In our Advent series this Christmas season, we have been looking at Jesus’s “I Am” sayings from the Gospel of John. We started the Advent messages a week early, so we have already looked at four of Jesus’s “I Am” proclamations: ‘I Am the Resurrection and the Life’; ‘I Am the Bread of Life’; ‘I Am the Light of the World’ and; ‘I Am the Good Shepherd’. Jesus is intentionally identifying Himself with the Name that God had revealed to Moses, in regards to Himself, at the burning bush in Exodus 3:14, 15.
God Is Yahweh To His People
By calling Himself “I Am”, God was communicating His eternal presence, His self-existence and self-sufficiency to Moses and the Israelites. He doesn’t need anything outside Himself to make Him complete. Moreover, God was assuring Moses and the Israelites that He would always be faithfully present to be all that the Israelites needed Him to be. In other words, He would meet their every need and challenge in life as they served Him on this earth as His ambassadors.
“I Am” was translated into the Name ‘Yahweh’ by the Israelites and, in most English translations, it appears as LORD, all in capital letters. It is the personal covenant name of God in His relationship to His chosen people.
In Jesus’s seven “I Am” sayings, He was fleshing out in more detail what it meant that He was Emmanuel, ‘God with us’ (Mathew 1:23). Jesus’ use of these “I Am” sayings was an explicit claim to deity. He was claiming to share the essence of God with the Father. No wonder that the unbelieving Jewish leaders wanted to stone Him when Jesus said: “Before Abraham was born I Am” (John 8:58,59). They believed He was blaspheming by claiming identity with God, (i.e. ‘Yahweh’).
This past Sunday we looked at Jesus’s saying in John 10:1 -18 in which He declares twice that “I am the Good Shepherd”. He is the kind of Shepherd for His people that goes the extra mile. He not only loves, feeds and guards His sheep, but He also gives them life at the cost of His own. He lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:14-18).
A Different Kind Of Shepherd
We may be able to envision a shepherd who will courageously and sacrificially protect his sheep. But a shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep………? That is hard to fathom. But that is who God is as revealed in Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
Most shepherds raise sheep to harvest their wool so that they can clothe themselves and others. Sheep are also raised to provide food. Jesus is the Shepherd who dies so that we can be clothed with His righteousness. In 1 Corinthians 5:21 it says: “God made Him who had no sin (Jesus) to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”. Furthermore, He gives Himself up, in His life and death, so that we can feed on Him as the Bread of Life (John 6:51).
There is a paradox with Jesus. Human categories can’t put Him in a neat and tidy box, because He transcends that man-made box. And the reason He transcends all man-made boxes is because He is the God-man: fully God and fully man. A mystery if there ever was One.
He is both the Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the Sinless One who willingly became the Sin-Bearer of the world. He is the High Priest of heaven but also the Ultimate Sacrifice to God. He didn’t offer an animal or a grain sacrifice, but He offered Himself on the altar of the Cross, to atone for our sins. And He did it willingly and voluntarily. No one forced Him to do it (John 10:18), but He did it in self-giving love.
He is the One who can declare “I Am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25), because He died the most cruel and unjust death of all time. He was the One through whom the world was made (Hebrew 1:2; John 1:3), but when He came to Earth there was no room for Him in the Inn (Luke 2:7). He was the One who was forsaken on the cross by His heavenly Father (Mathew 27:46) so that we would not be forsaken by God (John 1:12; Hebrews 13:5). The mystery of that first Christmas when God’s Son entered the human race is both shrouded with great mystery and revealing of great glory! Hallelujah, what a great Savior! What a great God we have revealed in Jesus, the Lord!
QOTD: Are you willing to make Jesus your Good Shepherd? Will you follow and yield to Him who is the Lover and Lord of your soul?