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I Am

May 15th 2011 by Joshua Simons

On this Good Shepherd Sunday we hear Jesus speak on of His "I Am" statements. What exactly does He mean when He says things like: "I am the Good Shepherd" or "I am the Gate" or I am the Light of the world"? Read or listen to find out more...

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Easter 4A - "I AM _____" - John 10:1-10 _ May 15, 2011

I promise that the text for today’s message is the gospel lesson from John chapter 10. However, before we get to that text, we’re going to do some time travel. Here we go! About 1500 years earlier as recorded in Exodus chapter 3. At Mt. Horeb, also known as Mt. Sinai, where Moses encountered the Lord at the burning bush. The Word of God came to Moses that day, calling him to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt. We pick up the account at verse 13. Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
So God’s name, I AM, in Hebrew, pronounced YAHWEH. I AM – exclusive, the God of Israel, our triune God, the one God . . . I AM – all-encompassing in knowledge, presence, power, judgment, and love. I AM – YAHWEH. Here we go! About 1500 years later as recorded John’s Gospel chapter 8. Jesus was speaking with the Jews regarding God the Father. Beginning with verse 55. “But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.” (And pay special attention to this exchange) “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Jesus, using the name, “I am”, identified himself as true God. In John’s Gospel, Jesus is recorded using the phrase “I am” well over a dozen times and each time he does, he establishes himself as true God. The God of the Old Testament, YAHWEH, who came to Moses at the burning bush. And Jesus, the Incarnate Word, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, who walked among his people. YAHWEH. Jesus. One in the same. Jesus is God. That’s it. That’s the truth.
In fact, I could’ve edited this sermon so far for time, but not content, by skipping all I’ve said and just simply saying, “Jesus is God.” Jesus is God! So what is the significance of this doctrine? Why is it important as we look at our gospel text from John chapter 10? Well, today’s text is just the first part of a longer text in which Jesus says, I am the Good Shepherd – one of his many “I AM” statements. But in these ten verses, the point is quite succinct. There are thieves and robbers – bad. And then there is Jesus – good. Many have and will continue to try and deceive, but life and salvation come only through Jesus. It is only his voice that we should follow. And verses 9 and 10 – I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Throughout the Old Testament, God promised that he would redeem his people. He promised to send a Savior. But this Savior could not be anyone born only of this world, for we are all born into sin. So no man, no matter how great, could ever be righteous enough to truly save us, to deliver us from our sin and bring us back into the Lord’s favor. No one is that righteous, save God himself, through the perfect man Jesus Christ, the Son of God, true eternal Lord, YAHWEH.
Because if Jesus was just a man, then we are not saved. If Jesus was just a great prophet, then we are not saved. If Jesus was just a very important historical figure, then we are not saved. But Jesus is God so we know that we are saved. Revealed to us in God’s Word, that by faith we may believe – Jesus is God – Jesus is our Savior – YAHWEH saves.
Because doubt is dangerous. And we all come face to face with doubts about our faith at times. So to combat doubt we must remain in faith. We must remain in the Word, come to worship, and pray without ceasing. We continue to come to God that we may receive his gifts by faith. Because by faith, knowing that Jesus is God allows us to trust the “foolishness” of the cross, that we truly have been redeemed by his blood, and that for the sake of Christ we receive God’s grace and forgiveness. We trust that Baptism is not just water, but that through his Word with the water we receive God’s grace and forgiveness. We trust that Communion is not just bread and wine, but Christ’s true body and blood, and that in the Sacrament we receive God’s grace and forgiveness. Because Jesus is God, we can trust that he is the door and that his is the true, and only, voice that calls us to salvation. We are saved by Christ alone, it’s really that simple . . . but unfortunately it’s not always that simple. What of the thieves and robbers? In this world we are surrounded by them: religions that claim to worship God, yet they deny Christ; religions that serve as nothing more than humanistic systems to a seemingly happier earthly experience; religions that claim to be Christian, yet deny the cross; worldly, temporal, philosophical thought; and even those within the Church who heavily preach Law and barely preach Gospel or who treat good works as part of our salvation. The devil has an arsenal of lies that he throws at people, and they all basically say the same thing: we are saved by what we do. That salvation is our work, not God’s. He works persistently to water down God’s Word with human thought and reason. His constant goal is to draw people away from the truth in Christ and he claims many, many victims. He is the ultimate sheep stealer. And even Christians, with all this around us, can get confused and try to compromise between worldly thinking and God’s Word. No! God’s Word is true . . . and that’s that! Colossians 2:8 – See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Hmmm, “according to Christ” . . . Jesus said, I am the bread of life (as bread sustains life, through Jesus we receive eternal life) . . . I am the light of the world (through Jesus we are called out of the darkness of our sin and into the light of God’s eternal, uninterrupted love) . . . I am the door (access to the Father in heaven comes only through Christ) . . . I am the good shepherd (Jesus lays down his life for the sheep) . . . and his clearest I AM statement from John 14:6 – I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Jesus is the only way to heaven. Only his words, the very words of YAHWEH, are truth. Only by him have we been given life and only through him do we receive eternal life. Through his many “I AM” statements Jesus helps us understand more about who he is, who God is, and what he has done for us. And even though the title of this message, “I AM _”, is in reference to Jesus Christ, we can make some “I am” statements of our own. It begins with us saying, “I am . . . a sinner.” Because Christians are not immune to the tricks of the great robber, Satan. He seeks to snatch us from the flock, from faith. An exasperating job, not having a job, illnesses, hurtful disagreements within families, death of a loved one or friend . . . the consequences of living in a sinful world. And our own sin . . . having a complacent faith, thinking of ourselves before others, judging others too quickly, not spending time in daily prayer and devotion because we’re just too busy, forgetting how badly we need God because sometimes life goes pretty ok, doing things as we see fit and not according to God’s Word. So God comes to us in his Word of Law, crushing us. We feel the weight of the consequence of our sin. We feel shame for the sins we commit. So in desperation we repent and cry, “I am . . . a sinner!” And then God comes to us in his Word of the Gospel. We are assured that he redeems us. We are assured that through his Son, Jesus, true man and true God, we are saved, and that a better life with no tears and suffering awaits. In his mercy, he gave his Son to die for us on the cross that we may be forgiven, and so we are. Jesus rose from the dead, completing the work of our salvation. His voice calls to his sheep. He calls us to the cross of forgiveness and to the empty tomb of life. And by his good grace, we get to fill in the blank . . . I am . . . forgiven. I am . . . purchased by his blood. I am . . . a child of God. I am . . . sanctified, a work to be completed on the last day. I am . . . saved. I have life and I have it abundantly. Amen. And now may the peace of God, that which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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