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In February, I was asking the Lord to show me what He wanted us to do next for APM, when He quite literally put this series right in front of my face. I had never even heard of the seven “I Am” statements of Christ, so as you can imagine I was super excited to begin this study!
These seven statements of Jesus are only found in John’s Gospel. When Jesus said the words “I Am” preceding each of these statements, He was purposely connecting His identity to God. The phrase He used in the Greek was “Egō eimi,” which literally translated means “I am.” The word “eimi” in itself, even without the word “egō,” means “I am” or “I exist.” The word “egō” means “I,” but it was used as an emphatic expression about oneself. So when Jesus used both of these words together the Jewish people would have recognized that He was associating Himself with the word “Yahweh,” the Hebrew name for God which means “I Am.”
Let’s take a look at what happened when Jesus spoke these words to those who had come to arrest Him in the Garden of Gethsemane:
John 18:4-6 (ESV)
4Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.”... 6When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
Even though the “he” is added in most translations, this is the same phrase, “Egō eimi,” or “I Am.”
When Jesus says “I Am” and then follows with a description, you better believe I want to know and understand Who He says He is.
So, let’s get started!
Setting the Backdrop
The first “I Am” statement of Christ is found in John 6. The story takes place the day after the Feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus walking on water (which we are familiar with because we’ve just studied this portion of Scripture!). The scene picks up the following morning:
John 6:22-29 (ESV)
22On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
26Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you [listen up, this is a firm truth], you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
28Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”
29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
We have to stop here for a second. The first thing Jesus did was address their motivation. He was basically saying, “you’ve worked hard to find me, but it’s not because you believed in Me. Rather, it was because you got something carnal you wanted more of. If you’re going to work for something, work for that which endures eternally, that which is from God.” The people had worked hard to find Jesus, but their motives were fleshly and carnal. They were not seeking Jesus for Who He was, they were seeking Him for what He could do for them. This was not the type of seeking Jesus was after.
I want to take a second here to go to a couple passages in the Old Testament about seeking God. This first one is God speaking through the prophet Jeremiah to the people of Israel:
Jeremiah 29:10-14a (NIV)
10This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you,” declares the Lord,
When will God do all of this for Israel?
When they seek Him with all their hearts.
And David says it like this:
The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
God knows the motivations of our heart, and He desires those motives to be pure. He wants our seeking to come from a place of sincerity rather than selfishness. He wants us to perceive Who He is and seek Him because of that!
The people recognized Jesus as a great teacher (thus the word “Rabbi” in verse 25), but they still failed to perceive His identity as the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus was trying to explain to them that all they had to do was believe in Him. We’ll pick back up at verse 30:
John 6:30-34 (ESV)
30So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
32Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Notice their questions continued to stem from their desire for this fleshly and carnal appetite to be satisfied. They asked what they must do to see the works of God. They asked what sign Jesus was going to give them in order for them to believe (even though they had seen Him multiply five loaves of bread and two fish the day before to feed 15,000-20,000 people!). They referenced the manna in the wilderness, and they asked Him to give them this “bread always.” It was as if they were saying, “just tell us what we need to do to get what we want from you.” They had a predetermined motivation, and therefore they struggled to hear what Jesus was trying to tell them.
When we go to God with a predetermined motivation, we may struggle to hear what He’s trying to tell us!
The Bread of Life
This is the moment when Jesus decided to get their attention:
John 6:35-36 (ESV)
35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
And picking up in verse 47:
John 6:47-51a (ESV)
47Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven.
Jesus essentially said, “you’re asking me for earthly bread when I AM the bread of eternal life!”
They wanted a sign of God, when the Son of God was standing right in front of them!
The only thing that would leave them fulfilled was right in front of them, and it was the very thing they failed to perceive because their minds were set on what they thought they wanted. Their earthly motives and desires blinded them to the fact that the Son of God was standing in their presence!
That’s why the Bible tells us over and over again to “set” our minds on heavenly things. Paul is passionate about this concept:
Romans 8:5-6 (ESV)
5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
Philippians 3:18-19 (ESV)
18For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
Colossians 3:2 (ESV)
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Why is Paul so passionate about this? Because when our minds are set on the things of earth we are blinded, we’re distracted, and we miss God when He is standing right in front of us!
How many times do we seek Jesus with a predetermined motivation, with our minds set on a certain thing or a certain outcome, when the only thing we should be seeking is simply Jesus Himself?! When our motives are centered around what WE want, then we tend to miss the fact that Jesus, the very One Who IS all we will ever need and want, is right there in our presence.
Have you ever wondered why God created mankind to need food in the first place? I don’t have the answer to that question, but what blows my mind is that God created us not only to need food but also to enjoy food. God created us with thousands of taste buds through which we find pleasure in the very thing we were created to need. What an awesome and good God we serve!
God created us to find incomparable pleasure in the very ONE we were created to need!
Taste and see that the LORD is good.
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Our carnal appetite is merely a symbol of our spiritual appetite. Relationship with Jesus Christ provides pleasure and fulfillment unlike anything else on this side of Heaven. Jesus said “I am the bread of life.” This word translated “life” means heavenly life, but it also means earthly life. It means “life” in every sense of the word. Jesus is the sustenance that brings life - period!
Jesus is the ONLY thing that fills and fulfills wholly and neverendingly.
Everything we hunger for and desire is found in Jesus! If we rely on anything in this life other than Jesus for our sustenance, we WILL hunger again.
Oh Lord, help me to let go of my predetermined motivations in seeking You, and just simply seek You. Purify my heart and my motives so that I never fail to perceive that YOU are everything I will ever need and everything that will ever satisfy. Amen.