So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am ... Very truly I tell you ... before Abraham was born, I am!" (John 8:28; John 8:58 NIV).He had it all — father of two girls, a loving wife, a TV show, editor for a high tech magazine, very respected in the high-tech community and much more. But after a couple of wrong turns, bad directions from a service station attendant, and after passing through a logging road gate that should have been locked closed, James and wife and their two little girls found themselves on a dangerous road in the wilderness.
As snow on the road increased and as the road narrowed too much to turn around, they decide to wait for a break in the weather. They rested for a couple of hours, but conditions worsened. They were trapped in their car, in the wilderness, surrounded by snow.
After a week of periodically running the car to stay warm, melting snow for water, burning tires for signal fires, and trying everything they knew to get help in this area out of reach of cell phone coverage, they took the map and tried to find a way for him to get help. Two days later, his wife and daughters were found alive by rescuers. Sadly, on the same day, after a trek of 16 miles through snow, he died of hypothermia, having collapsed in a small stream. His body was found a few days later.
No matter how talented, honorable, and smart he may have been, the way out was too difficult and there were too many obstacles to overcome. He simply couldn't get to safety on his own — not for himself or for his family. They all needed to be rescued: the conditions were too dangerous, the circumstances too bad to overcome on their own!
God's people have repeatedly found themselves in this kind of situation throughout human history. One of the Bible's most well-known of these horrific times was the Egyptian bondage of the Israelite people. God appeared to Moses and told him:
"I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them" (Exodus 3:7-8 NIV).
God identifies himself as the God of the famous ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:6), but Moses wants to know the name of God so he can tell the Israelite people who it is that has sent him. God answers, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you'" (Exodus 3:14). God identifies himself as, "I AM."
Years later, when all humanity needed to be rescued, God didn't send a prophet, a messenger, or a book, God came himself in Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:1-18; Hebrews 1:1-3). Repeatedly in the Gospel of John, Jesus identifies himself as "I AM" — challenging people to recognize that he is God, the "I AM" of ancient days, who has come to rescue his people (John 4:3; John 6:20; John 8:18-28; John 8:58; John 9:9; John 13:19; John 18:5-8). God loves us, and because we couldn't find our way out of our dangerous and life-destroying messes, God came to find us and bring us to him.
Jesus is God's hand-written and hand-delivered message. Jesus came to give us hope and remind us that we are never alone in our messes. In fact, the great "I AM" has delivered people from these kinds of messes in the past, he will in the future, and he longs to deliver us right now if we will let him. He wants us to know that he has not abandoned us to the messes that we have made, but that he comes to us and says:
- "I AM" the only food that can truly satisfy our hungry souls (John 6:35; John 6:41; John 6:51).
- "I AM" the light to help you escape your deepest darkness (John 8:12).
- "I AM" the gateway to safety and true, fulfilling life (John 10:9).
- "I AM" the shepherd who knows each of his sheep, calling them by name, leading to them nourishment, and giving up my life to protect you from harm (John 10:11; John 10:14).
- "I AM" your guarantee that death can't hold you, control you, or defeat you (John 11:25).
- "I AM" your way home to our Father, the only way and the sure way to God (John 15:6).
- "I AM" the source of life and vitality for you, so stay connected to me (John 15:1; John 15:5).
"I AM Jesus: Immanuel, God with you. I will not abandon you in your problems, but I will come to you and even die like you, with you, and for you, so that you know I love you" [Paraphrase and combination summary]
So what? What's the big deal? Jesus comes and not only says, but also shows us that ...
- God knows. "I AM" knows our longings, our wounds, our disappointments, and our betrayals: not just because he is the all-knowing God, but because he has lived those things.
- God searches. "I AM" searches until he finds us, then lovingly tries to bring us back home to himself.
- God stays. "I AM" won't abandon us or forsake us, even when we have let him down.
- God returns. "I AM" is returning to bring us home to God.
Jesus is "I AM"!