Jesus claimed to be God among us and that the truth would set us free. What if we are overwhelmed with all of the differing opinions on spirituality, faith, and religion and cannot discern the truth from the rumors and the lies? Discover how a relationship with God brings clarity, purpose, and genuine freedom to life.
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Gateway South Message:
Message Notes from the Teaching Team:
As we’ve mentioned throughout this series, Jesus uses the phrase “I Am…” multiple times to show us who God is. So far we have looked at how Jesus said:
- “I am the bread of life” showing that God is our provider and sustainer of life.
- “I am the light of the world” showing that God is our guide in our dark world.
- “I am the gate” showing that God is our protector.
- “I am the Good Shepherd” showing that God is our Father and caregiver.
- “I am the True Vine” showing He brings true transformation.
Today we are looking at two other times when He was even more explicit about His claim to be God.
The religious leaders of the time are in a constant state of trying to catch Jesus blaspheming scripture. They’re the biblical version of trolls. They attend his meetings, talk to people who are behind the scenes, they’re the religious version of TMZ.
So here we find Jesus in John 8, and he is in this conversation with these same religious leaders. They are covering Jewish law, history and tradition…when the hot button issue comes up. The patriarch himself, the cornerstone of the Jewish faith, Abraham is conjured up. Then Jesus looks at these leaders and says they are children of Satan and are filled with lies and deceit. They are murderers who are looking to kill him. Then the question that will trigger everyone comes:
John 8: 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
This question…posed by the religious leaders of the day… expects a “no” response. But that’s exactly what Jesus was claiming…that he was greater than Abraham… But… Jesus didn’t just claim to be greater than Abraham….
In John 4:12-13 The women at the well asks Jesus:
Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again…
In Matthew 12: 41 Jesus says- The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.
In John 5:36 Jesus says “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me.”
In Matthew 12:42 Jesus Says..The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.
Jesus is Greater Than…
So we hear that Jesus…says that He is…
- He is greater than Jacob
- He is greater than Jonah
- He is greater than John the Baptist.
- He is greater than King Solomon
- He is greater than Abraham
Listen to Jesus’ response to the religious leaders question are you greater than Abraham..
54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
You might say, so Jesus made a generic statement about being “the I am,” what’s the big deal?
One of the things we have seen in this series is that Jesus was far bolder than you and I might realize. If you’ve ever heard someone say that Jesus never claimed to be God, then they haven’t read these eyewitness accounts of what Jesus actually said. This is an incredibly bold statement! And you can tell by the way these religious leaders responded! They were furious! They were ready to kill him right then!
Now when Jesus says “I am” this was blasphemy to the Jews and they tried to stone Jesus. They understood completely what He was saying, which was that He was the pre-existent Deity…YHWH
This phrase “I am” intentionally used by Jesus refers us back to an Old Testament scripture passage. This encounter between God and Moses when the people of Israel were enslaved and crying out to God to rescue them.
Here’s the passage:
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?
14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ – Exodus 3
“This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.
Jesus’ words to these leaders were very plain. He was the Messiah and He was one with the Father.
This is a big deal to the religious leaders because Jesus is invoking the same name as God himself. Jesus is saying that he is in God, and God is in him…they are one. So of course the religious leaders now want to stone him, according to Levitical law. Because in their mind, Jesus is a liar, a treacherous leader who is trying to undermine their beliefs.
Reasons the Religious Leaders Struggled to accept Jesus’ Radical New Message
1. He did not act the way they expected the Messiah to act. On the liturgical calendar (church calendar…it’s Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday, the start of what is known as Holy Week….the week leading up to the crucifixion and Easter….(by the way join us for Good Friday & Easter)
But Palm Sunday….is a reflective day in which we remember Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey… Now most teachings on this will say that the donkey only represents Jesus just being a man of peace….
But that’s not the entire story. It can be easy to assume that because we’re on the back side of History..And we know that Jesus…wasn’t a conquering King…but rather a suffering servant…we know how the story played out…
But At the time though… it would have been known that a donkey was a royal mount of The kings of Israel. Near eastern donkey’s were large, stately animals.
So Jesus riding in on a donkey that no one else has rode..was a symbol of Jesus’ kingliness, not simply His being a man of peace.
So it would have been hard for them to accept that Jesus was the Prophesied Messiah…The King to Come…
2. He challenged their sacred oral traditions
3. He confused their strict monotheism-that they were to put no other God’s before YHWH
4. And…He asserted that Satan, not YHWH, was their “father”
So…It seems that One must either “stone” Him or “receive” Him! There was no middle ground!
The Name of God
And it’s important to know that The Hebrew People didn’t and still don’t speak or write the Tetragram, a fancy Greek word for the 4 letter name of God YWHW. And when they write, they use this symbol to refer to YWHW….[pic of YWHW symbol]
But they did refer to God by a few different names:
- El-shaddai- The Lord Almighty
- El-ohim- The Force above all other forces
- Hashem- The personal experiential God…
- Adonai-God is my Lord
So the point is this……God has many names…..but only one…that’s given by God himself….and that’s I AM…or YWHW…
So for these religious leaders they had a hard time coming to terms with Jesus claiming to be….I AM…
Ben Petree, creative Arts director of Gateway Buda..says this: “When the religious Jews of the day were like. No-Way, Jesus was like…YWHW.”
Now we know the People of Israel…experienced God…YWHW….in the wilderness…in a cloud…in a bush…on a mountain top…in what is known as a Theophany…
And…The Greeks & Romans, who were also in earshot of Jesus… believed that behind all of human history there was the force called the logos….through knowledge…the logos……it’s where they got their wisdom from, their understanding, their revelation..and their enlightenment…And their goal in life was to try and comprehend the “logos….
But Jesus…comes and says to religious Jews: Hey that God YHWH that you’ve worshiped through the wilderness…on the mountain top, through the exile… He’s now here…and He’s not just in a bush, He’s not just in a cloud…or pillar of fire
He’s here in the flesh…I AM.
And to the Greeks & Romans…Jesus says…
- The “logos” has become flesh….
- And He’s in a person
- And he’s in front of you…..I AM
Now….Jesus’ claim to be God has at times been skirted….reducing Jesus down to just a great moral teacher…like that of a Plato, Homer, Aristotle or Gandhi…But that’s not what Jesus is claiming through hisstatement….I AM…
One of the things we have seen in this series is that Jesus was far bolder than you and I might realize.
If you’ve ever heard someone say that Jesus never claimed to be God, then they haven’t read these eyewitness accounts of what Jesus actually said.
This is an incredibly bold statement! And you can tell by the way these religious leaders responded! They were furious! They were ready to kill him right then!
Now, too often, our view of Jesus is too small. We see Him as a great teacher, a very quotable guru, a healer, a defender of the outcast, and He is all of those things but even more. Our assumptions of Jesus are based on misrepresentations coming from American churchianity, what we’ve heard others say, or our own preconceived notions.
Whether you are skeptical that Jesus is God or you have followed Him for years, if you haven’t tried this yet, read through the eyewitness account called the Gospel of John. Before you read each time, simply pray: “God show me who you are and who you want me to be..” or “God, show me more of who you are and who you want me to be.”
Now, too often, our view of Jesus is too small. We see Him as a great teacher, a very quotable guru, a healer, a defender of the outcast, and He is all of those things but He’s so much more than that!
Our assumptions of Jesus are based on misrepresentations coming from American churchianity, what we’ve heard others say, or our own preconceived notions.
Why is this important for us?
Why should we care that Jesus and God are so powerfully connected. Let’s use Jesus own words to explain.
Jesus is sharing His last meal with his disciples which happened Just over 2000 years ago at this time of year in the week leading up to that first Easter weekend. They have been together for 2-3 years, but now He knows it is time for Him to leave them. It was now time for Him to complete His mission to rescue humanity and die on the cross. In one of the longest messages from Jesus that we have in the Scriptures (John 13-17), Jesus is warning them of His departure yet promising that though He was leaving them physically, the Spirit of God was coming and would be with them closer than ever before. So these disciples are afraid and concerned. Here’s what Jesus says:
John 14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
The reason for us to do this scriptural exercise and reading is to then set us up for the practical part of walking with Jesus. If we take Jesus at face value, there is then a logical progression to God.
- The I am is the WAY
- The I am is the TRUTH
- The I am is the LIFE
Let’s do a quick personal assessment of where we are spiritually, especially if you are already following Jesus:
The “I am” is the WAY
For the Way: When it comes to making decisions, how often are you looking to Jesus for His ways or simply going your own way or following the ways of the world?
Is it 0% of the time that you are considering Jesus’ ways?
100% is when you are staying connected with the Spirit of God all day long and every decision is infused by HIs guidance.
“To follow Jesus implies that we enter into a way of life that is given character and shape and direction by the one who calls us.” – Eugene Peterson in The Jesus Way
Isaiah 55:8 We read that God is saying that our ways are not his ways, and that his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Why are our ways not always to be trusted? BECAUSE Proverbs 14:12 says, There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
The “I am” is the TRUTH
For the Truth: When it comes to discerning what is happening in your world, how often are you looking to Jesus to discern the truth or how often are you getting sucked into the lies – either lies you are believing about yourself or others or lies you are believing fed to you by the world? This requires accountability and people who love you enough to share any blindspots they may see in your life.
100% means you are walking in truth at all times which requires humility, spending time with God in the Scriptures, in prayer, in worship, and in community.
Listen to this beautiful verse. “Teach me your way, Oh Lord, and I will walk in your truth.” – Psalm 86:11
Jesus said: They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. – John 17:17-18
“Truth is far more than facts. It’s not just something we act upon. It acts upon us. We can’t change the truth, but the truth can change us. It sanctifies (sets us apart) from the falsehoods woven into our sin natures.”– Randy Alcorn
When we begin to walk in Jesus, our new nature, our new WAY of walking allows for the TRUTH of who we are in Jesus. The old lies, the old patterns, the old names that permeated our mind and heart, now melt away.
Jesus as the WAY, leads me to a Jesus who now tells me TRUTH! It’s that way of telling the truth that leads us to life.
The “I am” is the LIFE
For the Life: When it comes to transformation, how often are we experiencing the fullness of life Jesus has promised? This means being transformed and bringing transformation to others.
100% means you are always experiencing the fruit of the Spirit of love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control, and every chance we get, we are BLESSing our neighbors, co-workers, family, and friends to help them find life in Jesus.
When overwhelmed I have turned to desserts, to television, and to the news. These are moments when I know I am not going His way, standing in His truth, or experiencing His life. Sometimes I may be turning to all 3 at the same time! For a long time this was my pattern. It was way better than more scandalous options. Even still, went through recovery which helped me recalibrate to make progress towards who God wants me to be – free from these struggles.
In Philippians 2, Jesus models for us the perfect symbiotic relationship we can have with the Father.
Jesus models for us the perfect symbiotic relationship we can have with the Father.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.