Holy Trinity • John 8:48–59 • May 22, 2016
By Charles Arand
“I Am” Your Creator and Redeemer
This is one of the better-known passages in John and is a favorite passage for many when it comes to finding texts that speak to the deity of Jesus. And yet it is perhaps one of the more enigmatic passages as well. After all, what kind of a name is “I Am”? It is for this reason that we need to help people connect the dots between this text and the larger narrative of Scripture.
As many readers will immediately recognize, this passage connects with the OT context in which God reveals his name to Moses. When Moses asks God what he should call him, God says, “I Am.” Jesus here appropriates for himself the name by which God identifies himself. This is why the Jews expressed anger toward Jesus and accused him of blasphemy.
But what does it mean for God to say “I Am”? Often this is translated as Lord. And rightly so. He is the one who rules. He is the one who rules over all things. There is none who is like him. But why is there none like him? And why does he rule over all things (note that this conversation with Moses takes place before God rescues his people out of Egypt)? Is it because he is a more powerful god than all the others?
Here is where we need to connect the dots in the narrative. Why is God Lord? Why is he the “I Am”? Because he is the Creator! Here we would do well to remember that in Scripture, the title “God” is not a reference to an abstract deity or a philosophical concept of ultimate being or anything like that. It is always rooted in a narrative. And what defines God in that narrative of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is that he is the Creator. To put it bluntly, “if you created everything . . . you are God.” If you did not create everything . . . you are not God.”
Now let’s come back to Jesus. I am the Creator. Consider how the very Gospel of John opens (verses 1–4).
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
So to confess that Jesus is God is to confess that he is the Creator of all things. And for this reason he rules all things.
That brings us back to John 8. Here we confront the Creator who became a human creature. But how is it possible that this man is the “I Am,” the creator of the entire universe? Everyone knew that he was only in his fourth decade of life on earth. He had been born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth. And so we encounter the mystery of the incarnation. Jesus can say that he is “I Am,” the Creator, because it is the person of the Son of God who took on a human nature. The one who speaks is the second person of the Trinity. Yet he speaks through his human nature, he speaks as a man.
And so the one who created us now redeems us. Or put the other way, the one who has redeemed us is also the one who had created us. Thus we confess that Jesus is our Lord, that is, he is both our Creator and our Redeemer. He is one and the same.
In terms of an outline, one might try to help people see why Jesus’s statement “I Am” was so shocking and appalling to the Jews. We tend to take it for granted that Jesus claims to be Yahweh. But we often don’t think about what it is that makes Yahweh God, namely, that he is the creator of the universe. And so we tend not to think of Jesus as the Creator either, instead limiting his identification and lordship to being our redeemer in the second and third articles of the creed. It might be more startling for us to realize that Jesus claims to be our creator. And yet also more comforting, for the one who created us is the one who has now redeemed us!