Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Shepherd Knows His Sheep

The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jew, “but for blasphemy because you, a mere man, make yourself God” (John 10:24-33 NIV).

Tell us plainly! Are you the Christ? What has Jesus been doing up to this point? Precisely what the Pharisees demand. He has shown them many great miracles from the Father. He has healed many people. He has taught in the temple and the synagogues as one who has authority. He has declared that the scriptures were fulfilled in Him. He casts out demons who testify to who Jesus is. He has called the Pharisees lying children of the devil, and Himself the Son of God. He has called Himself I AM, applying YAHWEH’s divine name to Himself. He calls Himself the Good Shepherd, the one come to search out the lost and scattered sheep, and rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered.[1] In calling Himself the Good Shepherd, Jesus is calling Himself YAHWEH. The prophet Ezekiel wrote that, because those who were supposed to shepherd Israel would neglect the responsibility given to them, God Himself would come among His sheep and be their shepherd Himself.[2] Jesus announces to the Jews here in John 10 that the long wait for their shepherd is over. He has arrived.

The Jews still reject Him. They are not His sheep, and therefore, do not hear His voice. They are the false shepherds who eat the fat, clothe themselves with the wool, slaughter the fat ones, but do not feed the sheep. They rule the sheep with force and harshness.[3] They try to charge Jesus with breaking the Law when He heals on the Sabbath.[4] After hearing Jesus read the scriptures and teach, they try to throw Him off a cliff.[5] They ignore the casting out of demons, and the restoration of people possessed by them, and say He colludes with the devil to cast out devils.[6] They have eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear. They have hearts, but do not understand.[7] Here, as He did just a short time before, Jesus tells them exactly who He is. He is one with the Father. Not merely one in will and work, but one in being and essence.[8] Jesus is telling us that He and the Father are one in essence, or nature, but they are not identical persons. As the Scripture says, the Jews understood exactly what Jesus was saying. They took these words to be blasphemy and tried to impose the penalty for blasphemy prescribed in the law, though without due process.[9]

Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd and, in so doing, gives us an indication of the intimate relationship He has with His followers, and the love that moved Jesus to die for them all. Sheep who do not listen to the voice of the shepherd are bound to wander away from the safety of the flock and be devoured by wolves. Like the shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep, the God-man’s love for His own moved Him to endure the humiliating death on the cross to be the sacrifice for their sins.[10] Jesus’ declaration that He and the Father are one, and that no one can snatch His sheep from His hand should give all believers hope, no matter what they face. Believers can rest secure that they belong to Jesus Christ and will never perish; all of Jesus’ works affirm this truth.[11] Consequently, to reject Jesus as the Pharisees did, even in the face of the miracles Jesus did and the testimony of the Law and the Prophets, is to reject God Himself and His gift of forgiveness and everlasting life.

[1] Ezekiel 34:11-12
[2] Ezekiel 34:1-4; 11-12
[3] Lenski, R. C. (1942). The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel. Columbus: The Wartburg Press.
[4] Matthew 12:9-14
[5] Luke 4:16-30
[6] Matthew 12:22-30
[7] Matthew 13:10-17
[8] Engelbrecht, E. A. (2009). The Lutheran Study Bible, English Standard Version. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House. John 10:38
[9] Leviticus 24:16
[10] Engelbrecht, E. A. (2009). The Lutheran Study Bible, English Standard Version. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House. Philippians 2:8
[11] Engelbrecht, E. A. (2009). The Lutheran Study Bible, English Standard Version. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Your Best Life Now

Creflo Dollar: Word of Fatih Preacher
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

This is one of the favorite verses for prosperity gospel heretics to twist. Jesus, they say, wants us to have life abundantly. The more faith we have, the more God will bless us. He’s just waiting for us to give Him the go-ahead. Prosperity preachers, like Creflo Dollar, then try to convince people that Jesus’ plan was that everyone who believes in Him should have a happy and fulfilling life.[1] You see, God is a god of abundance. He wants us to enjoy life.[2] When we really believe in Jesus, and attune ourselves to Him, we get supernatural results.[3] That sounds fantastic! How can I get God to bless me like that? How do I have faith and attune myself to Him? Here is where the aptly named Dollar and his prosperity gospel preaching heretic friends step in. They can help you step out in faith. All you have to do is get your mind right by not allowing the wrong thoughts to enter into our minds, and dwelling on those thoughts, which causes us to think wrong.[4] We also have to sow a seed offering into one of their anointed ministries. Your blessings will be on their way, in size and speed directly proportional to the size of the seed (read: monetary offering) that is sown. If you don’t, by some chance, receive your miracle cure for that case of terminal cancer, your job promotion, or the monetary blessing, it’s your fault. You simply didn’t have enough faith. Maybe you need to be bolder, and sow another, bigger seed that really shows God you’re serious. The health and wealth preachers will be happy to accept your seed. After all, private jets are expensive to maintain.

This, of course is dangerous and heretical false teaching. Christ is not saying here that He wants us, to borrow a phrase, to have our best life now. Jesus explains that in the world, rather than peace and happiness, we will have trouble.[5] The reason we can be happy and take heart is because Christ has overcome the world by His death and resurrection. Our sins are forgiven. He is ultimately concerned with mankind’s eternal well-being, not how comfortable our lives are here on earth. He has not promised us physical healing, no matter how badly the prosperity preachers mangle Isaiah 53:5: But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and By His stripes we are healed.

Far from having happy lives, free from disease and filled with monetary blessing, Jesus promises His disciples that they will be betrayed by their unbelieving family members. They will be delivered up to be killed. They will be hated by everyone on account of His name.[6] Jesus calls His disciples to confess Him before men. He warns not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, but rather treasures in heaven, because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.[7] No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.[8] The word mammon means material wealth. Rather than using God as a magic genie to seek after material wealth, possessions, and long life, we are called to seek first the kingdom of God. Jesus teaches us to pray, not for an abundance of wealth, but for daily bread. We are commanded not to covet and steal our neighbor’s possessions, but to help and be of service to our neighbor in keeping his money and possessions.

Knowing that we are of more value than the birds of the air, who neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet are fed by our Heavenly Father, we recognize what is truly important, and sing with Martin Luther: And take they our life, Goods, fame, child, and wife; Though these all be gone, Our victory has been won; the Kingdom ours remaineth.[9]

[1] "Living Life to the Fullest." Creflo Dollar Ministries. March 27, 2017. Accessed May 10, 2018. https://www.creflodollarministries.org/Bible-Study/Articles/Living-Life-to-the-Fullest.
[2] Dollar, Creflo. "Sow Your Seed Until You Reach Your Destiny." Creflo Dollar Ministries. August 01, 2014. Accessed May 10, 2018. http://zoe.creflodollarministries.org/zoeclub/impartationletter_aug2014.
Let me ask you a question. Do you believe it is God’s will for you to be successful in every endeavor in life? If you don’t believe it, you should because that is what total-life prosperity means. Don’t allow religion to rob you and tell you that God doesn’t want you to be successful in every way. God’s will is that everything you touch prospers! He wants you to depend on and trust Him for your success. His grace is on your life for a reason—to bear fruit. God’s grace is what empowers you to have sweatless victory in life. If you’re sweating to produce something, you’re not yielding to God’s grace that’s been bestowed upon your life.
[3] "Living Life to the Fullest." Creflo Dollar Ministries. March 27, 2017. Accessed May 10, 2018. https://www.creflodollarministries.org/Bible-Study/Articles/Living-Life-to-the-Fullest.
[4] Dollar, Creflo. "Abundant Life to the Fullest." Creflo Dollar Ministries. January 22, 2018. Accessed May 10, 2018. https://www.creflodollarministries.org/Bible-Study/Articles/Abundant-Life-to-the-Fullest.
[5] John 16:33
[6] Matthew 10:22-31
[7] Matthew 6:19-21
[8] Matthew 6:24
[9] Luther, Martin. "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." In Lutheran Worship. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1986.
Stanza four; Composite translation.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

I Am the Door

“All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:7-8).

Jesus is the door. The Pharisees did not understand what Jesus was telling them. Or, rather, they had some idea and they didn’t like it. Jesus’ words continue to be twisted and misunderstood to this day. Jesus is explicit. There is no other way to get to God the Father. Jesus is the door. He is the only legitimate access to a right relationship with God. A short time later in St. John’s Gospel, Jesus will again assert that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him.[1]

This offends modern sensibilities at least as much as it offended the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. The Jews did not like that Jesus was calling them illegitimate children of the devil, and sinners who needed repentance.[2] They believed that they had God’s favor by virtue of their blood line, which they could trace back to Abraham, and through their keeping of the Law. As John the Baptist reminded them, however, their human ancestry meant nothing. God could, if he wanted, raise up children for Abraham out of the stones scattered on the ground.[3] If they were truly Abraham’s children, Jesus tells them, they would do what Abraham did and believe in Him. We modern, enlightened, progressive Americans also dislike when Jesus makes statements such as, “I am the door.” We don’t like that Jesus is politically incorrect. The exclusivity of Jesus’ statement makes us uncomfortable. We modern Christians don’t like other people to hear about this Jesus; He’s not friendly. This Jesus is abrasive. He doesn’t validate the beliefs of all people, something our progressive American culture encourages. In the eyes of our sinful flesh, this Jesus alienates people and drives them away by asserting that He is the door. He’s not all-inclusive, at least in the way the world thinks He should be. Our flesh thinks it can reach God by avenues of our own choosing. We invent rules, and induce mystical experiences in order to try and connect and communicate with God. Modern multiculturalism preaches the “coexist” gospel which accepts all religions as valid, even though they are contradictory. This gospel, where men make mistakes but do not sin, and all religious paths lead to heavenly bliss, is a false one.

Jesus, however, did not come to bring peace, but a sword.[4] Christ brings division. This seems a strange thing for the Prince of Peace to say. He means, of course, that while He brings peace by reconciling mankind with God through His atoning death and glorious resurrection, there will be division on earth because some will hear the message and reject Him. Before His return, those who believe will be persecuted by those who do not. And, on the Last Day, those false teachers who prophesied, cast out demons, and did many wonders in Jesus’ name, but did not have faith, will be told, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”[5] You can’t come into the sheepfold by any other door. Jesus’ sheep, however, hear His voice. Jesus’ sheep recognize His voice and follow Him. They will not follow the thieves and robbers. Jesus’ sheep will enter by Him. They will be saved, and go in and out and find pasture.

[1] John 14:6
[2] John 8:37-59
[3] Matthew 3:9
[4] Matthew 10:34
[5] Matthew 7:21-23

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Jesus and the Religious Leaders

The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him. Then Jesus said to them, “I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me. You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come.” Then the Jews said among themselves, “Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him? Does He intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What is this thing that He said, ‘You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come’?” (John 7:32-36)

The more Jesus teaches, the more the people marvel. How does this man know letters having never studied? Jesus explains to them as He did before: My doctrine is not mine, but His who sent me. Jesus is simply doing the work His Father has sent Him to do. He is simply teaching the things His Father has given Him to teach. Or, put another way, Jesus is saying the words the Father has given Him to say. If the Jews had really believed in God, they would have recognized that Jesus’ teaching came from God. But they didn’t believe. As Jesus does and says the things given to Him by God, His Father, so the Jews, Jesus will later explain, do and say the things of their father, the devil.[1]

The people continue to argue over who Jesus is. Some of them from Jerusalem wonder if He is not the one whom the leaders seek to kill. They see Him speaking boldly in the temple. They muse that perhaps the leaders believe Jesus is the Christ after all. Is their inaction against Jesus their endorsement of Him? Surely, if this man were not the Christ, the leaders would put a stop to His public teaching. After all, He does not teach as the other rabbis, but as one with authority.[2] He makes Himself equal with God.[3]

This is probably only said mockingly, of course. The people have a strange theology. It was Jewish tradition that the Messiah would appear suddenly, and no one would know from where He came.[4] The people thought they knew Jesus. He was the son of Joseph and Mary. He was born in Nazareth, that one-horse town out of which nothing good comes.[5] This would certainly disqualify Him, in their minds, from being the Christ. Nevertheless, this discussion begins to worry the Jewish leaders and they again seek to kill Him. Jesus, however, cries out in the temple: You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.

Jesus tell the people that, yes, they know Him in an earthly sense; they do not know The One who sent Him. They may know that He lived in Nazareth, but they do not understand that He is the Son of God, sent by His Father to vanquish sin, death, and the devil. The Jews eventually get worried enough by the murmuring of the people to send officers to arrest Jesus. They are unsuccessful because, as Jesus said previously, His time had not yet come. I shall be with you a little while longer and then I go to Him who sent me. You will seek me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come. They surmise that Jesus intends to escape, and go to teach the Jews who live among the Gentiles. These people, who have eyes but cannot see, and ears but cannot hear, continue to judge Jesus using earthly standards.[6] Jesus is telling them that soon He will die, and rise and go to His Father in heaven. Since they reject Him, they cannot follow Him where He goes.

Following Jesus’ example, we say the words given to us to say. We confess that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He rose again from the dead. And, when He had overcome the sharpness of death, He opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. He sits at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father. We believe that He shall come to be our Judge. The teaching is not our own, but comes from Jesus, the Christ, the one by whom we are sent. We believe, teach, and confess that which we are given, because the one who gave it is true.[7]

[1] John 8:37-47
[2] Matthew 7:28-29; Mark 1:21-22
[3] John 5:17-18
[4] Baumler, Gary P. People's Bible Commentary: John. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005.
[5] John 1:45-46
[6] Jeremiah 5:21; Mark 8:18
[7] John 7:28; Romans 3:4

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Many Disciples Turn Away

Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:60-63).

Jesus is abandoned by many of His disciples. He has spoken to them hard sayings; He told them they must eat His body and drink His blood that they may abide in Him and have eternal life. But they are offended by Jesus’ words. In answer to His complaining disciples, Jesus says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.” Evangelicals who deny the validity and working of God through the Sacraments often point to this verse. Here, they say, Jesus explains that all those things about His flesh being real food were just symbols. Picture language! The flesh profits nothing! It is the Spirit that gives life.

The words that Jesus speaks are spirit and life. But Jesus isn’t negating what He has previously said. He here expands on His previous teaching. Just as bodies need spirits to live, believers need the Holy Spirit to make them alive; the Spirit is given through Jesus’ words.[1] Jesus connects His words, His promise of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, to the eating and drinking of His body and blood. This will come into sharp focus on Maundy Thursday when Jesus and His disciples eat the Passover, and He institutes the Lord’s Supper. Here, as Jesus answers His complaining disciples, He is speaking of the sinful human nature, unlike earlier in the chapter. Jesus says “the flesh” profits nothing, not “My flesh”.

Peter is indeed correct to answer Our Lord as he does. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Jesus’ words are spirit, and life. Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins. Whoever now accepts these words, given and shed for you, and believes that what they declare is true has forgiveness.[2] We have a body and a spirit. Both body and spirit together make up one being. It is for this reason that God attaches His promise of forgiveness and life to physical things like water, word, bread and wine. Our physical being comprehends the physical element, and our spirit comprehends the spiritual element. Writing of Baptism in his Large Catechism, Martin Luther explains it this way: “For that is the reason why these two things are done in Baptism: the body - which can grasp nothing but the water - is sprinkled and, in addition, the Word is spoken for the soul to grasp. Now, since both the water and the Word, make one Baptism, therefore, body and soul must be saved and live forever. The soul lives through the Word, which it believes, but the body lives because it is united with the soul and also holds on through Baptism as it is able to grasp it.”[3]

Jesus’ words are spirit, and they are life. They must be taken at face value. Jesus tells us that we must eat His body and drink His blood in order to abide in Him. He gives us the means by which we can do as He says in the Lord’s Supper. Our eating and drinking of the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper is a communion with His body and blood.[4] Believing Jesus’ words, we have what He promises to those who eat His body and drink His blood: the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

[1] Engelbrecht, Rev. Edward A., ed. The Lutheran Study Bible. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2009.
[2] McCain, Paul Timothy, Robert Cleveland Baker, Gene Edward Veith, and Edward Andrew Engelbrecht,. Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. Translated by William Hermann Theodore Dau and Gerhard Friedrich Bente. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005.
[3] LC IV 45-46
[4] 1 Corinthians 10:16

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Jesus the Bread of Life

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum (John 6:53-59 NIV).
The Jews begin to grumble. They don’t like what Jesus is saying. He isn’t talking about restoring the glory of the kingdom of Israel. He isn’t organizing a rebel force to overthrow the Romans. He isn’t even talking about filling their bellies with loaves. The only bread He is talking about is the bread of life. He says that this bread of life that came down from heaven is He Himself! How absurd! We’ve known Jesus for a long time. We know His parents. He must be insane to say that He is the bread that came down from heaven!
Jesus goes farther. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. Now they begin to argue sharply. How can we eat His flesh! That sounds like cannibalism. Jesus is steadfast: I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Jesus meant what He said. Real eating. Real drinking. He isn’t using the word flesh in a figurative way. He is not describing the sinful human nature, as St. Paul does in his letters. There is no getting around what Jesus is saying. His flesh is real food, and His blood is real drink. The one who feeds on Him will live. The Israelites eating the manna in the wilderness was a shadow of the true bread from heaven that was to come, Jesus.
The question asked is a valid one: How can this man give us His flesh to eat? We don’t know how it works, but we do know the means through which He gives it. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and gave it to His disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.” After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, “Take, drink ye all of it. This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins. This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.” Jesus provides for us a means to receive His unmerited favor, by eating His flesh and drinking His blood in the Sacrament of the Altar.
The Marburg Colloquy - Hoc Est Corpus Meum
Not a sacrifice re-presented to God, but the Bread of Life distributed to those who are His own. God’s word of promise, the forgiveness of sins, joined to physical elements of bread and wine for our benefit. Eating and drinking that bread and wine, we eat the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Believing Jesus’ words, we have what He promises: His body and blood, forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. The Sacrament of the Altar is given as a daily pasture and sustenance, that faith may refresh and strengthen itself.[1] But here our wise spirits twist themselves about with great art and wisdom. They cry out and bawl, “How can bread and wine forgive sins or strengthen faith?” They hear and know that we do not say this about bread and wine. Because, in itself, bread is bread. But we speak about the bread and wine that is Christ’s body and blood, and has the words attached to it. That, we say, is truly the treasure - and nothing else - through which such forgiveness is gained.[2]
[1] McCain, Paul Timothy., ed. Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions: A Readers Edition of the Book of Concord. Translated by W. H. T. Dau and F. Bente. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House, 2009. LC V 24
[2] Ibid. LC V 28-29

Friday, April 20, 2018

Jesus Walks on the Sea

Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them. Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing. So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid. But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going (John 6:15-21).

The disciples cross the sea in a boat without Jesus. Jesus crosses the sea by miraculous means. He walks across the water. He comes near the disciples and they are frightened. One of the Evangelists records that they thought Jesus was a ghost.[1] But this is not ghost. It is a flesh and bone Jesus doing something that should not be possible. He speaks to the disciples to calm and reassure them. The NKJV[2] gives us, “It is I; do not be afraid.” The Greek is more telling. Literally translated, what Jesus said was, “I am. Do not be afraid.”[3] Jesus refers to Himself this way several times, and in significant situations. Theologians sometimes call these the “I AM statements”. At various times, Jesus says: I am the bread of life; I am the light of the world; I am the door; I am the Good Shepherd; I am the resurrection and the life. This passage doesn’t record one of those statements previously mentioned; Jesus uses this scandalous way of referring to Himself at other times too, like in this instance of walking on the sea.

Another famous time He used I AM to refer to Himself was also recorded by John. Jesus speaks to the Pharisees. They argue with Him about whether or not they are sons of Abraham (No, Jesus says they are sons of Satan) and whether or not they are slaves (Yes, Jesus says they are slaves to sin). At the climax of their interaction, Jesus says, “Most assuredly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”[4] At this they were incited to murder Jesus but He, miraculously, passed by though the midst of them. Why such an uproar over Jesus’ grammar? Were the Pharisees such sticklers for proper Greek that an improper conjugation could earn you a rock to the face? No. In making the I AM statements, Jesus was claiming to be the Great I AM: YAHWEH, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in person, and in the flesh. That was a super big deal to the Jews.

When Moses fled to Midian after murdering the Egyptian, he tended sheep for his father-in-law. One day, while tending the sheep on Mt. Horeb, the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. From this burning bush, the Second Person of the Trinity in His pre-incarnate form spoke to Moses: Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.[5] Moses tries to get out of doing this. His first tactic is to say that the Israelites won’t listen to him because he doesn’t know God’s name, and won’t be able to tell them when they ask. God’s reply: “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”[6] By applying God’s name to Himself, Jesus expressed the eternity of His being and His oneness with God the Father.

After arriving at the other shore, Jesus would declare to the people, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”[7] Jesus left the previous day because the people wanted to make him king by force. Now He speaks to the crowds who seek Him, not because they believe, but because they ate of the loaves and were filled.[8] They see in Jesus a miracle worker who will give them all their earthly wants. They fear, love, and trust their bellies, just as we do. Jesus wants to give them the true bread from heaven - Himself, literally, His flesh. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.[9] Jesus is I AM in the flesh. He is, literally, Immanuel, which is translated, “God with us.”[10] He has come to save His people from their sins by giving His flesh.

[1] Matthew 14:26
[2] New King James Version
[3] Brown, Robert K., and Philip Wesley Comfort, trans. The New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament: A New Interlinear Translation of the Greek New Testament, United Bible Societies Fourth, Corrected Edition with the New Revised Standard Version, New Testament. Edited by J. D. Douglas. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1993.
[4] John 8:58
[5] Exodus 3:10
[6] Exodus 3:13-14
[7] John 6:35
[8] John 6:26
[9] John 6:32-33
[10] Matthew 1:23