Who is Jesus? The Great I AM

Did Jesus really ever claim to be divine? Was He God? Or was He just a wise man from History who taught people to be kind to one another? These are questions that continue to plague the modern mind. And while Jesus was a man that lived in History and actually did teach kindness, it is impossible to know who He truly is without recognizing that He is also the God who governs all things and the Messiah who saves sinners.

Others have pointed out that if we believe that Jesus was just a wise and kind man but not God, then we also have to claim that He was either a liar or a psychopath. This is because Jesus himself repeatedly claims to be God. So, those claims have to be either delusional, deceptive, or true. Jesus can’t be wise and kind while also being deceptive or delusional. We must either believe He is who says He is, i.e., God, or chuck out everything else He ever said—including His commands for kindness.

We believe that Jesus’s claims are true, and as we have discussed elsewhere on this site, all Reformed Theology hangs on the final authority of the Scriptures. The Bible is the standard needed to test the claim that Jesus is God, and without a doubt, the Bible teaches that Jesus is divine. We have already talked a little bit about what it means for Jesus to be the God-Man[LS1] , but we wanted to take a moment to explore the divinity of Jesus with a little more depth and consideration of the claims found in Scripture.

Jesus is the source of everything.

Genesis, the very first book of the Bible, tells us that God existed before time and created everything that is in existence (Genesis 1:1). The opening chapter goes on to explain the way in which God created all things: He spoke them into existence (Genesis 1:3). In the New Testament, John explains in his gospel account of Jesus’s life on earth, that this creative life-bringing Word is actually Jesus Himself. John describes Jesus as God, present before time, and the creator of all existence (John 1:1-5).

In the book of Acts, Paul proclaims that the God described in Genesis is the Lord of heaven and earth and the maker of all things (Acts 17:25). He says that in this God all people live, and move, and have their being (Acts 17:28). This might seem confusing, but Paul is merely stating the obvious. Our breath belongs to God. We only exist because He exists.

Later, in one of his letters, Paul confirms that the man Jesus is one and the same as the Lord and maker of heaven and earth that he spoke of before. Paul uses similar language to his statement in Acts, saying that Jesus is before all things and in Him, all things are held together (Colossians 1:17). He argues, that Jesus, being God, is the source of all existence.

Jesus has life in Himself.

Jesus also extends the argument that He is the source of all things by claiming that just like the Father, He has life within Himself (John 5:26). Because everything that exists can only exist because of God, God is the only thing in existence that has life within Himself.

You were created. We were created. The Earth was created. All living things were created. God was not created. God simply is, and by claiming that He has life within Himself, Jesus is telling us that He simply is as well. In more philosophical terms, as God, Jesus exists outside of time and space, is completely independent of any other being, and sustains His own life.

Jesus substantiates this further by saying that he and the Father are one (John 10:30). This statement caused a flurry among His hearers who were ready to stone Him for His supposed blasphemy. They knew He was claiming to be God.

Jesus is the Great I AM.

In Exodus, God reveals His name to His prophet Moses, saying, “I AM THAT I AM,” (Exodus 3:14). This “I am” formulation invokes God’s eternal existence and being, but it’s original Hebrew rendering Yahweh יהוה is also the personal name of God that was to be passed down throughout the ages. Indeed, over and over in the book of Psalms, praises are written exclaiming that Yahweh (I AM) is salvation. In modern bibles, the name Yahweh is usually rendered by capitalizing all the letters in the word LORD. Whenever you see LORD, think I AM.

In the gospel of John, Jesus declares that He is this I AM. During a debate over His identity with the Jews of His day, Jesus tells them that their forefather, Abraham, rejoiced at His coming. They unsurprisingly find this assertion to be incredulous. Abraham lived centuries before Jesus. How then could he possibly have rejoiced at His coming? In one of the most stunning and clear declarations recorded in Scripture, Jesus replies, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).

Not “I was,” but “I am.”

Jesus is claiming the very name God revealed to Moses thousands of years before His birth for Himself. The next verse in the passage tells us that His hearers knew that Jesus was making a bold claim of divinity, as again they wanted to stone Him for blasphemy (John 8:59).

Throughout John’s gospel, Jesus makes more “I am” statements confirming that He is not only God but also the Messiah spoken of in the Old Testament Scriptures. I am the bread of life (John 6:35). I am the light of the world (John 8:12). I am the gate (John 10:9). I am the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-18). I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). I am the true vine (John 15:5).

Jesus is Salvation

It is clear that Jesus identifies Himself as the great “I AM,” but even His own personal name given on Earth provides us with a clue of who He is. The name Jesus revealed in the New Testament is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Yahushua, meaning “Yahweh is Salvation.” Jesus is the promised salvation spoken of throughout the Psalms.

Jesus has always been the salvation of God’s people. Remember back in Exodus when God revealed His name to Moses, He also said, “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you,” (Exodus 3:14). Here God connected His self-revelation of who He is with His personal plan of salvation for His people.

The Bible continues on to tell the story of the I AM leading His people out of slavery (Exodus 20:1) and guiding them through the wilderness into the promised land (Exodus 17, Numbers 20). Paul clearly states that this God that preserved them in Egypt and in the wilderness is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4b). The I AM that sent His prophet to save His people from slavery is the I AM that spoke the world into existence and is the same I AM that died on the cross for our salvation.

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.

The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus always was and will never change (Hebrews 13:8). This is good news. Because Jesus does not change, we can fully depend on Him for all of our needs. Because Jesus does not change, we can be free.

In that same debate over His identity, Jesus said, “ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” (John 8:32). Jesus also claimed to be the truth. If we know Jesus, we know the I am. We know the I am that is the truth, and we know that the truth will set us free. Free from sin and death, free from the struggles of this world, and free from ourselves.

When we see who Jesus is more clearly, we can see who we really are: a people in need of a Shepherd, in need of the bread of life, in need of a savior.

Cling to Jesus

In that same discussion, Jesus assures us that anyone who follows Him will never see death (John 8:51). Jesus having declared Himself to be the author of life and death, the source of all things, the great I Am, can and will secure our salvation. In Him, do we live, and move, and have our being. So, cling to Him, the great I AM that secures the salvation of His people. “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD,” (Exodus 14:13).