Good morning, Friends!
For the last 8 weeks we’ve been working slowly through the gospel of John, reading the passages which are unique to John’s gospel (they’re not found anywhere else).
This week we’re doing something very different. Scattered all through John’s gospel there are seven places where Jesus talks about who he is. Each place starts off with Jesus saying very dramatically, “I AM. . .”
In the other gospels, there’s often a lot of mystery about who Jesus is. Is he the carpenter’s kid – Jesus the son of Joseph, from that dinky little town called Nazareth? Is he a descendant of David, the most famous king in Israel’s history? Is he descended from Adam and Eve? Is he the prophet Elijah, returned from the dead? Is he just a good man? Is he a great teacher? Is he the Son of God?
The other gospels keep asking these questions, over and over. But John is never in doubt. John knows who Jesus is, right from the first page.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through the Word, and without the Word not one thing came into being. The Word was life, and the life was the Light of all people. The light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never overcome it. . .”John 1:1-5
Right out of the gate, John is certain of who Jesus is. Jesus is the living Word of God, the Word that God spoke when everything was made.
Do you remember how the Bible begins? How does it start?
“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void, and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the waters. . .”Genesis 1:1-2
And do you remember the first thing God said? Do you remember the word God spoke, which started everything?
“God said, ‘Let there be light!’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. . .”Genesis 1:3
That is how everything starts. And John says, that word God spoke, was Christ. Christ was the first word that God spoke, and it was light.
So, John is really clear about where Jesus fits in the big picture of things. Jesus is the center of the whole creation. He’s there even before everything else.
Now, I want us to remember another story. Do you remember when Moses was out in the desert, looking after his father-in-law’s animals, and one day he saw something amazing?
He saw a burning bush, like those wildfires we saw last summer out in California. A whole mountainside on fire – but it wasn’t being destroyed. So Moses slides over to take a closer look, and a voice calls to him out of the flames.
“Moses, Moses!” the voice called. “Take off your shoes – the place you are standing is holy ground!”
So Moses takes off his shoes, they have a little conversation, and God says, “I’m the God of your ancestors – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Go and tell Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, the mightiest ruler in the world, to let my people go!”
Moses has some doubts about this, like, is it a good idea or not? Is anyone going to believe him? So he asks God, “If I come to these people and I say, ‘The God of your ancestors sent me,’ and they say, ‘What is his name?’, what should I tell them? You got any opinions about that?”
And God says, “Tell them, ‘I AM’ has sent me. I am who I am, I will be who I will be, I will become who I will become!’”
That’s what God said, so that’s what Moses told them. The name Yaweh, that we still use, is actually the initials standing for the name I AM, because the people of Israel decided that I AM was too holy for anyone to ever say out loud.
And that brings us down to today’s reading. Readings. Because each of today’s readings starts out with the same words that God used to Moses all those years ago.
In each section of today’s readings, Jesus is claiming his identity. He’s revealing who he is. These aren’t just nice little sayings. Each one is a revelation, and we should bow down the way Moses bowed his face before God.
John knew all this. So, our Scripture readings today are like an explosion – Jesus is bursting into the world, bursting into the hearts and heads of believers. You want to know what Christ is really like? That’s what we’re reading today.
There are seven of these readings. Each one could be a sermon, all by itself. But that would take a really long time. And your Sunday dinner would get cold. So instead, we’re just going to read them. Tanna and I are going to take turns.
After each reading, there’ll be a short devotion. And after each devotion, we’ll sing a hymn. The readings, the devotions, and the hymns are all tied together. That’s what we’re going to do today.
1. I am the Bread of Life (John 6:35)
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Jesus is the living bread. When people came to him, they were hungry. Hungry for food. Hungry for guidance. Hungry for healing.
When Jesus fed the people on the hillside, he was giving them more than a meal. He was feeding their hearts.
When we pray the prayer Jesus taught us, we always pray, “Give us this day our daily bread. . .” It’s not just the food on the table we’re asking for. We’re asking for Jesus himself to feed us.
Every time we have a meal, we ask Jesus to be present. Every time two or three of us meet together, Jesus is there.
Jesus said that we don’t get by on bread alone. Every day, we need the word of God.
Prayer: Lord, you told us that you are the bread of life. Your nature is to feed and sustain. You gather us to yourself, and you welcome us all to your table.
Bread of life, please feed us every day. Bread in the desert, please feed our hungry hearts. Bread for the world, please help us to share you.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Hymn – #699, Let Us Break Bread Together
2. I am the Light of the World (John 8:12)
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Light is what Jesus is all about. Light is who Jesus is. In him there is no darkness at all.
“If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and we don’t even know what is true. But if we walk in the light, as he himself is light, we have fellowship with one another. . .”
Prayer: Lord, when you began the whole world and everything in it, you said, “Let there be light!” and that light filled the earth and sky.
You said, “I AM the light,” but you also said, “You are the light of the world.” You said we’re like a city on a hill. It can’t be hidden. We’re like a lamp in a home. No one puts it under a basket – they lift it up, so that everyone in the house can see clearly.
Lord, may your light be our light. Shine in our hearts, shine in our minds, shine in our whole lives. Shine so brightly, Lord, that your light will shine through us.
Please, Lord, shine in the darkness of the world today. Where there is hatred, bring love. Where there is injury, bring healing. Where there is despair, bring hope.
Come, Lord Jesus!
Hymn – #248, I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light
3. I am the Door (John 10:9)
“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”
All through the Bible, we’re called to choose which way we’re going to go. And many times, the Bible tells us that the way to God isn’t the easy way.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and many people take that way. The gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and few people find it. . .”(Matthew 7:13-14)
Jesus himself is the gate. It may seem hard to us to be a Christian, but it’s the only way for us.
It’s like driving down the road. You’ve got to know where to get on, and you’ve got to know what exit to take. You take the wrong one, and who knows where you’ll end up! You take the right one, and you’ll get to the place where you need to go.
Jesus himself is that right way. Some of those other ways may look pretty nice, but we won’t get where we need to go if we take them.
A famous French Christian once said, “The only way to be a follower of Jesus is to do what he did; to share his message with the same words he said; and to complete the things that Jesus was doing.” (Charles de Foucauld)
Prayer: Lord, guide us in your way. Help us follow in your steps. Be the light in front of our feet at night. Helps us find our way home to you. Amen.
Hymn – #499, He Leadeth Me, verses 1and 2
4. I am the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-14)
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”
Jesus is the good shepherd. He leads us. He feeds us. He comes looking for us when we get lost. Jesus would leave 99 sheep on the hillside to come looking for the one sheep that was missing!
But even more, Jesus defends us. He would lay down his life for us. Nobody else would do that.
There are plenty of fake shepherds in the world. They look OK, they sound OK, but inside, they’re ravenous wolves. They’re thieves who’re only looking out for Number One.
That’s the big difference with Jesus. He’s looking out for us. He gave his own life for us. That’s what a good shepherd does.
Prayer: Lord, help us to know your voice. Help us to recognize you, and follow you, and ignore all the other voices. Amen.
Hymn – #440, Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us, verses 1 and 2
5. I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
Of all these great sayings of Jesus, this is the one that’s most precious to me. It’s the promise that no matter what happens to us, Jesus carries our life, safe in his heart.
The apostle Paul says something very similar in one of his letters:
“Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can hardship, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword? No! In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, angels nor worldly rulers, things in the present or things to come, no powers, no height, depth – NOTHING else in all creation, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!”Romans 8:35, 37-39
Prayer: Jesus is the resurrection, and the life. He’s our life now, and he’s our life to come. Even when we die, his love for us never ends. The love that was there for us even before we were born, the love that has been with us, every day of our lives, that love will never let us go. Amen.
Hymn – #294, Christ Arose!
6. I am the Way and the Truth and the Life (John 14:6)
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
We get so distracted and confused. We hear so many voices, calling us to leave Jesus. They all say they’re going to make us happy. How do we know what to do?
Jesus is the way for us. He’s the road, he’s the path, he’s the example we need to follow.
Jesus is the truth. Truth is his other name. Jesus once said, “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to witness to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37)
When we listen to lies, we’re listening to the father of lies. When we listen to the truth, we’re always listening to Jesus.
Jesus is the life. He gives light and life to the world. If we want to live, follow Jesus.
Prayer: Lord, help us come to the Father through you. Help us to learn your way. Help us to live your life. Amen.
Hymn – #502, Be Thou My Vision
7. I am the Vine (John 15:1-5)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you.
No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Jesus says that it’s all about being connected. No one can live all by themselves, cut off from everyone else or cut off from him.
We’re connected. We’re branches of the vine. Without Jesus, we wither and die. With Jesus, we grow and live.
We are God’s vineyard. Our purpose is to bear fruit. The fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generousity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Anyone can learn these things. And anywhere we find those fruits, the Spirit of Christ is with them.
Prayer: Lord, may we be fruitful – sweet or tart, but never bitter or disgusting. Help us to stay connected, with a living connection to you and everyone around us. Help us to live your commandments. Help us to complete your joy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Hymn – #443, Trust and Obey, verses 1 and 4