29th May 2023

“I Am”

This study is the fifth in a series of studies on the books of the New Testament

(John’s gospel – read in 56 minutes)

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31 (NKJV)

The perspective is different – John’s gospel is generally agreed to be the last account of Christ’s physical life to be written and it has a retrospective quality. The expected return of Christ had not happened and Christians were having to change their paradigm – maybe many found their faith ebbing. John writes as someone reminding people of the reality. He is saying in the opening verses: Listen carefully. Go back to the earliest of the scriptures, ‘In the beginning…’ and you’ll fully understand who it was – and is – who walked among you.

John establishes the identity of the man at the centre of his gospel account who he dares to equate with the Creator. He was, ‘…with God, and…was God.’ (John 1:1). Christ’s own words continue the identity theme with the ‘I Am’ statements. From chapter 6 to 15 Christ describes himself as “bread of life”, “light of the world”, “door of the sheep”, “resurrection and the life” and “the true vine”. These identities are echoed in miracles recorded in John: turning water into wine, healing the blind man, feeding the 5000, and raising Lazarus from the dead. He describes himself as “the good shepherd” and this finds its echo in his final prayer, speaking of his disciples: “…Those whom You gave Me I have kept…I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:12, 15).

Throughout the account it is as if John is there, on the shoulder of Christ, during his many ‘discourses’, as his interactions with individuals and groups have been labelled. These discourses give us an insight into the way Christ dealt with those who questioned him. The starting point is often a misunderstood comment and Christ takes the opportunity to clarify what is meant – such as when Nicodemus questioned the concept of a second birth (John 3:4); and when the Samaritan woman did not grasp Christ’s water analogy (John 4:15). Both stories are unique to this gospel. 

Sometimes Christ almost seems to taunt his listeners, being deliberately confrontational. Speaking to the Jews who wanted him dead because he claimed ‘God was His Father’ (John 5:18). He leads them through a long discussion – and then suddenly turns it on its head with a stinging rebuke: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me…I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.” (vv.39-42). And there is deliberate antagonism in his metaphorical statement about eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man (John 6:53) – drinking blood being expressly forbidden in Jewish law. This confrontational approach has its full expression when he physically drives out moneychangers from the temple. (John 2:15-16).

The gospel ends tantalisingly with, ‘And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.’  (John 21:25).

Maybe I’m not alone in wishing those other books had been written – but thanks to you, Father, that we have enough to know ‘that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God’, Amen.

Study by Maggie Mitchell

About the writer:
Maggie Mitchell attends the Northampton congregation of Grace Communion International and is Chair of the Pastoral Council

Local congregation:
GCI Northampton
Ecton Village Hall
78A High Street

Local congregational contact:
Maggie Mitchell
Email:  maggie.mitchell@btinternet.com

Word of Life contact: