Here we are at the end of our series on the I AM statements of Jesus. Hopefully we know a great deal more about who Jesus claimed to be and was in the flesh. But, that is never really the goal of preaching, to increase knowledge ... No, at the end of this series I really hope we have a better idea of who we are in the light of Jesus' I AM statements.
Through this series we've seen John in his gospel revealing several divisions of the people over who Jesus is. The same is still true today. Some want to make Him simply a good man, a great role model, teacher, prophet or preacher. But the “I AM” statements continually force us to ask, “Is Jesus who He says He is … in my life?” Is He the bread of my life? Do I live by His light? Do I enter through Him as the Gate of salvation, or do I keep trying to rescue myself? Do I trust Him to Shepherd me? Do I depend on His resurrection, or do I keep trying to lift myself up? Do I let Him be the Way for me or do I keep asking for directions? Is He the Truth by which I judge all lesser truths? Is He my Life, or do I turn to other things to bring me life? Do I remain in Him, cling to Him as a branch to a Vine, and draw all my nourishment from Him?
Now, the answer to all those questions is a simple Yes or No. This is why I suggested at the start of this series that each of us personalize the implications of each statement by inserting your name in place of “the” in each statement. For example, “I am Cedric’s bread of life”, “I am Cedric’s light”.... and then I suggested we ask:
How does this statement impact my Beliefs and my Behavior?
And even those answers are just more information in your life and mine unless we go the final step in hearing and listening to God's word which is:
What difference is this I AM statement going to make in my personal/inner life ... in my work life ... in my family life ... in my community life? How can I become a doer of this word that God has placed before me?
I can't put it better than Scripture puts it:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:22-25)
This is the essence of discipleship ... letting the word change us, transform us ... once again I'll let Scripture speak for itself:
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, (2 Cor 3:18)
Did you notice that? Are being transformed ... and discipleship looks for that transformation and finds ways to be accountable in the area of transformation ... am I becoming more like Jesus ... affirm and encourage me brothers and sisters when the answer is Yes ... correct and rebuke me when the answer is No ... once again Scripture puts it better than I can:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work
(2 Timothy 3:16-17).
And so, if we've let Him, God has changed us and will continue to change us, as long as we want changing, from glory to glory in this life. And for this reason He is bread and light and shepherd and truth and life and resurrection and vine .... your bread, your light ... .
And so we come to our final I AM saying and this one is very different to all the others. Firstly because it is not in John's Gospel and secondly because it is not spoken by Jesus in the flesh, but rather by the ascended Jesus sitting enthroned at the right hand of God:
"Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."
Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet; in English He would have said "I am the A and the Z" .... He is simply using repetition to make His point which, in the language of the Trinity, is this:
God is always first, and God will surely be last.
To say this is not to draw God downward into the confines of time. He stands above His own creation and outside of time; but for our convenience He makes free use of time-words when referring to Himself. So He says that He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last.
Humans, in the plan of God, have been granted considerable say; but never are we permitted to utter the first word nor the last. That is the prerogative of God, and one which He will never surrender to us.
We have no say about the time or the place of our birth; God determines that without consulting us. One day the we find ourselves in consciousness and we realise that we exist. There our life of personal choice begins. Before that we had nothing to say about anything. After that we strut and boast and utter our defiant proclamations of individual freedom, and encouraged by the sound of our own voice and opinions we may declare our independence of God ... that's really the only reason we ever sin. And of course most of the world carries on this way all of the time ... you and I join in some of the time when we let the world conform us to its ways ... but in all this we are only chattering in the interim between first and last; we had no voice at the first and we will have none at the last. God reserves the right to take up at the last where He began at the first, and you and I are in the hands of God whether we like it or not.
I am the Alpha and the Omega
This I AM statement should humble us and encourage us, too. It should humble us when we remember how frail we are, how utterly dependent upon God we are; and it should encourage us to know that when everything else has passed we will still have God. God will never leave or forsake you.
Adam became a living soul, but that becoming was not of his own choice. It was God who willed it and who executed His will in making Adam a living man. God was there first. And when Adam sinned and wrecked his whole life (this is the scandal of God's great love for Adam and for us) ...when Adam sinned and wrecked his whole life ... God was there still. God was there after he had sinned. The God who was there at Adam’s beginning remained there at his ending. God was there last.
God is there at all your beginnings and endings … and we have so many, don’t we? If you want to start life afresh this morning, a new beginning, with God in Christ as your bread, your shepherd, your light, your way, your truth, your very resurrection to new life this morning ... God is at that new beginning ... God is here. Do you need a new beginning, a fresh start?
Perhaps you're at an end this morning, … at the end of your tether, or the end of your strength, or at the end of your health, or at the end of your job, or at the end of your marriage ... God is there ... God is here.
None of these things need define you because none of these things has the power to have the last word in the events that make up your life. That word is God's word.
Hear this today: whatever words are flying at you or coming from you, God’s word to you is this, whether you are far from Him or closer to Him than you’ve ever been, God has in a sense spoken His final word to you from the Cross of Christ and that word is:
I love you. Let me be, in a new way today, a way that makes you more like my Son, let me be: Your Bread, your Light, your Shepherd, your resurrection to a new place in your walk with me today, let me be your Truth and your Way, let me be your Life, let me be your Vine … please remain in me. Let me be I AM in your life.