was “the staff of life.” In the Mosaic Law we are told, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD” (Deut 8:3)… meaning, people need more than just bread (physical food) to live, because “the life of God” is the life for which we were created; and that means submitting to His Word (the bread of life).
Jesus is the “bread of heaven which gives eternal life” — He is the source of “true spiritual nourishment” (Jn 6:48-51; 4:7-14)… those who eat (partake) of the bread which comes down from heaven will never die, because such bread results in “life” eternal. Obviously the Lord was not referring to physical bread that nourishes the body, but to spiritual bread which feeds the soul. As Jesus proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount, the human need to know God is expressed metaphorically as hungering and thirsting (Mt 5:6; Ps 42:1-2; 63:1). We live in a spirit-ually hungry world desperate for meaning and hope in life. From the very beginning, human beings were created to serve God and fellowship with Him (Gen 1:26; 3:8) — He was to be both their focus and their fulfillment. By rejecting Him, men and women have been left with an aching void deep in their souls. In their misguided attempts to fill that emptiness, like Israel of old, they have forsaken the Lord, “the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jer 2:13)… as such they discover only the horrifying meaninglessness of a godless life. Modern man here in the West has increasingly disregarded God, and has come to believe that “he is simply the accidental by-product of nature, a result of matter plus time plus chance; that there is no reason for his existence.” As Christian apologist William Lane Craig puts it in his book Apologetics: An Introduction, “[Apart from God] mankind is a doomed race in a dying universe…. the same blind cosmic process that coughed them up in the first place will eventually swallow them again. Modern man thought that when he had got rid of God, he had freed himself from all that repressed and stifled him; instead he discovered that in killing God, he had also killed himself” (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984, pp. 39-41). Jesus emphatically said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes [in Me] has eternal life” (Jn 6:47-48). To eat of the bread of life is to “believe in Christ and trust Him com-pletely,” and acknowledge that salvation comes solely through faith in Him (Jn 14:6; Acts 4:12). As Augustine said, “Believe and you have eaten;” so it is by “faith” that we experience the “impartation of divine nourishment” that gives us “eternal life.” Jesus Christ is the food of heaven for the famished soul, the only One who can satisfy the deepest longs of the human heart… He alone satisfies “our spiritual hunger” and quenches “our spiritual thirst.” Mere man cannot satisfy his own spiritual hunger or thirst — only Christ can do that. Just as food is useless unless it is eaten, so also spiritual truth does no good if it is not internalized; merely knowing the truth without acting upon it profits absolutely nothing (Heb 4:2). Reflect upon the words of Jeremiah, “Thy words were found and I ate them, and they became for me the joy and delight of my heart” (Jer 15:16; Ezek 3:3; Ps 119:103).
3. I am the “Light of the World” (Jn 8:12) — The backdrop against which Jesus emphatically claims that He is the “light of the world,” is the reality that the world apart from Him lies in total darkness and sin, and is completely blind to the truth. Picture yourself in a dark cave where there is not the slightest bit of light — that is the spiritual condition of man apart from God — without some degree of light it is not possible to see anything. So darkness is nothing more than the “absence of light” — even a small degree of light will overcome the darkness! Though we as believers may not have a million watts of light shining in our hearts, we have “sufficient light” within us to discern the truth — take your children into a dark closet and light a “small candle” and show them how even a little flickering light dispels the darkness. The truth is, light always involves the removal of darkness. The apostle Paul said, “Though at the present time we see through a glass dimly, there will come a day when we will Him face to face; though we know now only in part, then we shall know Him fully, just as we have been fully known” (1 Cor 13:12). As believers we have the wonderful assurance that the flicker-ing light of life within us will never be extinguished (Is 42:3; Mt 12:20) — by the way, we can increase the spiritual light in our hearts by “growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ” (2 Pet 3:18). Scripture tells us that those who follow Jesus have “the light of life” within them and are delivered from the domain of absolute darkness (Col 1:13; 1 Th 5:5; Eph 5:8; 1 Pet 2:9); just as the sun is the physical light of the world, so Jesus is the spiritual light of the world. Apart from Christ there is no deliverance from the blackness and curse of sin… no guidance on the journey of life… no knowledge as to the real meaning of life and the issues of eternity.
Throughout the Old Testament “light” is regularly associated with God and His Word, with salvation, with truth, and with life (Ps 18:28; 27:1; Mic 7:8). The New Testament resonates with these themes — God “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim 6:16)… He is light (1 Jn 1:5)… He is the Father of lights (Jam 1:17) who dispels the darkness. Light is the revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ and the penetra-tion of that love into lives darkened by sin (1 Jn 1:5-7), that they may no longer remain in darkness (Jn 12:46). “God made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). Those responding to the light are ushered into that sphere of existence where darkness is dispelled. Salvation brings light to those in darkness (Job 22:28; Ps 27:1; Is 9:2; Mt 4:15-16), and provides light to the heart and mind, giving guidance in a dark world (Ps 19:7-10; 119:105; 119:130). Believers are “sons of light” (Jn 12: 36; Eph 5:8; 1 Th 5:5)… thus believers are “light-bearers” (Mt 5:14-16)… their lives are a shining light of witness to the world around them (Eph 5:8; Phil 2:15). It is the task of all believers to pass on the divine light they have received to others (Mt 10:27; Lk 12:3); all those who have entered into the light now bear responsibility as “missionaries of Christ,” shining as “lights in a dark world” (Mt 5:14-16; Phil 2:15).
Jesus proclaimed that “those who follow Him do not walk in darkness, because the light of life now dwells in them” (Jn 8:12; 2 Cor 4:6; 1 Pet 2:9; Job 33:30). As the light of the world, Jesus exposes sin (Jn 8:1-11) and gives sight (Jn 9:1-7). The apostle John began his gospel with these words, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (Jn 1:4; 1 Jn 1:5); Jesus provides men with the guidance and direction they need to travel the pathway of life. The entrance of sin into the world brought “darkness” to the hearts and minds of men and plunged the world into total darkness in the sense that men in general neither knew God nor wanted to know Him (Jn 1:5; 3:19). It was into “this dark, dead, sinful world” that the Lord Jesus came — a “light” shining in a dark place — “but men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (Jn 3:19; Jer 17:9). Men without light in their hearts have “no regard for God whatsoever” — because He is not the “central concern” of their lives, they simply live for themselves and live by their own rules (Mt 10:37-39; Mt 19:22; Mk 8:34-38). There can be no life in men as long they are estranged from God, and indifferent to His life and love. When the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts “we will walk accordingly” (Rom 8:5-9); as believers we are exhorted to “walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8; Phil 2:15), and “let our light shine before men that they might glorify our Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:16).
4. I am the “Door of the Sheep” (Jn 10:7, 9) — The Pharisees had claimed to be the rightful shepherd of the people of Israel (Jn 9:13ff; 9:40-41). So it was to them in particular that the Lord Jesus spoke in a parable about the “Door of the Sheep” — Jesus frequently used para-bles to teach “spiritual truths;” a parable was simply a matter of using a commonly known physical reality to teach a spiritual reality. Shepherding was extremely common in the land of Palestine 2,000 years ago… literally, there were thousands of shepherds throughout the land… sheep were a vitally important part of the possessions of the ancient Hebrews as well as other Eastern nations — they were used in sacrificial offerings, both the adult animal and (Ex 20:24; 1 Kg 8:63; 2 Chron 29:23) the lamb (Ex 29:38; Lev 9:3; 12:6; Num 28:9)… sheep and lambs also formed an important article of food (1 Sam 25:18; 1 Kg 1:19; 4:23; Ps 44:11), and the wool was used for clothing (Lev 13:47; Deut 22:11; Prv 31:13; Job 31:20). It is very striking to notice the immense numbers of sheep that were reared in Palestine in biblical times; there were probably some two million spread throughout the land. One of the “gates” to the city of Jerusalem was called the “Sheep Gate” (Neh 3:1, 32; 12:39) — the “gate of the flock.”
In the dialogue Jesus had with the Pharisees He said, “Most assuredly I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs in some other way, is a thief” (v. 1); you’ll notice that Jesus is not “a door,” He is “the door.” Contrary to what many want to believe, “there is no other way!” (Jn 14:6). As Solomon said, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prv 14:12; 16:25). The “sheepfold” was an out-door enclosure in which sheep were sheltered at night — they would spend their entire day grazing in green pastures, but when evening came the shepherd would bring the sheep back to the sheepfold, a walled structure that was made with piles of rocks upon which were placed large thorny briars to keep wild animals and thieves out. The sheepfold had just one opening, and the guardian or shepherd of the sheep would sleep laying across the entryway, acting as a “door” to the pen. Jesus identified Himself as “the door to the sheep;” the “sheepfold” in this parable referred to the Jewish nation. Remember, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees who were the leaders and teachers of Israel. Scripture often likened Israel’s leaders to shepherds and the people to sheep (2 Sam 5:2; 1 Kg 22:17; Ezek 34:5, 23; Zech 10:2; 11:17; Mt 2:6; 9:36; Mk 6:34; Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:2). Jesus contrasts Himself as the “true shepherd” with others who were nothing but “false teachers” — they were self-appointed and not divinely appointed (Jn 10:8). There were many self-appointed messiahs (spiritual leaders) for the nation, but they did not come the way the Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would come — they climbed in some other way (Jn 10:1) — so they were not divinely appointed shepherds. False shepherds sought to rule over that which did not truly belong to them — they actually persecuted and killed many who followed the “true divinely appointed Shepherd.”
It should be noted, when a true shepherd guides his own sheep, he does not “drive them” (as the Pharisees did), he “leads them” (Jn 10:4)… and the reason the sheep “follow him” is that they “know his voice” and desire to go where he leads. Oftentimes shepherds would combine their sheep together in a larger enclosure… when it came time to separating them, all a shepherd would have to do was “speak” and those belonging to him would immediately “follow his voice” (so the need to “brand sheep” was never necessary). Jesus went on to say that He was actually “the door of the sheep” (Jn 10:7) — that salvation (i.e., entrance into the sheepfold) can only be achieved through Christ (those words are emphatic in Greek; Jn 10:9). To be saved and enter into God’s family, a person must receive Christ by faith; Christianity is not a creed or church or baptism or even the Lord’s Supper… it is the person of Christ! Jesus made it very clear that any religious leader who offers salvation outside of the teach-ings of Christ is a “thief;” and thieves only come to “steal, and kill, and destroy” (Jn 10:10) — the motives of false teachers are purely selfish, and ultimately end up destroying the sheep spiritually. On the other hand, “Christ came to give us spiritual life in all of its fullness” (Jn 10:10). After we are saved we discover that there are various degrees of enjoyment and fulfillment in this life, and the more we submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit, the more fully we will enjoy the life God has given to us.
5. I am the “Good Shepherd” (Jn 10:11, 14) — Jesus is not only the “Door of the sheep,” He is the “Shepherd of the sheep,” ultimately, “He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11)… by contrast, the Pharisees were being compared to “hired hands” (hirelings; Jn 10:12); their interest in the sheep (people of Israel) was prompted by the “money” and “stature” they received in return. When danger would come, the hireling would simply run away and leave the sheep to the mercy of the wolf (v. 12). The hireling served for “pay” (personal gain), so he really didn’t have a genuine, heart-felt interest in the sheep; he was far more interested in “his own welfare and position” (those were his main considerations), not the good of the sheep. There are many hirelings in the church today who have chosen “ministry” as their chosen occupation, without having a “true love for God’s sheep” (Phil 1:12- 17, 29; 2:3-8; 2:25-30; Col 1:28-29; 1 Tim 3:1-15); they are men who simply spend time in the office with minimal contact with the sheep (they actually see “people with needs” as being an unwanted intrusion into their own lives — by the way, if you’re in the ministry or you’re a candidate for ministry, and you’re not into helping and caring for sheep, just preaching, find another occupation! Dearly beloved, ministry is all about “the sheep!” not “the shepherd!” Never forget this truism — the shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… the sheep don’t lay their lives down for the shepherd!!! Everyone holding “pastoral responsibility” would do well to contemplate the picture of caring vigilance and patient love that the good shepherd presents (Jn 10:1-15). Take a moment and reflect upon the words of the Lord to the prophet Ezekiel re-garding those who were the “shepherds of Israel” — “Woe to you shepherds of Israel…. You have not strengthened the weak… you have not healed the sick… you have not bound up the injured… you have not brought back the strayed… you have not sought the lost… but with force and harshness you have ruled them!” (Ezek 34:1-4). Those are profound words, my friend, that we do well to heed!
The Pharisees were the “religious leaders” of the Jewish people — they were experts in the law and the Scriptures, and were supposed to be leading people toward God; but they made it very difficult for people to find God because they taught things that were not true (Mt 16:12; 23:13). They made up “rules” for the people that were nearly impossible to follow (Mt 23:4), and instead of helping people, they judged them and condemned them (Jn 3:17; 8:11). The Pharisees were unkind and unmerciful men who took advantage of people (Mt 23:23). Jesus called them “blind guides” (Mt 13:15). The Pharisees wore fancy robes and looked very important on the outside; on the inside they were rotten (Mt 23:27-28). The Lord said to Samuel the prophet, “God does not see things the way man sees them; man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). Jesus came to give a “new heart” to those who believe in Him (Ezek 11:19; 36:26-27; Jer 13:31, 33). Note the context of John 10: Jesus had just healed a man who had been “born blind,” and the response of the Pharisees was to “extricated him from the synagogue!” (Jn 9:34, cf. v. 22). The religious leaders of Israel had the awesome respon-sibility of leading the Jewish people, but they did not do what was best for them — they didn’t care for the weak (Lk 20:47), or feed them with God’s truth (Mt 16:12)… rather, they only looked out for themselves (Lk 20:46). To gain more insight on God’s opinion of Israel’s religious leaders, read the prophesy of Ezekiel 34.
To better understand the purpose of a “shepherd” during the time of Jesus, it is helpful to realize some things about sheep — they are an utterly defenseless animal, and as such are totally dependent upon a shepherd. Sheep are the only animal in existence that has always required a human guardian — without someone to care for them sheep would be extinct — thus from the beginning of creation man has tended & cared for sheep. Because sheep are always subject to danger, they must always be under the watchful eye of a caring, vigilant, protective shepherd as they graze; the threatening conditions of nature, as well as wolves and other predatory animals may attack a flock at any time (Jn 10:12; 1 Sam 17:36). Because sheep are nearly “blind,” they constantly have to be directed to water and food and safety. Sheep by nature are prone to “wander,” and caring shepherds will always search for them (Is 53:6; Ps 119:176; Ezek 34:11; Mt 18:12-14). The good shepherd finds “clean water” for his sheep to drink; left to themselves sheep are likely to drink dirty or polluted water… the shepherd also leads sheep to “good food;” he leads them past the dry rocky ground and away from poisonous plants, to fields of green grass (Ps 23:3; Ezek 34:14-15)… because sheep are so sus-ceptible to injuries (they continually fall into a crook in the rocks) and are utterly helpless against predators, the shepherd is always “bandaging and tending to his wounds” (Ps 147:3; Is 30:26; Ezek 34:16). With all of the foregoing in mind, it is very easy for the believer to see why God likened people to sheep (Ps 100:3); the reason God created sheep was to help human beings understand “their inherent weaknesses” — we cannot defend ourselves, we are nearly blind, we are prone to wander, we feed on things that are not pure, we are in constant need of protection from the enemy of our soul, and we are frequently in need of someone to bind up our wounds and care for us.
The Old Testament often speaks of God as “Shepherd of His people Israel” — writes David: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Ps 23:1)… Asaph writes, “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, Thou who dost lead Joseph like a flock” (Ps 80:1)… “We are His people, the sheep of His pasture” (Ps 100:3). The Messiah is also pictured as the shepherd of God’s people — “He will feed His flock like a shepherd, He will gather the lambs in His arms” (Is 40:11). Jesus said He is the Good Shepherd who will risk His life to seek out and save the stray sheep (Mt 18:12; Lk 15:4) — Cyril of Alexandria, a 5th century church father describes by what manner a shepherd may be proved good: He must be prepared to give up his life fighting in defense of his sheep. Christ laid down His life for us (Mt 20:28; Jn 10:11; 15:13; 1 Jn 3:16), fighting against the principalities of darkness and the self-appointed religious leaders; He is the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1 Pet 2:25).
6. I am the “Son of God” (Mt 26:63-64; 27:43; Lk 1:32; Jn 10:36; Rom 1:3) — Jesus was walking in the Temple during the “Feast of Dedication” in Jerusalem, and a number of Jews gathered around Him and said to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are indeed the Christ, tell us plainly” (Jn 10:22-24). Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name bear witness of Me…. I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:25, 30); that is, Jesus and the Father have the same oneness of essence (they had all things in common). As New Testament scholars commonly assert, “our language lacks the precision of the original in this great saying” (remember, English is a “translation” of this original Greek statement). The Jews understood exactly what Jesus was saying, “so they took up stones to stone Him, because He was making Himself out to be God!” (Jn 10:31, 33)… as such they accused Him of “blasphemy” because “He claimed to be equal with God the Father” (Jn 10: 33)… they didn’t think He was anything more than just a man; therefore they believed Jesus was blaspheming because He said, “I am the Son of God” (Jn 10:36) — being the Son of God, Jesus referred to the God of Heaven as “His Father” (Jn 10:30). Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, and the Son of God, and was referred to as “Immanuel” (which literally means “God with us”) — cf. Mt 26: 63-64; Mk 14:61-62; Mt 27:43; Jn 10:36; Mt 1:23).
The title “Son of God,” as it refers to Jesus, meant that He had a “unique filial relationship” with God the Father (Mt 11:25-27; Lk 10:21-22), unlike anyone else. This filial consciousness that Jesus had with His Father is regarded in the gospel of John as forming the continuous con-scious, relational background of His life — the Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son (Jn 10:38; 14:10)… as such, they are one (Jn 5:19, 30; 16:32) in will (Jn 4:34; 6:38; 7:28; 8:42; 13:3) and activity (Jn 14:10). In our present day culture the concept of father and son suggests a degree of “superiority and inferiority”… but the divine titles God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit simply emphasizes the relational role and function that each of them possess as members of the Triune Godhead — one is not inferior in any way to the other… just as husbands and wives have been given different roles and different functions, neither one is superior or inferior to the other. It is our “indwelling flesh” that struggles with reconcil-ing the differences that exist; instead of seeing an “equality” — it insists on denigrating one and giving greater honor to the other (that’s the work of Satan in our souls). In returning to the subject before us, even as a boy of twelve Jesus recognized that God was “His Father” (Lk 2:49). At the heart of Jesus’ identity in the gospel of John is “His stated divine sonship” — He frequently referred to God as “My Father” (Jn 5:17; 6:40; 8:54; 10:18; 15:15). By claiming that “He and the father are one” (Jn 10:30), shows that Jesus conceived of His divine sonship as unique and unparalleled — He claimed to be the pre-existent eternal Son, equal with the Father, who became incarnate for the purpose of bringing salvation to fallen man, being appointed by the Father as the sole Mediator between God and man (Mt 11:27; Jn 8:58; 10:30, 38; 14:9; 16:28; 3:25; 5:22).
Before Jesus was born, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and identified the child within her as the “Son of the Most High” and “Son of God” (Lk 1:32, 35). At His temptation the devil twice challenged Jesus with the words, “If you are the Son of God” (Mt 4:3, 6; Lk 4:3,9)… even unclean spirits and demons directly asserted “His divine sonship”(Mk 3:11; 5:7; Lk 4:41). At the beginning of His ministry John the Baptist testified, “This one is the Son of God” (Jn 1:34), and at the cross, the centurion exclaimed, “Truly, this was the Son of God” (Mk 15:39; Mt 27:54). And above everything else God Himself identified Jesus at His baptism and transfiguration as “My beloved Son” (Mt 3:17; Mk 1:11; Mk 9:7; Lk 3:22). Saul of Tarsus’s initial preaching in the city of Damascus emphasized the fact that “Jesus is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). The major theological point brought out by Jesus’ divine sonship is “His divinity;” numerous passages present Him as clearly “preexistent” (e.g., Jn 8:58; Rom 8:3; Gal 4:4; Col 1:13-17; and throughout John’s gospel – 1:1, 14; 3:16; etc.). The apostle John reiterates the concept of Jesus’ deity: “The Word (Jesus) was God” and “the Word became flesh” (Jn 1:1, 14) — these verses clearly indicate that Jesus is “God in the flesh.” In the Acts of the Apostles we read, “Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood” (Acts 20:28) — Who bought the church with His own blood? Jesus Christ. And this same verse declares that God purchased His church with His own blood… therefore Jesus is GOD! The apostle Paul encourages us to wait for the coming of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13; 2 Pet 1:1)… and the Father declares of Jesus, “About the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of Your kingdom” (Heb 1:8).
Christ is both the “Son of God” and the “Son of Man” — He is both GOD and MAN — He is the Son of God as to His divine nature, and the Son of Man as to His human nature. As the Son of Man, He was born (Mt 2:1); He increased in stature and wisdom (Lk 2:52); He was sorrow-ful (Mt 26:37); He died (Mt 27:50); and He rose again (Mt 28:7). Jesus was God manifest in the flesh (Jn 1:14). He is called God’s own Son (Rom 8:32); God’s dear Son (Col 1:13); God’s beloved Son (Mt 3:13; 17:5; Mk 1:11; 9:7; Lk 3:22; 9:35). He existed as the Son of God before He was born on earth, for “God sent forth His Son” (Gal 4:4). Adam was God’s son because he was made by God (Lk 3:38)… Believers are God’s sons by gracious adoption (1 Jn 3:1)… but Christ is God’s Son in the highest possible sense — no mere creature has life in himself as the Son of God has life in Himself (Jn 5:26). As stated above, Christ’s sonship is incomprehensible and ineffable; it is simply not possible for “temporal beings” to fully understand “eternal realities” (Phil 2:5-11 and Col 1:15-20). There is no more important truth than this — Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (Jn 1:14); upon this truth hang all the hopes of man for eternal life (Jn 3:16).
Because of the extreme importance of the “deity of Christ” to Christianity and Scripture, and the growth of “divergent views” in the nineteenth century here in America, I think it is necessary to comment further on it. The restlessness of the nineteenth century produced significant immigrations from Europe and a large movement of people westward here in the US. These fertile conditions spawned a religious awakening and the creation of hundreds of denominational Bible colleges and seminaries (many of which no longer exist)… that cultural climate also produced conditions that were ripe for the germination and rapid growth of several movements in the Christian community that did not embrace traditional Christian orthodoxy; their beliefs were so far removed from the teachings of Scripture that they were identified as sects or cults. The three most noteworthy movements birthed in the United States during the nineteenth century were Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness and Christian Science — all three of them make Christ out to be something far less than God; in addition, they maintain that salvation is obtained by works (following certain rules and regulations), and they all have additional “sacred texts” that take precedence over the Bible. Let me expand just briefly on Jehovah Witness doctrine — they do not believe that Jesus is GOD… they believe that he was simply “a god.” Their founder, “Charles Taze Russell,” had a very limited under-standing of Greek grammar, and from that concluded that Jesus was just “a god.” He noticed that there is “no article” before the word GOD in the first verse of the gospel of John — so rather than the text saying that Jesus (the Word) is “the God,” he incorrectly assumed that the Word is simply “a god.” What he failed to understand is that the “absence of the article” before the word “God” emphasizes the “essence” of who Jesus is, as opposed to His “uniqueness” as “the God”… so in this verse John is referring to the fact that “Jesus in His essence is fully God!” Again, the emphasis is on the fact that Jesus is “GOD,” not on the fact that He is “a God” or “the God.” By the way, the word “GOD” in that verse is “highly emphatic;” thus he is stressing the fact that “Jesus is fully God in His essence!” By the way, numerous other verses in the New Testament also emphatically refer to the “deity of Christ” (many of them are listed in the paragraphs above).
With regard to the foregoing argument, I think it is important to understand that sometimes a “little bit of knowledge” can be a dangerous thing. Why? because we begin to think we know more than we really do! The Greeks have a word for it, “sophomore,” which literally means “wise fool.” When we were young, some of us had a tendency at some point to actually think that “we were smarter than our dad’s!” — by learning a little bit, we thought we had become little geniuses! Well, for those of you who are tempted to “disparage orthodoxy” (i.e., “right doctrine”), study it very carefully, because untold thousands of brilliant godly men have given their lives to protect the integrity of the Word and help explain the wisdom of it (1 Cor 4:1; 1 Tim 4:15b); God’s Word by design is not some little grade school list of stories and truisms that anyone can understand… many of God’s ways are deeply profound and difficult to compre-hend, and require a lifetime of walking with Christ to comprehend (Ps 119:71); it is only when we humble ourselves before almighty God that He reveals many things to us (Ps 25:9; 27:11; Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:6). The truth is none of us can fully grasp the totality of what Scripture teaches (Is 55:8-9; 65:2; 1 Cor 13:12; 2 Cor 5:7; Phil 3:10-14). As the Paul told Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15; Acts 17:11; 1 Pet 1:10). Don’t just read some heretic’s clever unorthodox study and buy into it simply because it sounds good (2 Tim 4:3). Remember “your flesh” is ever at work in your soul trying to lead you astray, and it is very convincing! (Prv 16:25; Jer 17:9; Gal 1:6).
7. I am the “Resurrection and the Life” (Jn 11:25) — When Lazarus died, Jesus sought to com-fort his sister Martha by declaring that “He is the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25). Perhaps Martha was just thinking that His words to her were just commonplace consolation, the sort of things others no doubt had been saying to her, and in which she only found cold comfort. But Jesus does not just say that He will give resurrection and life on the last day, but that “He is the resurrection and the life;” and this He demonstrated in very short order when He called forth Lazarus from his grave tomb “fully bound and wrapped in his burial clothes!” (Jn 11:43-44); Jesus then instructed those who witnessed His raising Lazarus from the dead to “Unbind him, and let him go” (Jn 11:44). To many of the onlookers, this miracle unmistakably proclaimed the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, and “they believed in Him” (Jn 11:45; 1 Cor 1:22). Who else but GOD could call one forth from the grave after he had been dead for four days? (Jn 11:17). In spite of this miracle, however, some Jews who witnessed it were still unwilling to accept the Lord Jesus as their Messiah in spite of such undeniable proof! Why? because “proud hearts” are blind to the truth; unless one “humbles himself” and admits his sinfulness and his need of a Savior, he will “remain blind” (Jn 9:40-41; cf. Acts 16:14). With that said, if Jesus had “miraculously come down off the cross in front of His accusers,” their stubborn proud hearts would still have caused them to reject Him as the Messiah of God. It is not a matter of admitting that they had just witnessed a “miracle” — that’s not the issue — it is a matter of a person humbly admitting his own sinfulness and need of a Savior! — that’s the only heart wherein the Holy Spirit will do His work (Jn 14:17; 15:26; Acts 16:14). Incidentally, believing in Christ has absolutely nothing to do with seeing a miracle — the two concepts are totally unrelated. So don’t insist on “seeing a miracle,” thinking that that will somehow give you a greater and more mature faith — “humility” is the essential requisite needed for receiving “additional grace” to grow your faith (Jam 4:6; Jn 20:29), and that almost always comes through trials, tribulation and affliction (Jam 1:2-4). Sadly, there are many pulpiteers in our country today who preach a very contrary message (cf. Jam 3:1).
In the prologue of John’s gospel, Jesus is identified as “the Word” (logos) — to the Greek philosophers the logos was the impersonal, abstract principle of reason and order in the universe; it was in some sense a creative force, and also the source of wisdom. Unlike the Greek concept, however, Jesus was not an impersonal source, force, principle, emanation; rather He was the true logos, the personal God of all creation, God incarnate, the Lord Jesus (Jn 1:14). Incidentally, the Word of the Lord was also a significant Old Testament theme — it was the expression of divine power and wisdom… by His word God introduced the Abra-hamic covenant (Gen 15:1), gave Israel the Ten Commandments (Ex 24:3-4; Deut 5:5), revealed God to Samuel (1 Sam 3:21), counseled Elijah (1 Kg 19:9ff), directed Israel through God’s spokes-men (1 Sam 7:4ff; 15:10ff; 24:11ff; 1 Kg 16:1-4; 17:2-4; 18:1; 21:17-19), revealed Scripture to the prophets (Jer 1:2; Ezek 1:3; Dan 9:2; Hos 1:1; Joel 1:1; Jon 1:1; Mic 1:1; Zeph 1:1; hag 1:1 Zech 1:1; Mal 1:1), and was the agent of creation (Ps 33:6). The Word of God is “living and active” (Heb 4:12). As the living Word, God is present and active in this world; in particular among His chosen people. He is frequently referred to in Scripture as “the living God ” (Deut 5: 26; Josh 3:10; Ps 84:2; Mt 26:63; Rom 9:26), in contrast with idols that are mute & cannot move (Hab 2:18; Is 40:20; 44:9-20; 1 Jn 5:21). Jesus has existed from all eternity (before creation) — He is God — all things came into being by Him; apart from Him nothing came into being… in Him was “life” (Jn 1:1-4). Jesus is the source of physical life, spiritual life, and eternal life. It is important to note that life does not exist in and of itself, nor is it outside of God — all life comes from God. Christ is life… He is the embodiment of life… He has life in Himself (Jn 5:26)… life has existed in Him from all eternity (Jn 5:25; 6:57; 10:10; 11:25; 14:6; 17:3; 20:31) — as human beings we are completely dependent upon Him for it. Jesus made explicit the fact that all life on the human plane is derived from God, is dependent on Him, and is responsible to Him. Jesus regarded life as “a sacred trust from God.”
The “life” Jesus brings to us because of faith is the “eternal life” of which He often spoke (Jn 1:4; 3:15; 10:10). The man who believes on Jesus “will live even though he dies” (Jn 11:25) because Jesus will raise him up on the last day (Jn 5:21, 25-29; 6:39-40, 44, 54)… since everyone who lives and believes in Him has eternal life (Jn 3:36; 5:24; 6:47, 54) they will never die spiritually; eternal life cannot be extinguished by physical death, so physical death is not the ultimate reality for the believer… though each of us must pass through the doorway of physical death, we will not die in the greater, fuller, eternal sense… death for us is but the gateway to fuller life and fellowship with God. The moment a believer places his trust in Christ he begins to experience that “eternal life of the age to come” which cannot be affected by death. The phrases “new life” (Rom 6:4) and “life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:23; 2 Tim 3:12) are alternatives for “eternal life.” As the “resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25), Jesus has destroyed death and has brought life and everlasting immortality through the cross (2 Tim 2:10). The hope of life forever is assured in Christ (2 Tim 1:1; Titus 1:2; 3:7). So Christ is the believer’s life both present and future (Col 3:3-4; Gal 2:20; Phil 1:21). It should be noted, life apart from God is the ethical destruction of the soul; the forfeiture of one’s true destiny as a child of God. Spiritual death or estrangement from God began with Adam (Rom 5:15, 17-18; 1 Cor 15:22), and is a condition in which every human being has participated (Rom 3:23; 5:12; 6:23; Heb 9:27; cf. Rom 8:6-9, 13) — sin and death continue to reign in the soul of the individual who is “not in Christ” (Rom 7:9; 8:2; Eph 2:1-5; 1 Cor 15:56; Jam 1:15). The good news is, Christ entered into death and died for us (1 Cor 5:7; Phil 2:7; 1 Pet 3:18; Mk 10:45; Rom 5:6; 1 Th 5:10; Heb 2:9), and conquered death and the devil (Heb 2:14-15; Rev 1:17-18). The eternal life which the believer experiences is “the life of Christ” (2 Cor 4:10; 5:14-15; Col 3:3-4) that results in fellowship with God — by comparison the “unbeliever” is estranged from God and is headed toward eternal separation from Him; this is the second death (Rev 20:14). So those who commit themselves to Christ pass from death to life (Jn 5:24) and never experience eternal death (Jn 8:51-52). This Christ-communicated life is essentially “divine” (Jn 3:36; 6:47; Rom 8:10; Col 1:27; 1 Jn 5:12-13); and “belief” is the one essential condition for its impartation (Jn 3:36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 1 Tim 1:16).
Jesus’ own resurrection is the key both in Christian history and is the basis of Peter’s gospel (Acts 2:32) and Paul’s gospel (Acts 17:18; 23:6; 26:6-8). Apostolic testimony (Acts 3:26; 4:2, 33 Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 15:3-11) makes the resurrection essential in Christianity, and the resurrec-tion of Christ from the dead (1 Cor 15:1-32) creates a new basis for resurrection hope (Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 6:4; 15:20-28; 2 Cor 4:14; 1 Th 4:14; 1 Pet 1:3, 21). Paul, wishing to be done with the “humiliating flesh,” too long the vehicle of sin (Rom 7:21-25; Phil 3:20-21), argued for deliverance of the body from corruption (Rom 7:24; 1 Cor 15:53-54; 2 Cor 5:4). He asserts that God will provide the risen soul with a “new body,” glorious, incorruptible, and immortal (1 Th 4:16-17; 1 Cor 15:52-53) — the “old body” will be completely done away with, and we will be clothed in a totally new glorified body (1 Cor 15:52-55). As the apostle John says, eternal life is experienced now (though not in its fullness; Jn 3:36); the faithful never see death (Jn 8:51); believers have already “crossed over” from death to life (Jn 5:24; Rom 8:2; 1 Jn 3:14); and just as Christ’s own life (preexistent and earthly) passes through death unquenched, so believers will also never die (Jn 8:51).
The first few verses of John 14 are among some of the most popular in all of Scripture, because of the “warm image” that is found there — heaven is our future home. We all need a home, and we all long for one. Jesus calmly told His troubled disciples that they have one: “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would tell you. I go to prepare a place for you, and will come again and take you to be with Me, that where I am you may be also” (Jn 14:1-3). We once had a home in the Garden of Eden, but sin caused us to lose that home, and ever since, the history of the human race has been one of wandering. Abraham “looked forward to that city whose architect and builder is God” (Heb 11:10) — in that day we shall be in the Father’s house and shall be home. Heaven is the believer’s destiny; it is where God is, and it will be home for us because we will be with Jesus. Furthermore, in heaven we will also be with others we know, and that also makes it attractive. Will we know our family and friends in heaven? Yes. A very encouraging statement in the Old Testament with regard to Abraham and several other patriarchs is this — “And He was gathered to his people” (Gen 25:8; 25:17; 35:29; 49:33; Num 27:12-13). And then there is David’s comment on the death of his and Bathsheba’s child — it shows that David believed in a personal reunion with departed loved ones in the life to come. He said to those around him, “I shall [one day] go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Sam 12:22-23); so David comforted himself with the truth that one day he would see his child again in the life hereafter — heaven.
8. I am the “Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14:6) — In the Upper Room, the night before the crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples that He was “going away” and that they would no longer be able to see Him… “but stop being troubled in your heart (they were all disturbed), continue to believe in God (even though you do not see Him) and in Me also (in the same way; Jn 14:1). The “present imperative” in the first verb suggests the foregoing translation. Obviously Jesus’ impending departure was very disturbing to them, but they did not need to be troubled in their hearts, because He was going to prepare a place for them in heaven! (Jn 14:2). Jesus then assured them that “He will come back again” (1 Th 4:13-18; 1 Cor 15:51-58) to receive them to Him-elf that they might be with Him (Jn 14:3), and “they know the way” (Jn 14:4), to which Thomas in perplexity responded, “We do not know where you are going, how do we know the way?” (Jn 14:5; cf. 13:33, 36). Jesus said to him, “I am the way to God” (Jn 14:6; cf. Ps 27:11) — notice He is not just “a way,” He is “the way;” there is no other way (Jn 14:6). Salvation is in a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ — Christianity is Christ — “no one comes to the father except through Me” (Jn 14:6). The exclusivity of that statement bothers many, but that is the reality. Contrary to what some people believe, every religion believes its way is exclusive (not just Christianity); yet our secular humanistic culture loves to denigrate the exclusivity of Christianity’s message. The way of salvation is a narrow path entered through a small, narrow gate, and few find it (Mt 7:13-14; Lk 13:24). “There is salvation in no one else,” Peter boldly proclaimed, “There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Thus, it is “he who believes in the Son who has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (Jn 3:36). “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). Jesus alone reveals God (Jn 1:18; 3:13; 10:30-38; 12:45; 14:9; Col 1:15, 19; 2:9; Heb 1:3). It was because the early Christians taught that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation that Christianity became known as “The Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22).
So Jesus’ reply to Thomas is the ultimate foundation for a satisfactory philosophy of life. You’ll notice that Jesus did not merely claim to “know the way, the truth and the life,” but that He actually claimed to “be the answer” to man’s estrangement from God — it is a relationship with Him! Thus Jesus Christ is not only “the way,” He is also “the truth;” He is not just One who teaches the truth, He is the truth; He is the embodiment of truth; the fullness of all truth; there is no truth outside of Christ. Those who have Christ have the truth (Jn 1:17; 4:23; 8:32; 17:17; 2 Cor 11:10; 1 Tim 2:4). This word “truth” reminds us of the com-plete reliability of Jesus because of who He is, and because of all that He said and did. One of the chief functions of the church is that it is “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). Augustine declared that “truth is the affirmation of what is;” that truth is the reality of what is, whether one believes it or not is irrelevant. Moral and spiritual truth is as much truth as mathematical, scientific, and historical truth. God is not only the author of what is, He tells the truth, He tells what is so, His assertions are perfect (cf. Ps 19:9; 119:160; Dan 8:26; 10:1, 21; 11:2). Thus the basic meaning of truth is “the actual fact.” John records several instances in His gospel where Jesus used a grammatical construction when He was speaking that essentially said, “Let there be no uncertainty as to the truth about what I am saying, this is the unequiv-ocal truth” — in English it is translated, “Truly, truly” — I have included a number of them in the following references: (cf. Jn 1:51; 3:3; 3:5; 3:11; 5:19; 5:24; 5:25; 6:26; 6:32; 6:47; 6:53; 8:34; 8:51; 8:58; 10:1; 10:7; 12:24; 13:16; 13:20; 13:21; 13:38; 14:12; 16:20; 16:23; 21:18), and in every passage the expression is made “highly emphatic!” In other words, these are statements that Jesus made that are as strongly stated as the Greek language provides. With that said, Jesus is “the life,” not just “a life.” Remember, “in Him is life” (Jn 1:4; 5:26; 8:12; 11:25); God is the author of life, the source of both physical and spiritual life — those who receive Him have eternal life because He is the life. There is no life outside of God (Jn 1:3); to argue to the contrary is nonsensical. Since He is the life He was not subject to death; rather death was subject to Him! Jesus did not live with death as the ultimate end of His life — His death demonstrated the power and continuity of His life. Death could not hold Him. Jesus was not exhibiting the slightest bit of arrogance when He proclaimed that He was “the way, the truth, and the life” — remember, Jesus is GOD in human flesh, the only authentic revelation of GOD to humanity. So, to not believe what GOD says is demonic madness (Gen 3:1-7) and mindless arrogance (Dan 4:30-37).
9. I am the “True Vine” (Jn 15:1, 5) — In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was depicted as a “choice vine” that Jehovah planted (Ps 80:8-16; Is 5:1-7; Jer 2:19-21; Ezek 15; 19:10; Hos 10:1)… it should have produced the finest of grapes but instead the harvest was “wild grapes.” This symbolic language pictures the disobedience of Israel to God and the disappointment of God over their actions. In time the vine became a symbol of Israel, and is found on the coins of the Maccabees. Interestingly enough, all the Old Testament passages that use this symbol appear to regard Israel as faithless. Jesus’ description of Himself as the “true vine” (Jn 15:1) is to be seen against this background; incidentally, the word “true” is emphatic in this verse. It is also important to note that Jesus does not say that “the church” is the true vine — “Jesus” is the true vine! John frequently brings the “Father” into His conversations, because he sees the Father and the Son as working together. So when he says that Jesus is the “true vine,” he then says that the Father is the “vine-dresser” — that is, He is the one who watches over the vine and takes action like that of a vine-dresser to secure “fruitfulness” (Jn 15:2; cf. Eph 2:8-10). Every branch that does not bear fruit He “lifts up” off the ground (it is the word airo in Greek; cf. Jn 8:59) — the vine-dresser lifts the branches up off the ground and prunes them, that they might bear more fruit (Jn 15:2) — the emphasis is on the “bearing of fruit.” When branches are left to themselves, they start growing on the ground and produce very little fruit, so the vine-dresser “lifts the branches up” and ties them to a trellis for maximum exposure to air and direct sunlight to increase their fruitfulness. The branch that bears spiritual fruit is the believer who is growing more and more in his likeness of Christ, by consistently breathing in the fresh air of the Word and maxi-mizing his exposure to the sunlight of Christ; even the mature branches, however, need frequent pruning and cleansing. Just as a real vine-branch must be cleansed from insects, mildew and fungus (especially if it has been laying on the ground), so a Christian must be cleansed & purified from those worldly influences that cling to him; and the cleansing agent is “the Word of God” (Jn 15:3; Rom 12:2; 1 Th 2:13; Heb 4:12). It is important to note that Jesus is not reproaching His disciples here, rather He is encouraging them and pointing out the way in which they may continue to progress spiritually.
Jesus referred to Himself as the “true vine” and we as His followers as the “branches” (Jn 15:5) — if we fail to “abide in Him” (stay intimately connected to Him) we will not bear fruit (Jn 15:4). Christ has taken up residence in us as His children (Rom 8:9-11; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; Gal 4:6; Col 1:27; 2 Tim 1:14; 1 Jn 4:13); that means “He abides in us” — and as incredible as it may seem, nothing we do will ever change that fact! Though Christ always abides in us (in the person of the Holy Spirit), we do not always “abide in Him”… though He is always “faithful to us,” we are not always “faithful to Him” (2 Tim 2:13); the reason we sin so often (fail to trust Christ) is because we inhabit “sinful flesh” — our “unredeemed humanness” (our “sin disposition”) still remains in us. The word “abide” means to stay or remain where you are. The Christian has been “placed in Christ” (Rom 6:3-4; Gal 3:26-28); Paul refers to our relationship with God as being “in Christ;” that is our “position” — we are “in Christ” (Rom 8:1; 1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 3: 28; Eph 2:6; 2:10; 1 Th 4:16). In our daily walk, we should “stay in intimate contact/fellowship with Christ;” when we do we will “bear fruit.” A vine branch has one great purpose, and that is to bear fruit! A branch abides in a vine by drawing all its life and nourishment from the vine — we abide in Christ by spending time in prayer, reading and obeying His Word, fellowshipping with His people, and being conscious of our union with Him and our need to fully depend upon Him (carefully note the word “conscious” — faith involves “conscious obedience and dependence,” not just obeying Christ in your own strength)… in short, “we can do nothing [spiritually speaking] apart from Christ!” (Jn 15:5); the word “nothing” is emphatic in that verse. Therefore as we maintain constant contact with Him, we are conscious of His abiding presence and His continually supplying us with spiritual strength and resources. The only way a believer can bear the fruit of a Christ-like character is by “living in touch with Christ” moment by moment… “walking with Christ” moment by moment… “walking in the Spirit” moment by moment (Gal 5:16); those are just different ways of saying the same thing. Verse 5 concludes with an emphatic declaration of human helplessness apart from Christ; when we are isolated from Him “spiritual achievement” is not possible. Remember the apostle Paul’s words, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).
Since verse 6 can be troubling to some believers, let me expand upon it. Though some erroneously interpret this verse to say that “believers can lose their salvation” because they fail to “do their part” — such an interpretation is in direct contradiction to what a host of passages teach. Salvation is a “work of grace” in our lives, and God guarantees that He will see us through to the end (cf. Jn 6:37-39; Rom 8:29-30, 35-37; Eph 1:5, 7, 11; Phil 1:6; 2 Tim 2:13). In addition to the dozens of verses that teach “eternal security,” the “grammatical construction” of the Greek verbs employed when addressing the matter of salvation, also “emphatically” main-tain the unending nature of our salvation. The truth of the matter is, if salvation depends upon “our faithfulness” (merit), none of us will get a foot off the ground at the end; such is simply the nature of our human condition. Salvation from beginning to end is the work of God! Knowing that God’s love for us is eternal is what inspires us to “live for Him” (1 Jn 2:18-3:3). We are not traversing some “performance treadmill” that will ultimately determine our eternal destiny! Sadly, many in the Christian community preach that heresy; thus injuring untold numbers of sheep and turning Christianity into a “religion of works.” Most scholars interpret verse 6 this way — you’ll notice the subject at hand is not salvation, but “abiding and fruitbearing.” Some believers obviously “wander” away from the Lord and get out of touch with Him; as a result, they commit some gross sin that ruins their testimony. Because of their failure to “abide in Christ,” they are thrown out of the church by its leaders. And that means people scoff at backslidden Christians, and drag their names through the mud… and throw their testimony as Christians into the fire. This is well illustrated in the “life of David;” he was a true believer, but he became careless toward the Lord and committed the sins of adultery and murder. He caused the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme. Even today, atheists ridicule the name of David (and his God); they cast him, as it were, into the fire. Though David paid an extremely heavy price for his sinful behavior, and brought shame upon the Lord, God mercifully forgave him and restored the joy of his salvation to him after he fully repented (Ps 51:10-12, 14-17; 32:1-5). The wonder of wonders is we serve a God who abounds in lovingkindness and forgiveness! (read Ps 103:12-14; 118:1-4; 136:1-26; 1 Cor 15:3; 1 Pet 2:24). Praise be to “His Name!” (Rom 11:36).
10. I am the “King of the Jews”(Jn 18:33, 37; 19:14, 19-21) — In the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as the “King of the Jews,” both at the beginning of his life (Mt 2:2) and at the end (Mt 27:11). The angel Gabriel made two promises to Mary — she would be the mother of a Holy Child, and this child would “sit on the throne of His father David, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:26-33; cf. 1 Chron 17:12, 14). When Jesus was born in Bethlehem there came magi from the east who went to Jerusalem to inquire of King Herod the Great, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” (Mt 2:2). As you will recall, Herod considered the title “his own,” thus he ordered the execution of all male children in Bethlehem two years of age and younger (Mt 2: 16). In the accounts of the Passion of Jesus, the title “King of the Jews” is used several times (Jn 18:33; 19:2-3; 19:21; Mt 27:42; Lk 23:36-37). Following the “religious trial” of Jesus before the high priest Caiaphas (Jn 18:12ff), He was sent to Pontius Pilate the Roman governor of Judea for a “civil trial” (Jn 18:28ff). The first question Pilate asked Jesus was, “Are You the King of the Jews?” (Jn 18:33; Mt 27:11; Mk 15:2; Lk 23:3); in all four gospels the word “You” is emphatic. The Lord responded — “It is as you say” (Mt 27:11). According to John’s gospel, He then went on to explain that His kingship is “not of this world”… instead it was about “bearing witness to the truth” (Jn 18:36-37). Jesus was referring to the messianic kingdom that the Son of Man would accomplish by “conquering sin” in the lives of those who belong to His spiritual kingdom. Christ’s kingdom is spiritually active in the world today, and one day He will return to physically reign on the earth in millennial glory (Rev 11:15; 20:6)… but until then His Kingdom exists in the hearts of believers (Lk 17:21), where He is undisputed King and sovereign Lord.
John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, proclaimed this message in the wilderness of Judea — “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 3:2); in short, people needed to repent and be converted because the King was coming! Matthew uses the expression “the kingdom of heaven” thirty-two times… the other gospels use “the kingdom of God;” there is no significant difference between the two expressions. It is probable that Matthew used kingdom of heaven (Dan 2:44; 4:3) because it was more understandable to his primarily Jewish readers — Jews would not speak God’s name (Yahweh), and would often substitute “heaven” when referring to Him (much as we do in such expressions as “heaven has smiled on us today”). The idea of a “kingdom” implies a domain over which a “king” rules — God rules as King over the hearts of men who no longer cling to their sin (they repent); as such He delivers them from the “kingdom of darkness” (which is ruled by Satan) and transfers them to the “kingdom of heaven;” the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col 1:13). So the kingdom of heaven is that sphere in which God’s rule is embraced and acknowledged. Though the eternal rule of God has not yet been manifested in all the fullness of its glory, a day is com-ing at the end of the age when “the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 1:11) will be permanently established, and He shall reign forever an ever (Rev 11:15; 22:5); and all of His children shall reign with Him (2 Tim 2:12).
Unlike earthly kings, Jesus was not crowned as king by some human agency, and the des-cription He gave of His kingdom obviously left Pontius Pilate somewhat confused (Jn 18:38). When the soldiers prepared Jesus for crucifixion, they wove a “crown of thorns” and put it on His head, and arrayed Him in a “purple robe” (Jn 19:2); kings wore crowns and were dressed in purple garments (the color of royalty) — so in mockery the soldiers dressed Jesus in such fashion, and then proceeded to mock Him saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Jn 19:3). Since it was the custom to put a placard above the head of the one condemned with “a title” listing his crime, Pilate providentially ordered that the title — “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS ” be placed on the cross above Jesus’ head (Jn 19:19); thus maintaining the position he took up in verse 14. Though the chief priests of the Jews argued against such wording (cf. Jn 19:21), Pilate refused to change what he had written saying, “What I have written, I have written.” Once again, here’s an example of God using sinful men to accomplish His sovereign purposes. Neither Pilate nor the Jewish leaders believed that Jesus was the King of Israel; yet the animosity between them ensured that the governor would write an inscription proclaiming that “Jesus was Israel’s King,” as He truly is. Furthermore, He is “the Only Sovereign, King of kings, and Lord of lords!” (I Tim 6:15; Rev 19:16) — remember, “at the name of Jesus every knee will one day bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth… and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11). It is worth noting that John stresses the “kingship motif ” in his gospel right to the end; for him the “royalty of Jesus” is the significant thing, and he does not let us forget it. John wants us to see that there is a “kingship that Jesus exercises,” and that nothing man can do or say can change that. In accord with the Old Testament, the Jewish people held that “God was their King” (Judg 8:23; 1 Sam 8:7), but they showed by their lives that they gave no homage to God. Little did they realize that their words, “we have no king but Caesar!” (Jn 19:15) were actually an accurate portrayal of who they really were; interestingly enough it was the “chief priests,” the religious leaders of Israel, who uttered those words.