Sunday 23rd June, 2019
Series: I AM
Preacher: Phil Swain
Bible Reading: John 6:35,47-69 & John 8:12-19
A few weeks ago, I just clicked over 18 months of being here at TUC. I have learnt a lot about you and this church over the 18 months, but I am sure that there is still a lot more to learn.
I wonder, have you got to know me? I hope so … after all, I do talk a lot about myself or share stories about myself in my sermons. And actually that is the same way that people got to know Jesus too. Yes, people like the disciples and the other followers spent time with him but the main way that the crowds got to understand and know Jesus was through his times of teaching.
In the gospel of John, we see this most clearly. Jesus was wanting people to understand who he was. For example, in John 4 when Jesus is talking to the woman at the well he said, “If you knew … who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
So in trying to be helpful in people understanding who Jesus was, Jesus would use analogies or images to describe his character or how he can interact in my life. In the gospel of John we have seven examples of this, seven times when Jesus starts a sentence with “I AM …” followed by a common-day image. Can you guess them?
- I am the Bread of Life
- I am the Light of the World
- I am the Gate
- I am the Good shepherd
- I am the resurrection and the life
- I am the way, the truth and the life
- I am the vine (and you are the branches)
So today and over the next 5 weeks, we are going to explore these seven statements with two goals:
- That we may know Jesus better
- That we may know how Jesus can work in our lives.
So the first one of the I AM statement is found John 6, which David has read out to us… but let me give you some context.
The 24 hours leading up to this statement is a huge day for Jesus. He has been teaching on a remote section of the Lake Galilee to huge crowds. They had just followed him there and the teaching so amazing that people just sat and listened. No one moved. At the end of the day, the people are hungry but being remote, there are no shops for miles BUT, you know the story, a young boy with 5 loaves and 2 fishes steps up, Jesus does a miracle and feeds the 5000 men (plus women and children). The crowds were so excited they wanted to make Jesus king of Israel right there and then.
While everyone was sleeping, disciples sail to other side of the lake while Jesus prayed. He catches up by walking across the water. The next morning the people wake up and find that Jesus is no longer there. Some fisherman tell them that Jesus is over the other side of the lake … so all the people follow him there.
Initially, Jesus questions their motives. In John 6:26,27, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you.”
But the crowd still don’t get it! They answer, “Moses gave our ancestors bread from heaven. Show us a miracle so that we can believe in you!”
It is into this context that Jesus gave them the “I am” statement! I am the bread of Life … I am the true bread from heaven … if you believe in my bread you will never be hungry … when the Israelites ate the manna they were fed but they still died … if you eat of me you will never die.
(can I just add that there are some amazing promises in those words!!!)
Jesus is calling the people to look beyond the physical hunger and find satisfaction for their spiritual hunger. In the beatitudes Jesus said “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” In Psalm 107:9 we read that God, “satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.”
Jesus is saying … don’t get distracted by the fact that I fed 5000 people a bread and fish dinner and miss the fact that I can satisfy the deep hunger within your soul.
But that is the point with these I AM statements. Jesus is trying to draw us in deeper from the superficial experience and discover something much deeper which will bring fulfilment and life. In our second I AM statement – I AM the light of the world; Jesus does the exact same thing.
Mind you, Unlike all the other I am statements … Jesus actually says this statement twice and both times the context is very important and shows my point.
The first time is in John chapter 8 and is the reading we had this morning. Jesus is having a disagreement with the Pharisees and teachers of the law. In short, the Pharisees knew that Jesus was a great teacher and had done some amazing miracles (like feeding the 5000 people) yet at the same time he was saying some things that really got them angry.
If you keep reading John 8 you find that Jesus was saying that he was more important than Abraham. Now to a Jew – Abraham was the father of the faith … how could Jesus be more important?
Even though the Pharisees are the smartest, most scholarly people around … they knew the bible backwards; they were the best of the best … yet Jesus told them, “You just don’t understand. You are in the dark – until you work out who I am and what I am about … you are stumbling in the darkness”
“But”, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t be in the dark but walk in the light!”
Did that make sense? Jesus is the light which helps people understand God. When we look to Jesus, we see who God is. Jesus, the light of the world, helps people not walk in darkness anymore.
But as I mentioned earlier, Jesus did not just say “I AM the light of the world” once, he repeats it again in the next chapter, John 9.
Here, Jesus is walking along the road and see a man who had been blind since birth – he had literally lived in the darkness all his life.
If you remember the story, the disciples start asking theological questions of whether it was his sins or his parents sins that made him blind but Jesus cuts through and focuses on what is important. Jesus says in John 9:5 that he is “the light of the world” and heals this man’s blindness.
Well, this causes a huge commotion. Everyone knew this man … he had been begging all his life. Now he can see? How can that be? The Pharisees call him in to question him.
They question the ex-blind man and his parents … grilling them about Jesus and how did Jesus do this? (Remember that the Pharisees are still in the dark and don’t understand). Finally the ex-blind man says, “look we have already told you this. Don’t you listen! The one thing I know is that I once was blind and now I can see!”
Jesus actually catches up with him later and the blind man asks him … why didn’t they believe him. Jesus answers that the blindness that they experience is not a physical blindness but a spiritual blindness. They are in the dark and the only person to help them is Jesus – the light of the world.
Can you see the pattern here?
- The crowd was interested in food but Jesus says that he is the bread of life who can satisfy their spiritual hunger
- The Pharisees accused Jesus of saying he is more important than Abraham, but Jesus says that his is the light of the world that can reveal something even more greater…
- Again the Pharisees wanted to know answers … how did the blind man see … but Jesus is saying that as the light of the world he can bring spiritual sight so that they can really see God and what God is doing.
Jesus is tell them (and us) … allow me to take you deeper. I can feed the hunger in your soul, I can help you to see. I AM the one.
So what does all this mean for us?
As I said in Youth Alpha the other week, Jesus needs to be more than a theory or a belief system … Jesus is a person who wants to interact in your life.
It is one thing to learn about how Jesus is the bread of life … it is another thing to find the time and space to allow Jesus to feed us spiritually.
It is one thing to sing about Jesus is the light … it is another thing to make the decision to step out from the darkness and walk in the light of Jesus.
And it is not just about us. We, as followers of Jesus need to be sharing this with the world around us.
How can we share Jesus the bread of life with those who are hungry? How do we hunger for what is right for all people? How do we shine Jesus, the light of the world, in the dark places in our community, in our nation, in the world?
I’m not suggesting it is easy or that opening yourself up to Jesus doesn’t come with an element of risk. One of my good friends used to say that he got nervous praying because Jesus might tell him to do something he didn’t want to do. In our first reading when Jesus was saying he was the Bread of Life, at the end of John 6 we are told that many of the followers turned back because Jesus teaching was too hard.
When Jesus asked the 12 disciples if they were going to give up too, Peter replied, ““Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you who you say you are. You are the bread of life. You are the light of the world. You are the one who can take us deeper and help us to see and understand. It might be hard but we are staying with you.
So, if you are feeling a little spiritually dry at the moment, if you have a hunger in your soul for something more. Jesus is waiting to share with you the bread of life.
If you feel like you are in a dark place at the moment, Jesus the light of the world is ready to shine light on you and into your situation.
Jesus said I AM the bread of life
Jesus said I AM the light of the world
Jesus is who he says he is.
May we experience the fullness of Jesus today.