Aloha Friday Message – November 30, 2012 – First Week of Advent

1248AFC113012 First week of Advent

Read it online here, please.

The First Sunday of Advent this year is December 2, 2012. I want to do another series this year, and for the series I’d like to take a look at four things we hear often, but may sometimes say to ourselves, “I wonder what that’s all about?” Here is what I have in mind:

2012 advent series:




So, let us begin. In the Gospel of John, there are 7 distinct statements Jesus makes which all begin with “I AM.” These statements are significant for thousands of reasons (at least thousands of sermons and homilies, articles, essays, and tracts have been written about them). One of the most significant reasons is that the structure – in Greek – of the statements is a bit unusual. It is a little like the intensive form we sometimes see in a statement that combines two pronouns for emphasis such as I myself. What we see – in Greek and in Latin translations – is Ἐγώ εἰμι ≡ I am me …. Ego sum (I am) ≡ Me, I am … This intensive/emphatic form carries a very clear message; it leaves no doubt about excluding everyone but Jesus from the claim about to be made. Combining that intensive pronoun with a definitive article “the” makes a very strong statement: “I myself am specifically and only this.” I AM WHO AM or I AM THAT I AM. YHWH.

So, here is a list of the statements:

Seven I AM Statements

            I AM …

  1. The Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48-51)
  2. The Light of the World (John 8:12)
  3. The Gate (John 10:9)
  4. The Good Shepherd (John 10:11)
  5. The Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)
  6. The Way, The Truth, and The Life (John 14:6)
  7. The True Vine (John 15:1 & 5)

I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE – Jesus begins his sustaining relationship with the citizens of the Kingdom of God the same way his Father did: With Bread. God revealed the power of his love by providing bread – Manna – in the desert. Manna sustained life, but only in a temporal, ephemeral way. People still got hungry the next day and needed more manna. And even after eating manna for many, many days, people also eventually died. Jesus says that he is the Living Bread come down from Heaven (John 6:51). And this Living Bread sustains eternal life. While Israel had manna in the desert to sustain their corporeal lives, Jesus alone (I AM) can sustain Spiritual Life, Life as known only in God and by God, but now made available to us through Jesus. Through Jesus we are transformed so that we will also know Life in God as God knows Life. Only Jesus can do this because he is the only truly begotten son of I AM. Remember? That was the NAME YHWH, and the use of that style of speaking – this intensive/emphatic form – was (and is) the way God speaks. So not only do we have Jesus demonstrating that he and he alone can rightfully claim to be the Bread of Life, but his statement also asserts his Deity by identifying with YHWH – I AM. The Apostle John is stating something that would have been very clear to Jesus’ listeners, but it would also be very extraordinary. They even say, “How can he say he came down from heaven?” This was a mind-blowing statement, and the ones that followed were even more remarkable.

I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. LIGHT is a strong recurring theme in the Gospel of John. Take a look:

  • John 1:4 – In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
  • John 3:19 – This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
  • John 9:5 – “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
  • John 12:35 – Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going.
  • John 12:36 – Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.
  • John 12:46 – I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

Jesus was speaking in the part of the Temple where the offerings were put (8:20), where candles burned to symbolize the pillar of fire that led the people of Israel through the wilderness (Exodus 13:21-22). In this context, Jesus called himself the light of the world. The pillar of fire represented God’s presence, protection, and guidance. Jesus brings God’s presence, protection, and guidance. Is he the light of your world?

This statement is addressed to the Pharisees while Jesus is in the part of the Temple where the offerings were put (see John 8:20). In that area there were large candles burning which represented the Pillar of Fire which led and protected Israel in the desert. Surrounded by the supposed best of Israel in from of him and the candles glowing behind him, the symbolism is powerful. God has returned as Living Light to lead Israel out of the desert of darkness. The leadership and protection Israel knew as God’s Presence was the Pillar of Fire. Now it is Jesus the Son of Light who is present among us to guide and protect us.

I AM THE GATE. In Jesus’ time and place sheep were the source for precious staples such as wool, milk, and meat. They were not raised for slaughter only, but were counted as a resource, as wealth. They were certainly worth protecting, so they were usually penned in. On the pen, there was only one doorway in the wall. Since the sheep were valuable, often the shepherd slept in the doorway – he was, in fact, THE door! Once again, Jesus is confronting the Pharisees. In the previous chapter (9) Jesus had healed a blind man using clay made from dirt and his own spit. They are questioning the blind man and claiming he is a liar and even accuse Jesus of being a sinner. Jesus testifies that the blind man has seen “the Son of Man.” Jesus uses this metaphor of the sheepfold to illustrate that the safety, security, protection, and care given to sheep by a lowly shepherd is possible because the shepherd becomes the barrier between the sheep and the dangers outside the sheepfold.

I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD. Jesus intensifies his metaphor by showing that the Gate (or Door) is the Shepherd, and a Good Shepherd at that. He, literally, lays down his life to protect the sheep. In this we see another sharp contrast between Jesus and the Pharisees. They were supposed to be the “Shepherds of Israel” – spiritually that is – and they were anything but good. They are acting like the hired-hand who doesn’t really have anything of himself invested in the sheep or the sheepfold. To him they are just dumb animals, and in a similar way, Jesus accuses the Pharisees of not caring for the people of Israel. The Pharisees would sacrifice nothing of themselves for the people, yet Jesus is preparing to “lay down his life for the sheep.” Not just for the sheep in the sheepfold of Israel does he do this, but he says it is also done for “sheep of another pen” (the gentiles, see 10:16)

I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE. Here, Jesus is talking to Martha, the sister of Lazarus. She believes he is talking about the end-of-the-world resurrection. In a matter of minutes Jesus fully validates his statement by calling Lazarus out of the tomb. Jesus gives a very powerful object lesson: I AM The Resurrection. Death is no longer a final obstruction. I AM the Life. The Life in Jesus is not constrained by any temporal bounds; it is eternal. Jesus shows all present that he has a supernatural and divine authority that reigns with unquestionable supremacy over even death. As we later learned, that supremacy covered even his own death.

I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. About a year ago, we touched on the meaning of this statement while discussing the floor plan of the Temple, particularly the Sanctuary and Holy of Holies. Pop back there for a look if you don’t recall it. In this statement, the heaviest emphasis in on the first part, The Way. He is talking about the path to Salvation, for he says, “No man comes to the Father except through me.” Each of these elements is distinctly separate and unique, but all three share this in common: All three refer exclusively to Jesus, and work together to disclose his divinity. Jesus says he is The Truth, not just someone who knows, or teaches, or exemplifies truth. He is The Truth; that is Jesus and Truth are identical. Therefore what he says and does is True because it is what God has ordained for Jesus’ purpose. Then he says he is The Life, and here again we see that it identifies his divinity, his oneness with God the Father who created us and everything around us out to the edges of creation (if such a thing exists and an edge of creation). As The Way and the Truth, he is the point of mediation and expiation the point at which the loops of the infinity symbol cross and these – the Way and The Truth – tie humanity together as recipients of God’s Gracious Mercy. As The Life, Jesus connects us – through and in him – to and for God the Father thus making it possible for God to “be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28), because “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17)

I AM THE TRUE VINE. In Psalm 80:8 we read, “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.” The vine, of course, was Israel and it was transplanted into a better soil – a land of milk and honey – from which Israel with God’s help and direction had cleared the land of it former noxious inhabitants. Once transplanted, a vine draws moisture and nutrients from the earth and the sky, in a way uniting them. The stalk of the vine divides in smaller and smaller portions out to all the tips of the tendrils, leaves, and finally the fruit. It gives this nourishment to all without interruption. Any leaf, any tendril, any branch, or twig that is connected to the vine is connected to the roots. Jesus is the Divine vine that unites heaven and earth, and his father is the vinedresser. Jesus is the source of all Life in his disciples (including us), and through him we receive the grace and energy to become fruitful in holiness. And it is God the Father who prunes – cleans and cares for the vine. There’s something important about this I want you to know, and it has to do with pruning grape vines:

If a grape vine is not properly pruned, it will “overproduce.” It will make a huge number of buds and leaves, so many in fact that it cannot support the fruit that comes from this explosion of fruition. When purging, the master of the vineyard cuts away all but 2-8% of the remaining growth from the previous year! Only 2-8% is left. Think about that. If the vine is left without pruning a second year, the fruit it produces will be of poor quality, the grape clusters will be sprawling and disheveled, and not much of the fruit will actually ripen. Even if some of the fruit ripens, the vine pours so much energy into producing the fruit that the production of leaves and woody-stalk is diminished.

If you’re going to stay connected to The True Vine, you are going to be expected to “bear fruit that will last,” and for that 90-98% must be pruned away. 90-98%, Beloved. Wouldn’t you love to get rid of 90-98% of the things that keep you from being fruitful?

So we have covered these statements. All of them affirm the identity of Jesus as the Christ of God. They confirm his divinity, his mission, and his eternal role in creation, salvation, and reconciliation. Jesus is Truly the I AM because he is Truly YHWH. In the Aramaic Bible in Plain English this last passage reads “I AM THE LIVING GOD, The True Vine, and my Father is the vine dresser.” Amen, to that.


I’m trying something new. There is an edited version of the Morning Intercessory Prayer List at the website. Look over to the right-hand column where it says Pages. Here’s what you’ll see:


Guest Book
Moon Shots

Click on that link and you can see the list. Spend a few minutes there. Pray for the needs the Spirit inspires you to notice. Thank you.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved.


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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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