Good morning, Friends!
Instead of a joke this morning, I want to start out with some riddles. Do any of you remember this one:
I have one eye but can’t see. Who am I?
Or here’s another:
You throw away my outside, eat my inside, then throw away my inside. Who am I?
Corn on the cob.
Or here’s a really famous riddle:
You are my brother, but I am not your brother. Who am I?
The thing in common with all these riddles is the question, Who am I? A riddle is a puzzle, but then as soon as somebody gives you the answer, it’s easy.
People always ask who Jesus is. We usually give a quick answer – he’s the Son of God, he’s the Savior, he’s the Lord. But in the gospels, people had a lot of questions about who Jesus really was.
And it’s difficult, because a lot of the time, Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?”
I don’t think it was because Jesus didn’t know himself. I think it’s because Jesus wants us to say, out of our own faith, out of our own free will, who we know and who we believe He is.
When you read the gospel, it’s sort of like watching To Tell the Truth. You know how the game show works – there’s one person up there who has an unusual occupation, and two other people who’re imposters. The imposters can lie, but the real contestant has to tell the truth about who they are.
In a way, the gospels are kind of like that. All of us are the panel, and we have to ask the questions and decide who Jesus really is. The truth is there and has always been there. But we all have to figure out the truth again.
Today we’re going to look at a whole collection of really famous verses in the gospel of John, where Jesus answers the question, “Who am I?”
You’ve probably heard some of these verses before, but looking at them all together makes it special. I’ve got them printed with all the page numbers in your bulletin, and I’d like you to open your Bibles and look at them with me.
John 6:35 – Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. . .”
What’s that mean? Does Jesus mean ordinary hunger and thirst? Does it mean that followers and friends of Jesus will never have to go to the grocery store? Is that what it means? What do you think?
I think Jesus is talking about a different kind of hunger and thirst. If you’re hungry, and everyday food doesn’t satisfy you; or if you’re hungry and you don’t know what it is you want, but you know you want something, then come to Christ. That’s what it means. Christ is soul food, food for our souls.
“I am the bread of life. . .” That’s not something Jesus does. It’s what Jesus is. Jesus is living bread. He never runs out. He never goes bad.
That’s who Christ is – “I am the bread of life. . .this is who I am.”
Let’s take another example. In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Did you see the full moon last night? It was incredible. Or did you see the sun come uip this morning? Beautiful, wasn’t it? Just as there’s a sun and a moon to light up the day and the night, there’s also an inward light, to light up our hearts and our minds. That’s who Christ is.
You want to know where daylight comes from, you point at the sun. You want to know where God’s light comes from, you point to Christ. It’s that simple.
The light of Christ is meant to illuminate our world. We are meant to see all things in the light of Jesus. Our relationships. Our vocations. Our life decisions. The choices we make every day. Christ is the light of our lives. Christ is our hope. Christ is our joy. Christ is our light.
Here’s another saying of Jesus. Notice that all of these sayings start out with Jesus saying, “I AM. . .”
In John 14:6. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. . .”
That’s a verse we’re not always comfortable with. It seems exclusionary to us. We know that we live in a diverse world, with lots of different kinds of people in it. Some Christians go around saying to other people, “We’re saved. You’re lost. We’re in. You’re out. Christ is the only way!”
It’s a nasty kind of exclusiveness, and it gives Christians and Christianity a bad name.
Let me just point out that in this exact same chapter, just 4 verses earlier, Jesus also says: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have said that I go to prepare a place for you?”
Do you see the contrast? “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me” versus “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. . .” Just 4 verses apart from each other.
So, I don’t think that Jesus means to close people out. Christians shouldn’t say, “I’m in, you’re out.”
The way I understand this saying is, “Christ is the only way for me. I can’t walk any other way. Christ is the truth I tell. Christ is the only life I know. When I come to the Father, the only way for me is Christ.”
Let’s look at another of these “I AM” statements. In John 15:1, Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.”
There’s a lot of vineyard imagery in the Bible. We don’t always plug into it, because we’re not grape growers around here. Corn and melons and big red tomatoes – that’s more like it.
But the Bible talks a lot about vineyards and grapes. The Bible frequently says that the world is like a vineyard gone wild. It’s full of weeds, and it’s choked with stuff that shouldn’t be here.
In a way, it all connects back to the garden of Eden, which is the Bible’s way of talking about the world as it should be. God created the world like a garden, with everything in its place, but now it’s grown wild and gone to ruin.
Now let’s bring in the saying from John 15. “I am the true vine,” Jesus says. In the middle of this ruined, weed-choked garden of a world, there is still one plant that’s supposed to be there. Christ is the true vine. All the rest are weeds.
And we’re all part of Jesus. We draw strength from the true vine. Just a little way down the page, at verse 4, Jesus says, “Abide in me” – live in me – “and I in you. . .I am the vine, you are the branches.” And then down in verse 7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. . .”
That’s a big promise. It’s not like the empty promises we hear from so many other people.
Jesus also talks about pruning, too, which is a way of saying that we can’t just claim to be Christians. We have to live full lives and bear fruit for God, or we’re useless.
But if we live in Christ, if Jesus lives in us, our lives are fruitful. Our lives are exciting. Delicious things happen! Miracles happen!
So stay connected. Stay connected to Christ, and stay connected to the rest of the vine. Don’t cut yourself off from the church or from your fellow believers. You need that connection. You need it, just like branches all need to be connected to the vine they belong to.
In John 11:25, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. . .”
Those are words I always say as a pastor, whenever I bury somebody. I always say those words. “I am the resurrection and the life. . .”
That’s a way of saying that death isn’t the last word.
Christ is the first word. The first word is light and life. Christ is the last word, the beginning and the end. Christ is the word that carries us from the beginning of all things, to our own birth, throughout our lives, through death, and into the life that never ends.
It’s OK to cry at funerals. Life is precious, and we love the people who have died. Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died. But always remember the promise: “I am the resurrection and the life; those who believe in me, even though they die, will live; and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. . .”
I put my hope, I stake my faith in those words. I place my life in God’s care and God’s keeping, because I trust in God’s love.
Just two more of these “I am” sayings. Here’s the first one: in John 10:14 Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
This is one of the verses we think about as we get close to Easter. Christ is the good shepherd, who lays down his life for us.
It’s one thing to be a leader. Lots of people want to be up there at the front of the parade and call the tune and make everybody else march to it.
It’s one thing to be a teacher. Lots of people want to stand up at the front of the room and tell everybody else how to think, what to do and what to say.
It’s something else completely to be a shepherd, someone who leads and protects. And it’s something even more to be willing to die for the sake of those you’re taking care of.
John’s gospel is the one where Jesus says: “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. . .” (John 15:13) That’s what a shepherd does, and that’s what Christ did for us.
Christ finds the path, and goes out ahead of us to show us the way. Christ seeks all the time for those who are lost, and brings them home rejoicing. Christ brings us to green pastures. Christ walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death. Christ doesn’t leave us alone. He’s always with us.
A little later on, Jesus says, “I known my own, and my own know me. . .and I have other sheep. I must bring them, too. They will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. . .”
That’s a dream that Jesus has – to bring people together. Jesus doesn’t want to drive people apart. He doesn’t want us to be divided. He wants us together, listening to him.
Just one more. One more of these great “I am” sayings. In John 10:7, Jesus turns the shepherding image 180 degrees around , and he says, “I am the gate for the sheep. Others are thieves and robbers, but my sheep don’t listen to them. I am the gate. A thief only comes to steal and kill and destroy; I come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Do you ever feel that it’s difficult to get to God? Do you ever feel that God is inaccessible? If you ever feel that there’s a big wall between you and God, and you don’t know how to get in – well, Christ is the door. If you want to get to God, walk in through the door marked “Christ”.
This verse is kind of an interesting contrast to the other famous “doorway” Scripture, the one in Revelation where it says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to them, and they will eat with me. . .” (Revelation 3:20)
In one version Christ stands by the door; in this version, Christ is himself the door.
This passage also shows how to tell the difference between the true Christ, and a phony. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly. . .”
If they’re after your money, if all people want is for you to give, it’s not Christ. If they want you to live, if they want you to be more fully alive, then it’s Christ. It’s an easy way to tell.
All of these different scriptures we’ve looked at this morning:
- I am the bread of life
- I am the light of the world
- I am the way, the truth, and the life
- I am the true vine
- I am the resurrection and the life
- I am the good shepherd
- I am the door
Each of these verses tells us a little more about Jesus. Each of them helps us to understand.
It’s not a mystery. It’s not a secret that no one can figure out. Jesus says it plainly. “This is who I am.”
Let’s take all this into our quiet time. Let’s remember who Jesus is. Let’s think about his love. And let’s commit ourselves to follow him.