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The Great "I Am"

We start at some of Jesus's own declarations of being the Son of Man. Interestingly it wasn't this name that mitigated against him, it was the context that sent out the signals. Let's see ...

"But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins ...." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home." (Matthew 9:6)

You only have to judge the reaction of the Pharisees to understand what Jesus was demonstrating here, his authority to forgive sins. He was acting as God here. This was covered in detail in an earlier article.

"For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." (Matthew 12:8)

The Sabbath was a divine institution, initiated in Creation week and ratified by the finger of God Himself on Mount Sinai. The Lord of the Sabbath could only be God himself.

"For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done." (Matthew 16:27)

A reference to God as his Father and his own role in the Grand Court of Humanity at the End of Days seems to seal the deal.

"Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Matthew 19:28)

Another reference to the Grand Court, with jobs for the boys also offered.

"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory." (Matthew 24:30)

Outside of comic books, no mere mortals have ever been seen coming in the clouds.

"No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven - the Son of Man" (John 3:13).

At that time Heaven was a divine address, only a divine person would have appeared on the Census forms.

Also, in the Gospel of John, there is the matter of Jesus's seven proclamations.

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (John 6:51)

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)

"I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture." (John 10:9)

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep". (John 10:11)

"Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;" (John 11:25)

"Jesus answered, "I am the way and 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)

No prizes for the common factor here. It is Jesus introducing himself with the words, "I am ..."

These two words alone were enough to declare his identity. To any listening Jew it was like he was shouting from the rooftops, "it is me, the Son of God". To understand this we need to return to the time of Moses, to his encounter with the burning bush in Exodus 3:13-14:

"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?" 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.' "

You've heard the expression about someone who is far too big for his boots, "there goes the great I AM". Well, this is where it comes from. Like many of our popular expressions, it comes from the Bible. In this case, it is a solemn and awesome episode, the first time God really identifies Himself by name to His people.

The Hebrew word used here is Ehyeh, translated as "I am", but more correctly translated as "I will be". It is the root of the divine name YHWH used throughout the Old Testament, incorrectly transliterated as Jehovah.

So Jesus identified with God in the most overt and provocative way he could. He was truly the great I AM.

He said as much to a Jewish gathering:

"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" (John 8:58)

And they tried to stone him for blasphemy.

He said as much to the Chief Priest at his trial:

 "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Mark 14:62)

And the Chief Priest tore his clothes and declared him a blasphemer, worthy of death.

So Jesus was truly divine, he knew it and demonstrated it. But he didn't come down to this Earth to boast of his credentials and gather a band of disciples, he had a very real mission to perform. There was a reason behind it all. He had come, as his name Jesus (Yeshua) indicated, to save his people. He had come to be their redeemer.

Steve Maltz
November 2012

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Jesus Man of Many Names)

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