What are the seven I AM statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John?
The book of John contains seven significant moments where Jesus reveals a part of His character using the phrase "I AM." This phrase is important because it is one that God used to identify Himself to Moses, and the Jews recognized it as a name for God. When God revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush, He said to Moses, "'I AM WHO I AM.' And he said, 'Say this to the people of Israel, "I AM has sent me to you"'" (Exodus 3:14). This name for God means that God is the existing one. He had no beginning or end: He Is. He is totally self-sufficient, and His existence is not dependent upon anyone or anything else, emphasizing His divinity and holiness.
The phrase "I am" usually necessitates something afterwards, like "I am love" or "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," but in this instance God does not give something afterwards, nor does He need to define Himself further. Yet you could fill in that blank with attributes of God. Jesus fills in some of these blanks for us in John, showing us that not only is He God, but He is the God who meets all our needs.
I Am the bread of life
"Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst'" (John 6:35; cf. John 6:41– 51). Jesus is speaking to the crowds who were there when He multiplied the bread and fed the 5,000 men, in addition to women and children. Jesus was trying to convey that unlike the bread that the people ate, He would truly satisfy our hunger for eternity. Like the manna from heaven and the bread He multiplied, His fullness does not run out, but rather is enough for the whole world.
I am the light of the world
"And again Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life'" (John 8:12; cf. John 9:5). Jesus is the light of the world. His light exposes the evil acts of the world done in darkness, and His light bears witness against the world. Not only does His light illuminate good and evil, but His light also brings life. Jesus referred to Himself as the light of the world before giving a man who had been born blind sight, proving the truth behind His words with His power and authority over this world (John 9).
I am the door
"So Jesus again said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture'" (John 10:7–9). In this passage Jesus creates a metaphor: we are the sheep and the kingdom of God is the sheepfold. Jesus is the way into the sheepfold. Those who present other ways of salvation are thieves and robbers (John 10:1). Through Him we find pasture, like the psalmist says, "He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul" (Psalm 23:2–3).
I am the good shepherd
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:11–15). Right after revealing that He is the door to the kingdom of God, Jesus expands His metaphor with a new component. Not only is Jesus the door that leads to abundant life, but He is also the shepherd that leads us and guides us. He is a personal shepherd who knows each of His sheep individually, and each of the sheep know Him and recognize Him. He is a shepherd who is willing to lay down His life for His sheep, the ultimate expression of love and care (John 15:13). Jesus here is claiming to be God not only by using the phrase "I AM", but also by connecting Himself to the role of God as Shepherd, which is recognized in the Old Testament: "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want" (Psalm 23:1).
I am the resurrection and the life
"I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live" (John 11:25). Jesus has power over life and death. He has defeated death and will raise His people up from the dead in the last days, therefore we have no need to be afraid of death (Revelation 1:18; 2 Timothy 1:10). Like the door to the pasture, Jesus is the only way to eternal, abundant life. Jesus said this right before He raised Lazarus from the dead, proving the truth and power in His words, and emboldening our faith.
I am the way and the truth and the life
"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'" (John 14:6). Jesus claims to be the exclusive way to God the Father. He also claims that truth is stable and unmoving, and singular. Jesus is the logic and power through which God created all things (John 1:1–3, Psalm 119:160). There are not many truths or personal truth, but there is the Truth. And the Truth gave up His life for the world. Apart from Christ there is only death and confusion, instability, and wandering. Even people who claim to follow Jesus try to minimize Jesus' claims here to be the only way, truth, and life, but the Bible continues to support this message (Galatians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 11:1–4).
I am the true vine
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit… I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing'" (John 15:1–5). Again, Jesus is creating a metaphor: He is the vine that gives life to His people, the branches. In Him we receive all that we need for life and bearing fruit, but if we do not rely on Him for our life and strength, we will not bear the fruit of the Spirit, just like a branch disconnected from the vine cannot grow its own fruit. Jesus is the true vine. Any other thing or person we rely on to nourish and sustain us is a false vine and will lead us to fruitless lives. Abiding in Him brings our hearts in alignment with God's will (John 15:7), helps us to walk in obedience (John 15:10) and brings the fulness of joy (John 15:11).
There are two additional "I AM" statements in the Gospel of John. One time the Jews claimed that Jesus had a demon. They asked Jesus, "Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?" (John 8:53). Jesus answered them, in part, "Truly, Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." Here Jesus was obviously using the name of Yahweh to refer to Himself. He says that Abraham was, but that before Abraham's lifetime He is. Obviously, Jesus here is equating Himself to the everlasting God. We see that the Jews understood His claim for divinity because of their violent reaction (John 8:59).
Finally, Jesus claims to be God right before He dies. When the soldiers are seeking Jesus out in the garden of Gethsemane to arrest Him, Jesus approached them and asked "'Whom do you seek?' They answered him, 'Jesus of Nazareth.' Jesus said to them, 'I am he'" (John 18:4–5). Our modern English translations add a word here, but the original Greek simply has "I am." Interestingly, when Jesus said this, the band of soldiers "drew back and fell to the ground" (John 18:6).
Jesus is God incarnate. He came to this earth to live a perfect life, die a sacrificial life, and rise again to life. He came to this earth to offer us salvation, something He did willingly. Philippians 2:5–11 explains, "Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
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