Lent  Teaching Series

The Call to "I AM"

The “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John help Lenten pilgrims intentionally reflect and proclaim of God becoming flesh.


With Lent leading us to the cross, and the cross signifies many things, but first thing it reveals to us it is the death of God.  Let that sink in.


The “I AM” statements of Jesus are more than just a novelty of the Fourth Gospel; for what they do is reveal, in all fullness (John 1:16), the identity of Jesus, nature, along with the Father’s purpose for the Son.  To seasoned Christians, this is obvious.  But Lent is the season to remember one very important thing about what it means to be a Christian: that when Jesus of Nazareth goes to the cross, there goes Father who is one with the Son.


Jesus is a one-and-only God, who is singularly unique God (John 1:18).  This is the distinctive exhortation of Christianity.  Yet in today’s world what’s said and believed about Jesus has the tendency to divide Jesus’ humanity from Jesus’ divinity.  The manner in which we believe, teach and reflect upon who Jesus is makes it very easy in choosing between Jesus of Nazareth (the man) and Jesus the Messiah (the son of God).  It all depends upon whom we need Jesus to be in a certain time or place, for a certain purpose.


The Gospel of John reminds us — which, during Lent, is an especially important thing to remember — that to believe in Jesus is to hold the fullness of Jesus’ humanity and Jesus’ divinity together as one, without separation.


You may be asking, “What difference does this make?” Jesus is Jesus right!   Let me put it this way, when we collapse Jesus’ humanity into Jesus’ divinity, it gets harder for us to imagine the purpose and emotional impact of the cross.  After all, if it was God who nailed to a tree, to what extent was God suffering? And when we minimize Jesus’ divinity, it becomes easy for us to reduce Jesus to an above-average teacher, miracle worker, and advocate for the poor.


The challenge of Lent is to negotiate these simultaneous truths — and how to admit which Jesus we prefer.  Otherwise, and all too often, when we speak of Jesus we trot him out and used him to justify moral claims as if God were not at all a part of the picture.


Lent can help us understand that each time Jesus says, “I AM,” the entirety of the “I AM” statements stands behind this revelation.  And every time Jesus says, “I AM the bread of life, I AM the light of the world,” the fullness of the absolute “I AM” statements stands behind this claim. When we keep this in mind, we begin to see that if we try to separate God and the Word made flesh, we have likely missed the point of Christianity altogether.


Consider the following quotation, circulating on Social Media: “I AM. Two of the most powerful words; for what you put after them shapes your reality.”


This Lenten series is intended to help us imagine that what Jesus puts after “I AM” in the Gospel of John shapes our reality.

February 18: I AM the Bread of Life.                                           John 6:35-40

When Jesus says, “I AM the bread of life,” it is easy to limit this promise to our practices surrounding the Lord’s Supper. This communal act is central to our Christian identity.  But in this passage, Jesus reminds us that the offer of himself is not just for us on a Sunday morning, but also so that we might provide life for others.  


Feb 25: I AM the Light of the World                                            John 8:12-20

Jesus first says these words to a man born blind, and to his disciples later in John's Gospel.  John is letting us know, “I AM the light of the world” is first spoken for those who question, struggle and condemn it.  It is first for those who, even if they don’t know it, need to hear it the most.  John wants us to learn how to become a vessel of God's light for those who live in darkness.


March 3: I AM the Door                                                                John 10:1-10

Doors make us feel safe, either by making sure no one gets in or by justifying our staying in.  They are the border that insures separation from those who we suspect might harm us.  This passage affirms that Jesus as the door is most certainly our security.

“I AM the door” asks us to recognize and realize where and how and why we walk out of the fold (or not), leaving comfort and safeguard behind to be God’s love in the world.


March 10: I AM the Good Shepherd                                           John 10:11-18

This image of Jesus is much more than we ever imagined.  With a lamb on his shoulders, Jesus comforts us, making us feel secure and safe.  We follow Jesus because we know his voice and he calls us by name.  This is both a promise for those who know Jesus, and those who have questions about Jesus.But when we keep reading, we find out that Jesus as shepherd is not just a promise for us, but a promise for others.

We should be encouraged by John, to look for those sheep who have been outcast, rejected (John 9:34), giving them belonging when they have never had it or have been denied it.


March 17: I AM the Resurrection and the Life                         John 11:17-27

The raising of Lazarus makes two very important claims for our future; first, that Jesus will be raised; second, and so will we.

This is good news, of course.  It is a certainty of what happens after death that gives us hope and allows us to hope for those, we love whom we lose.  John teaches us that death will not be the end.  Jesus’ tomb, our tomb, will end up empty.  This is what Jesus needed Martha to see, and what he needs us to see.  Jesus is the resurrection AND the life.

This means that to make sense of life, it must be done through the lens of resurrection.  It means we give witness to rebirth and recreation when all there seems to be is death.  Witnessing resurrection on a daily basis is what makes it possible to view the places and spaces where death seems to have taken hold, where empire appears to be the only power, and where suspicion and intolerance look to have won the day.  This is where we must give witness to the truth we know.