What if Jesus is who he said he is?

Once upon a time… wait, that’s how we start fairytales. Let me try again.

Around 29 CE, a poor, Jewish, ex-refugee craftsman from a rough city in Palestine rose from relative obscurity to national notice. Within decades, his fame had spread across the Roman Empire and far beyond. Some two thousand years later, people are still talking about him.

It is undeniable that Jesus of Nazareth historically existed. The impact that a single man – on the public stage for all of three years – made on the world is remarkable. It is all the more surprising when you consider his huge claims, and the price he paid for making them.

Claiming to be God today would probably invite ridicule, but claiming to be God in the first century meant state-sanctioned death. Jesus ended up strung up on a Roman cross – the torturous method of capital punishment reserved for criminals. To those who orchestrated his arrest, it seemed rather ironic: he who claimed to be the promised, rescuing King, now a naked, bloodied spectacle struggling for breath, unable to save even himself. To those who followed him, it was the ultimate letdown; an unrecoverable, humiliating defeat.

But, less than seventy-two hours later, a group of insignificant, without-a-voice women started spreading word that Jesus had risen from the dead. Naturally unconvinced, Jesus’ scoffing companions soon encountered the evidence for themselves – they saw Jesus with their own eyes, touched him with their own hands, spent nearly six weeks together with him – and they too began unashamedly announcing that Jesus had beaten death by dying, then rising. Just days before, they had abandoned ship and went into hiding – for it would be altogether pointless and self-destructive to identity with a failure of a rescuer, an embarrassment of a ‘god.’ Yet now – remarkably – they were unconcerned by the consequences of being associated with Rome and the religious establishment’s most recent ‘executionee.’ Indeed, over five hundred people – at once – witnessed the once dead, now alive God-man. Skeptics, opponents, devout Jews, committed pagans – those who didn’t want to believe it was true and those who adamantly denied it – all became persuaded of his resurrection, so much so that most chose to endure abuse, exile, even death rather than deny what they knew. There was nothing else to gain if it was a lie; no social leverage, no political sway, no material benefit. What’s more, the empire that ruled over an estimated sixty-five million people at its height was rendered incapable of quashing the movement. Why? They couldn’t find the body.

If the resurrection is true, then all that Jesus said is true – then Jesus is who he said he is. If the resurrection is false, then none of it matters, and Jesus pulled off the greatest fraud in all of history. Finding out is hugely, supremely important – I’d say necessary, because if Jesus is who he said he is, and if Jesus conquered death, it changes everything for us. Rather than merely inheriting what our upbringing, education, society, social circle or religion has told us, I maintain that we all should have the freedom, resolve and courage to think through, question and critically examine our views and beliefs for ourselves. Therefore, I challenge you to investigate – with the highest scrutiny – what really happened to the man who said he was God. As well as this, I invite you to look at what sort of God Jesus claimed to be. I think you’ll be surprised, for he’s completely different from other gods, and certainly nothing like I expected God to be like. Over the next week, that’s what we’ll be doing on this blog. Join us in looking at the seven ‘I am’ statements of Jesus – images that he used to describe himself – recorded in John’s biography of Jesus:

I am the bread of life. I am the door of the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I am the way, and the truth, and the life. I am the resurrection and the life. I am the light of the world. I am the true vine.

These are a lot more than abstract, seemingly arrogant claims. They tell us who Jesus is, and what he came to do. They are also much more bold than they appear on the surface. Why?

When Jesus says ‘I am…’ he is saying that he is God.

In the Old Testament, when Moses asked God for His name, God replied, ‘YHWH,’ meaning, ‘I am.’ It seems rather odd – when we define ourselves, we say, ‘I am [this],’ and ‘I am [that],’ but God simply says, ‘I am.’ Period.

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
Exodus 3:13-14

I am. I am existent. I am self-sufficient; dependent on nothing, defined by no one else. I am eternal, I am unchanging. I am the origin; all stems from me, all relies on me. I am absolute. I am limitless. I am incomprehensible. I am who I am.

And then Jesus shows up, promising forever life to his followers. Some of his most avid opponents – the religious elite – ask, ‘Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?’ He replies (mic drop style), ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’ Horrified by such an audacious claim, they pick up stones to kill him. (John 8:48-59).

Jesus is God-revealed.

God is unseeable, for He is so infinitely glorious.
And we are blind to His stunning beauty, for we have rejected and rebelled against Him.

We are incapable of knowing God relationally, for sin makes us stuck, far out from him. And we’re incapable of knowing him intellectually, for we misconceive his character, imagining a god of our own making.

But. God. God loves to make Himself known to those who are not able, who do not deserve, and who do not even want to know Him. How?

God has made Himself known through Jesus – the image of the invisible God – the full display of His magnificence. (Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3).

In Christ, God has stepped down and become seeable.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
John 1:14, 18

God the Son stooped to earth, in skin and bones. He stooped further, to the cross, and then right down to the grave. So, if you want to know what God looks like, look at Jesus. You’ll find Him stunning.

God showcases His infinite, immeasurable worth through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus: His total perfection, His incomparable wisdom, His unmatchable power, His unfathomable love and His incredible justice – all unveiled in Jesus.

Through Jesus, I not only know what God is like (intellectually), but I know God (relationally). For God has removed my isolating, disconnecting sin, (at his death, Jesus claimed it as his own), considered me faultless, good, acceptable, (Jesus’ perfect life is counted as my own), and brought me close (God has made me His own); I’ve been pulled into His family, His kingdom and His unending joy.

Discovering who Jesus is transformed who I am.

***

Jesus is God-revealed. So when he defined himself, he didn’t stop at ‘I am.’ He went on to say, ‘I am the bread,’ ‘I am the light,’ ‘I am the life.’ Jesus was saying, ’I am God, and this is what I – God – am like. This is what I – God – have come to be, and to do, for you.

I am God – your satisfaction:
I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:35).

I am God – your means of belonging and security and joy:
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:9)

I am God – your defender, your replacement sacrifice:
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

I am God – your every need met, your every desire fulfilled:
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

I am God – your unquenchable, forever life:
I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. (John 11:25-26).

I am God – your defeater of darkness, your remover of guilt, your eye-opener:
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12).

I am God – your source of life, your fount of love:
I am the vine; you are the branches. (John 15:5)

Big claims from a big name. So, what if it was all true? What if Jesus is who he said he is?

Written by Sarah, Junior Fresh, English and Jewish & Islamic Civilisations (TSM)