One of the great Biblical phrases is the phrase ‘I am’. It is quoted in Exodus 3:14 when God uses the phrase to respond to Moses’ question about a name. God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’
It also occurs frequently in John’s Gospel when Jesus uses the phrase as he tries to explain who he is. I am the light of the world. I am the bread of life. I am the true vine.
I am currently reading Stephen Verney’s book “Water into Wine” (Fount, 1985) in which he reflects on John’s Gospel. Verney reminds us that we tend to be focussed on ‘I’ and are left needing the transformation into ‘I am’ that will get us following Jesus. Verney reminds us that this concept in John is not restricted to the famous ‘I am’ sayings. Talking to the Samaritan woman by the well Jesus comments: “I am he, the one who is speaking to you” (John 4:26). Similarly, when the disciples are caught in a storm on Lake Galilee, they are terrified when they see Jesus walking on the water – but Jesus calms them with the words, “It is I; do not be afraid” (John 6:20 – and note that the New Revised Standard Version offers a footnote to explain that the Greek is ‘I am’).
Verney comments on the first of these – “I AM is a dialogue between God and human beings which sets free the flow of the Spirit”. He further comments on the second – “I AM is the truth at the centre of the storm and in the hearts of the disciples which says, “Stop being afraid now.”” (p. 92).
God’s transforming presence makes so much possible. So Verney says this of Jesus: “He is not saying I AM God walking about on earth. He is saying I AM human being-God, God-human being walking about on earth. Of myself I can do nothing, but the Father has revealed everything to me, and given me the authority.” (p. 94).