The Greek philosopher Plato once wrote, “The father and maker of this universe is past finding out, and if we found him, to tell of him to all men would be impossible.” Against that philosophy, Christianity affirms that God has revealed himself to his people by creation, in conscience, and, most particularly, in Christ, of whom the Scriptures bear witness. To know “the father and maker of this universe” is to know Christ and there is no more noble task for a person to pursue than knowing Christ.
The Gospel of John was written for this very purpose. John said that he wrote “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (20:30–31). The apostle accomplished this goal in his Gospel in a number of ways—one of which is through a series of statements accredited to Jesus in which our Lord claims, “I am.” These “I am” statements give us great insight into who Jesus is and, therefore, into “finding out” the “father and maker of this universe.”
For the next several days, I want to focus our devotional attention on knowing Jesus. This is a pursuit that is never wasted and is perhaps more needed in these times than ever. I will consider each statement in turn, but I want to begin by helping us to understand why knowing God is so important.
First, knowing God is essential for salvation. Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). To know God—to experientially, intimately know him—is the means by which we attain eternal life. Salvation is impossible apart from knowing God.
Second, knowing God is crucial for our service. When God wanted to prepare Moses for service, he called him to the burning bush, where he revealed himself. When Moses asked about God’s identity, the Lord responded, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). He was not somehow avoiding the question but revealing his nature and character to his people. He revealed himself as absolute being, committed to working for his people’s benefit.
Centuries later, Jesus claimed this identity for himself (John 8:48–59). When the religious leaders accused him of being possessed by a demon, Jesus responded by claiming that God was his Father and that life was found only in him and his teachings. The religious leaders mockingly rebutted that Abraham, the greatest of all Jews, had believed God’s word and yet was dead. How could Jesus claim that his words had the power to impart eternal life? Jesus replied, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” The Jews asked him how he could have known Abraham since he was not even fifty years old, while Abraham had been dead for centuries. Jesus then powerfully said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” The religious leaders recognised this as a claim to deity, for “they picked up stones to throw at him.” When he said, “I am,” Jesus claimed to be the “I AM” who met Moses at the burning bush.
On at least seven other occasions in John’s Gospel, Jesus claimed, “I am.” Each time, he added something to emphasise that he was the true source of eternal life. Each claim reveals something to us about who Jesus is and how he works salvation in our lives.
Jesus is the bread of life, who offers eternal sustenance to those who recognise their hunger and come to him. He is the light of the world to those who walk in darkness and are in need of illumination for their paths. He is the gate of the sheepfold to lost sheep who are looking for safety and protection. He is the good Shepherd to those who find themselves wandering aimlessly in the wilderness. He is the resurrection and the life to those who admit that they are dead in their sins. He is the way, the truth, and the life to those who are seeking the true source of eternal life. He is the true vine for those who are looking for a meaningful and fruitful connection to the Father.
News of disease and death surrounds us as we face yet another surge in the COVID-19 pandemic. More than ever, we need to be reminded of Jesus Christ, the source of hope of eternal life. He has revealed himself to us in the Scriptures. Let us prayerfully examine the Scriptures in coming days to find in him our hope for salvation and service in this life and the life to come.