Did you ever notice how often the phrase "I am" comes up in the Bible? Do you know where it originates? You have to go way back to Exodus where Moses asks God His name to understand its origin and significance. In this week's Gospel John the Baptist distinctly says, "I am not" several times before saying "I am". Read on to find out why.
A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.
And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, "Who are you?" He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, "I am not the Christ." So they asked him, "What are you then? Are you Elijah?" And he said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No." So they said to him, "Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?" He said: "I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, 'make straight the way of the Lord,'" as Isaiah the prophet said." Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?" John answered them, "I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie." This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. John 1:6-8, 19-28
John the Baptist's presence caused a stir and the religious elite wanted to know who he was. As they question him John first clarifies who he is not; the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet. The Jewish people were always looking for their promised Messiah. John eventually does say, "I am..." as the messenger who tells them that they aren't recognizing the one among them who is...I AM.
Further along in the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks to the Jewish leaders directly. "...before Abraham came to be, I AM.” His use of God's name first spoken to Moses at the burning bush was pure blasphemy to the Jewish leaders. They never even spoke these words out of reverence to God and His Name, I AM. For this man, Jesus, to not only speak God's Name but to also refer to himself as I AM caused a fury and they tried to stone Jesus.
It is in the context of these two words that John the Baptist's announcement to the Jews was that I AM had already come. The same is true today, but we pause to acknowledge a profound truth...
We need to celebrate that I AM came to us as a baby to die for our sins so that we might be with Him forever!