Who Is Jesus?

TODAY’S READING: JOHN 7-8

“So they said to him, ‘Who are you?'” – John 8:25

The Jews asked Jesus, “Who are you?”

Who is Jesus? is the question that dominates John 8:12-59.

Jesus definitively answers this question in John 8:58 when he says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

Who is Jesus?

I am.

Jesus declares that he is the God who revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush. Further, Jesus says he was I am before Abraham.

Sadly, it does not come through in the English translations, but Jesus’ definitive answer to the Jews’ question of who he was is not the first time that Jesus declares “I am” in John 8:12-59.

In John 8:24, Jesus said, “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

There is no Greek word for he in the original text. And, supplying the “he” takes away from the force of what Jesus is saying.

What Jesus really said was, “For unless you believe that I am you will die in your sins.”

I checked numerous English translations. All of them add the “he” or something else after “I am,” detracting from the force of Jesus’ statement about who he is.

It’s important to leave Jesus’ statement of who he is as he said it – “For unless you believe that I am” – because this is what leads to the Jews’ question. It is immediately after Jesus says “I am” that the Jews ask “Who are you?” It’s as if the Jews are saying, “Wait a minute. Who did you just say you are?”

In John 8:28, Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he.” But, again the “he” is not in the original text.

Jesus actually said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am.”

 

Therefore, in John 8:58. Jesus’ definitive answer to who he is starts “Truly, truly.” He’s already told the Jews several times, but they can’t hear the answer.

In John 8:12-59, Jesus says “I am” (ego eimi) seven times. The seventh time is Jesus’ definitive statement of who he is in John 8:58. John is a very symbolic writer. Therefore, this should catch our attention. Seven is the number of spiritual perfection.

Why is the answer “I am” to the question of who Jesus is so important?

Knowing that Jesus is “I am” is the word and the truth that sets us free, leading to our spiritual perfection.

How so?

Jesus’ reply when the Jews ask Jesus, “Who are you?” after his first “I am” declaration is interesting. Jesus said, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning.”

What beginning is Jesus referring to?

Perhaps he is alluding to the beginning in Genesis.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:1, 3)

The first act of God’s creating was to call forth light. This is fascinating in light of (pun intended) how the whole conversation of who Jesus is started.

John 8:12 says, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

“I am the light of the world.”

This is the second of Jesus’ “I am” statements in John. Altogether, he makes seven “I am” statements in the gospel of John.

  1. “I am the bread of life.” – John 6:48
  2. “I am the light of the world.” – John 8:12
  3. “I am the door of the sheep.” – John 10:7
  4. “I am the good shepherd.” – John 10:11
  5. “I am the resurrection and the life.” – John 11:25
  6. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” – John 14:6
  7. “I am the true vine.” – John 15:1

All of these “I am” statements have to do with life.

As the bread of life, Jesus is that which gives and sustains life.

As the light of the world, it is Jesus’ life (“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”) that lights the world, shining in the darkness, taking the world from death to life.

As the door, Jesus is the entry point to life and where life is protected.

As the good shepherd, Jesus lays down his life to protect life.

As the resurrection and the life, Jesus is the making all things new, taking those that were dead in their trespasses and making them alive to God.

As the way, truth, and life, Jesus is light, love, and life, which are the three invisible attributes of God clearly perceived since the creation of the world. (See my post Creation: A Witness to Jesus.)

As the true vine, Jesus is our connection to life, the vehicle through whom life passes from God to us.

The whole passage is about who Jesus is.

Jesus is I am.

Jesus is life.

In John 12:49-50, Jesus said, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment – what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life.”

1 John 5:10-12 says, “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

God’s testimony is that he gave us eternal life and that life is in Jesus.

God commanded Jesus what to say and what to speak. God’s commandment to Jesus was to speak life.

This is what Jesus did.

He spoke life.

This is Jesus’ word.

Four times in John 8:12-59 Jesus says “my word.” (The fifth time is the Jews repeating what Jesus said as a question.)

In John 8:31, Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

We are to abide in Jesus’ word – life.

If we are abide in Jesus’ word – life – then we are truly his disciples.

We will know the truth – that Jesus speaks and gives life.

Knowing that Jesus speaks and gives life, the truth, will set us free.

Free from what?

Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

The fear of death has had all of us in lifelong slavery.

But, Jesus’ word, the truth, that Jesus speaks and gives life, set us free from the fear of death.

Therefore, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”

Because of our fear of death we have been in lifelong slavery. Because of our fear of death, we go about bringing death to others in order to stave off our own death that we are so afraid of. We practice sin, meaning we bring death to others. Because we practice sin, bringing death to others to protect our own life, we have become a slave to sin and the fear of death. So, we continually, over and and over, resort to death as a way to protect ourselves.

However, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” If you abide in Jesus’ word, the truth, which is that Jesus speaks and gives life, then you will be truly free. The word free literally means a free person, not a slave. When Jesus sets you free, you are free from slavery to sin brought about by the fear of death. You no longer need to resort to death – war, murder, oppression, injustice, covetousness, etc. – to protect your own life. Instead, you are free to die to bring the same life that Jesus spoke and gave to you to others.

But, Jesus said, “Yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.”

When the word of life that Jesus speaks to us does not abide in us, we seek to kill. We first seek to kill God. Then, we seek to kill others. All because we are enslaved to sin due to our fear of death. We are trapped in an endless spiral of death if Jesus’ word of life does not abide in us.

The Jews did not know Jesus as I am. Therefore, while they Abraham’s physical offspring, their true father, their spiritual father, was the devil. Therefore, they did their father’s desires. The devil is a murdered and a liar. So, that Jews murdered and lied. This is in complete contrast to what one does when they know Jesus as “I am.”

So, Jesus asks, “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear to my word.”

If you cannot understand Jesus because it because you cannot hear his word, which is life. If you cannot hear life it is because you are of your father the devil. These are sobering words from Jesus.

“If I tell you the truth, why do you not believe me?”

If Jesus speaks and gives life, following the commandment his Father gave him, then why do we not believe Jesus’ word?

“Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Why do you not believe Jesus’ word of life?

You are not of God.

Again, this is a very sobering word from Jesus. It should cause us to stop and think hard about what we believe about God.

For we hear life from Jesus, his word, the word from God, if we are of God.

How are we of God?

We know the answer to the question “Who is Jesus?”

The I Am.

The resurrection and the life.

The way, and the truth, and the life.

The Gate of the Lord

TODAY’S READING: PSALMS 112-118

“Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.” – Psalm 118:19-20

“This is the gate of the Lord.”

What is this referring to?

I believe it is referring to righteousness. “Righteousness is the gate of the Lord.”

We tend to think that the word righteousness means correct moral action. But, the word means something more and different than that. The Hebrew word has more to do with faithfulness. Thus, the Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament defines this Hebrew word as to be communally faithful. In his latest book, The Day the Revolution Began, N.T. Wright notes that the Greek word for righteousness means covenant faithfulness or covenant justice.

So, communal or covenant faithfulness is the gate of the Lord.

Further, “this is the gate of the Lord” is interesting because of the word “this.” I checked about 15 different translations. All of them translate the Hebrew word as “this.” But, the Hebrew word used here can also mean “such a one.” Therefore, perhaps “this is the gate of the Lord” has the idea that such a one who is righteous, covenantally faithful, is the gate of the Lord.

In John 10:9, Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” So, Jesus is this gate that we enter by. According to 1 Corinthians 1:30, Jesus “became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” Jesus became covenant faithfulness to us.

In Romans 1:16-17, Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.'” The gospel – Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected – reveals the covenant faithfulness of God.

God’s righteousness, his covenant faithfulness, was revealed to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden through his provision of every tree that was good for food and to the sight and, most importantly, through the tree of life, which is a picture of Jesus. This is important because as Paul continued in Romans 1 he described the unrighteousness, or lack of covenant faithfulness of men.

I believe Paul sums up man’s unrighteousness in Romans 1:21, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.” God had provided everything good thing, including his own life, to man. But, man failed to be covenantally faithful through a simple lack of honoring and thanking God for his good provision. Adam and Eve, and each one of us, sought to live by the knowledge of good and evil in independence from God and their becoming like God instead of God’s provision and dependence upon him.

Thanksgiving is critical to Psalm 118. After asking for the gates of righteousness to be opened in verse 19, the psalmist says that he will go through them and give thanks to the Lord. In verse 21, the psalmist thanks the Lord for answering him and becoming his salvation, which as we saw above is made possible through Christ’s covenant faithfulness.

Also, Psalm 118 opens and closes with the exact same statement. “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.” Here is the key for entering through the gate of righteousness, Jesus Christ who is the door by which one must enter to be saved. There must be a complete acknowledgment that God is good, as his provision in the garden of Eden revealed. And, there must be an acknowledgement that his steadfast love, his goodness, his covenant faithfulness, endures forever. Finally, we must give thanks to God for his goodness, his good provision, and his steadfast love that never ends. For it is thankfulness to God that keeps our minds on him instead of being darkened to serve idols.

The Door Is Open

TODAY’S READING: 2 CHRONICLES 29-31

“In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them.” – 2 Chronicles 29:3

Opening the doors of the house of the Lord was one of the first acts of Hezekiah as king. And, it’s also one of the first acts of Jesus as king.

Notice that Hezekiah opened the doors of the house of the Lord in the first month of the first year of his reign. When he opened the doors of the house of the Lord, Hezekiah provided access to God that had been cut off.

In John 10:9, Jesus said, “I am the door.” And, in John 14:6, Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” As the door, Jesus is the access, the way, to the Father.

What opened this door, this way, to the Father?

Hebrews 10:19-20 says, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.”

The door is opened by the blood of Jesus. By his death on the cross, the shedding of his blood, Jesus revealed the Father’s love for us. And, it’s God’s kindness, his love, that lead us to repent and draw near to him.

Jesus died on the cross in the first month of the year. And, his crucifixion was in the first year of his reign. It was because of his obedience to death on the cross that Jesus was exalted by God (Philippians 2:8-9). It was after his death on the cross that Jesus ascended to heaven to take his seat on the throne. That’s when the reign of Jesus as king began.

So, just like Hezekiah, Jesus opened the door, the way, to the Father in the first month of the first year of his reign.

2 Chronicles 29:3 also says Hezekiah repaired the doors. In the Hebrew, the word for repaired literally means to be strong or firm. Other translations say that Hezekiah strengthened the doors.

Jesus did that too.

In Revelation 3:8, Jesus said, “Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.” Jesus opened the door by his blood. Jesus opened the way to the Father. And, no one can shut the door or close the way. Here we see the strength of Jesus on display. Nothing, no one, can shut the door that he has opened. His power keeps it permanently open.

One small, seemingly innocuous act of Hezekiah, the opening of the doors of the house of the Lord, recorded so that we can see Jesus as the one who permanently opened the door to the Father.