September 24 – Why did Jesus say “I AM”?

September 24, 2017 Randy Bushey

~by Randy Bushey: At Bethel, we’ve begun our series on the 7 primary “I AM” pronouncements of Jesus.

In each, Jesus explained something of His ministry – and by extension, the Gospel – by the use of common metaphor:

I AM the Bread of Life (John 6)

I AM the Light of the World (John 8)

I AM the Door of the Sheep (John 10)

I AM the Good Shepherd (John 10)

I AM the Resurrection and the Life (John 11)

I AM the Way, Truth and Life (John 14)

I AM the Vine (John 15)

Intriguingly, only John’s Gospel records these declarations.

Jesus’ Jewish opponents hated His self-assertions of being the personification of life, light, bread and truth.

They were hostile to His exclusive claim to be the only way to God (I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me- John 14:6).

 But above all, they were enraged by His use of the I AM formula, something that is not clear in our English Bible translations.

Here’s what they heard – and what He meant them to understand.

As the Jews increasingly drifted from their homeland to centres around the Mediterranean in the centuries before Christ, they adopted the Greek language, often at the cost of a diminishing usage of their own Hebrew tongue.

As a result, the Septuagint – the Greek version of the Old Testament – was produced in the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC.

In this Greek version, the translators had several issues of linguistic equivalency to resolve as they for the first time, moved from the original to another language. They were committed to handling the Word of God with precision and great esteem.

The first books to be converted were the 5 books of Moses: the Hebrew Torah.

Exodus chapter 3 presented an enigma.

In this passage, God speaks to Moses from the burning bush in the Midianite wilderness while Moses is employed as a shepherd.

Moses expressed reluctance to follow the Lord’s instruction to head to Egypt with the specific purpose of seeking the release of the Hebrew slaves from the grip of Pharaoh, the most powerful man on earth.

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” 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’” (Exodus 3:13,14).

The Greek translators had a challenge: how to best translate God’s holy name, I AM WHO I AM?

The Greek language offered 2 primary terms for the verb “to be”: ego and eimi. The Hebrew translators chose to use them both, together.

Therefore, among the Greek-speaking Jewish people of Jesus’ time, God’s name became associated with ego eimi.

And that’s precisely the wording Jesus used.

Each was more than an metaphorical claim to the greatness of His Person and Work.

The I AM formula was a clear declaration that He was claiming to be the God of Exodus, the God of Moses and the Hebrew people of the Exodus.

Takeaway: in a world of competing – and often mutually exclusive – opinions on Who Jesus is, we must be clear on Who He said He is: the God of the Old Testament, the Holy One of Israel, the One sovereign over the entire cosmos, the Maximally Greatest Being, eternal God.