Few would dispute that the most self-revealing painting an artist ever produces is the self-portrait. Self-portraits are statements as well as disclosures. They are dangerous because they uncover what artists really think of themselves. They reveal the soul.
The "I AM" statements in the gospel of John are Jesus Christ's self-portraits, his own way of describing himself. For all that has been written, sung, and debated about the life and work of Christ, nothing allows us such a deep glimpse into the heart of our Savior as the "I AM" statements. These statements not only tell us who Jesus is, but they also say something about his mission, his purpose, and his reason for taking on flesh.
The phrase "I am" in Jesus' statements is not used in the everday sense, as in "I am hungry" or "I am tired." Instead, Jesus' statements are meant as absolutes. "I am" means "I am, have been, and always will be." They are statements only God can rightfully make. We hear these words spoken by God to a terrified and bumbling Moses and to a wayward people through the prophecy of Isaiah.
In these statements, Jesus claims his divinity. The religious experts, as well as any listening Jew who first heard these words, knew immediately that Jesus was making outlandish claims about himself. Seemingly blasphemous claims. Others heard, believed, and took comfort in them.
Of all the series I have preached, this series on the "I am" statements led to more comments, cards, phone calls, and visits than anything else I have tried to do. I hope it is helpful in your worship planning for Lent and Easter.
Note: The "Liturgy" sections below are not complete orders of worship, but suggestions for the service.