Summary: This sermon looks at eight of the “I Am” passages in the Gospel of John for the purpose of seeing what it was Jesus actually said about Himself. This sermon addresses Dan Brown’s claim that Jesus never really claimed divinity.
Who Did Jesus Really Claim to Be?
Here is another quote from Dan Brown’s, The Da Vinci Code: “Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet… a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal.”
This is pretty much the general opinion concerning Jesus. Islam sees Jesus as a great prophet, Buddhism sees Him as one who was enlightened, social groups see Him as an example, pacifists see Him as a supporter to their cause, but what did Jesus say about Himself?
There are 8 statements made by Jesus regarding who He really believed Himself to be, the first such claim is found in John 8…
Jesus said, “…before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58)
“Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."
The first passage I would like to look at before we look at any of the others is John 8:58. It is here that Jesus makes one of the most startling claims in all of the gospels regarding the essence of who He really was. So what is so special about what Jesus is saying? In order to get a sense of the controversial nature of what Jesus said here and why it was that everyone who heard Him wanted to kill him, we need to visit Exodus 3.
You remember the story of Moses and the burning bush and how Moses went to check it out only to find that even though it was on fire, it was not consumed by the fire—God manifested His presence in that bush. Why did God do this? He appeared before Moses for the purpose of commissioning him to lead Israel out of Egypt. After a long and unsuccessful attempt on Moses’ part to convince God to pick someone else, we find these words in Exodus 3:13-15,
"If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ’The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ’What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?" 14 God 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.’" 15 God also said to Moses, "Say this to the people of Israel, ’The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”
The reason why everyone wanted to kill Jesus for what He said in John 8:58 is because He was actually saying that He was the “I AM” of Exodus 3:14. It would have been easier for Jesus to say, “Before Abraham was born, I was” if He was only interested in stating His preexistence, but He didn’t. Instead, Jesus claimed the divine name of God, “I Am”, as being His name.
Which leads me to the second claim Jesus made about Himself…
Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35)
“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.”
The day after Jesus had fed five thousand people with five barley loves of bread and two fish, many of the people who ate the bread, sought Jesus because of what they had witnessed the day before. When these people found Jesus in Capernaum, Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor 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” (6:26-27).
The bread that Jesus gave to the crowds to eat was just that—bread. The miracle that was performed was simply an illustration of something much bigger than full stomachs or an amazing phenomena; it was an illustration of the One who could fill the deepest hunger of the human soul.
The crowd never really got what Jesus was trying to show them. In fact many of those who decided to follow Him early on in His ministry thought what He was saying was too difficult to accept so they stopped following Him and went home (6:60-65). I think one of the biggest reasons why they beat feet was because of the strong attraction we often have for the things of the world: we find contentment in money, in work, in friends, and so many other things of this world that we fail to discover that those things are illusions which often keep us from seeing that our deepest needs can only be met in Jesus.