This is my final post in this short series summarising each of the Gospels. In particular, I’ve looked at the different perspectives each writer brings to their portrayal of Jesus’ life and ministry.
All of the gospel writers allude to Jesus’ divinity. After all, Matthew and Luke both describe Jesus being conceived by a virgin! But John’s gospel makes the most explicit claim from the very first verse.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John opens his Gospel with the phrase “In the beginning” that he’s copied from the opening of Genesis. From the moment before Creation. The moment when there was only God. John takes us to that moment and there we find the Word [Jesus]. In that moment when there was only God the Word was there with God, but even more than that, the Word was God.
What an opening. That gets your attention. John claims that Jesus is God. Now the rest of the book will hopefully substantiate that statement.
Now it’s true that in the Gospels Jesus never makes the statement “I am God”. But the cumulative evidence certainly points to that conclusion. Seven times John records Jesus making a statement that begins with the phrase “I am“. Jesus commenting on his own identity.
- And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
- Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).
- “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).
- “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
- Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).
- Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
- “I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener” (John 15:1).
Who is Jesus? He is the Bread to feed upon, the Light to follow, the Door to enter, the Shepherd to guide, the Resurrection upon which to wait, the Way of salvation to trust, and the Vine in which to abide. They are definitely grandiose claims, perhaps even divine.
In chapter 10 we find the Pharisees ready to kill Jesus for blasphemy. In v30 Jesus closes a conversation saying, “I and the Father are one”. So the Jews picked up stones to stone him… then in v33 they explain, “we are not stoning you for any good work, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” Without Jesus saying “I am God” his audience understood that he was claiming equality with God.
When Thomas sees the resurrected Jesus he worships saying, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus validates this title in v29 by commending Thomas for his faith.
The book begins in 1:1 claiming that Jesus was God, then it concludes with the skeptical apostle making the same statement. These two statements stand as two bookends in John’s gospel. In between Jesus frequently utters “I am…” statements of identity to the point that he was almost stoned for claiming to be God.
But John didn’t write his gospel as a philosophical treatise. The question we must ask ourselves is “Who died on that cross? Who died for our sins? Was it God? Was it a lesser god? Was it a prophet, or a good man?” It makes a difference. Did God love you enough that He died for your sins, or only enough that he commissioned someone else to die in your place?
Who was it on that cross?
How important is it to you that God died for your sins? Or does it not matter to you, as long as someone did?
BONUS MATERIAL: In my research for this sermon and blog I came across a series of 1minute videos that introduce the 7 “I am” statements. I enjoyed them and you might too. You can find them HERE.