The “I Am…” Statements of Jesus (Part 1)


 In the gospel of John, Jesus makes seven “I am…” statements that connect Him to Old Testament concepts about God and the promise of the coming Messiah. The Jewish people living at the time of Jesus would have been fully aware of the significance of the terms used in these statements. With these statements, Jesus was declaring that He was the One they had been waiting for, the Messiah, the One whom God had promised to send.

The Seven “I Am…” Statements

  1. I am the Bread of Life.
  2. I am the Light of the World.
  3. I am the Door (or Gate).
  4. I am the Good Shepherd.
  5. I am the Resurrection and the Life.
  6. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
  7. I am the Vine.

In part 1, we’ll examine the first 2 statements: I am the Bread of Life and I am the Light of the World.

I Am the Bread of Life

And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” John 6:35, 48-51, 57-58

The people would have been very familiar with what Jesus was referring to by using the terms “bread of life” and “living bread from heaven.” Many years beforehand, when God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and was leading them through the wilderness to the Promised Land, He provided them with manna.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you.” And the house of Israel called its name Manna. And the children of Israel ate manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. Exodus 16:4a, 31, 35

Yet He had commanded the clouds above, and opened the doors of heaven, had rained down manna on them to eat, and given them of the bread of heaven. Men ate angels’ food; He sent them food to the full. Psalm 78:23-25

God was the Provider of manna, just as He would be the Provider of the Messiah. Manna was bread from heaven which sustained life as the people traveled through the wilderness. However, the manna only provided temporary life to the Israelites as Jesus pointed out that those who had eaten the manna had died. The difference is that Jesus is the Bread who came from heaven to provide eternal life to all who follow Him.

Besides the concept of bread as a source of sustenance, bread was also an important part of worship throughout the history of the Israelites. Unleavened bread was required at Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exod. 12:15-20, 13:3-10). Two loaves of bread baked with leaven were to be offered to God as first-fruits during the Feast of Weeks (Lev. 24:17). The showbread or bread of the presence was to be set before God in the tabernacle/temple every Sabbath with the previous loaves removed and eaten by the priests (Exod. 25:30, Lev. 24:5-9). The people would have paid attention when Jesus talked about bread. 

In the final hours of Jesus’ life on earth, at the last supper with His disciples, He once again referred to Himself as bread.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Matthew 26:26

The next day, Jesus was crucified on the cross and then He rose again three days later. This was the fulfillment of His earlier statement that “the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (John 6:51b). 

I Am the Light of the World

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8:12

In our modern times with the availability of electric light sources, we don’t fully understand the necessity of light in past time periods. Electric light became commonly used in the late 1800s but before this, light was only available from the sun during the day and from a fire source during the night. Sometimes there would have been light from the moon at night depending on the stage of the moon. But generally, without the sun or a fire source, there would have been utter darkness. The people hearing Jesus say that He was “the light of the world” would have immediately thought of the sun which was created by God (Gen. 1:14-17) and perhaps they would have remembered the pillar of fire that led their ancestors through the wilderness.

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night.  Exodus 13:21

Yet in Your manifold mercies You did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of the cloud did not depart from them by day, to lead them on the road; nor the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way they should go.  Nehemiah 9:19

In the pillar of fire, God was the source of light for the Israelites during the night throughout their time in the wilderness so they would not walk in darkness. This concept of walking in God’s light was written about by Job and by David in several of the Psalms. 

When His lamp shone upon my head, and when by His light I walked through darkness.  Job 29:3

For You have delivered my soul from death. Have You not kept my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living? Psalm 56:13

Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O LORD, in the light of Your countenance.  Psalm 89:15

Jesus said that anyone who follows Him would not walk in darkness but have the light of life. Jesus is the Light and this corresponds to God being described as light in many other Psalms and books of the Old Testament.

LORD, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us.  Psalm 4:6b

For You will light my lamp; the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.  Psalm 18:28

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  Psalm 27:1

For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.  Psalm 36:9

Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me.  Psalm 43:3a

For they did not gain possession of the land by their own sword, nor did their own arm save them; but it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your countenance, because You favored them.  Psalm 44:3

O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of the LORD.  Isaiah 2:5

Though I live in darkness, the LORD is a light for me. Micah 7:8b

God gave His prophet Isaiah prophecies to share about the coming Messiah using the concept of light.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.  Isaiah 9:2

“I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles.”  Isaiah 42:6

Later, God told Isaiah to prophesy of an even further future time when the sun would no longer be the source of light during the day but that the Lord Himself would be an everlasting light. 

The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; but the LORD will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory. Isaiah 60:19

The people living at the time of Jesus would have known that the concept of light represented God and the coming Messiah. As believers, we have further confirmation of this from a passage in the book of Revelation.

The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.  Revelation 21:23

Jesus was there in the pillar of fire leading the Israelites through the wilderness and He is the everlasting light. By claiming that He is the Light of the World, Jesus was declaring that He is God and the people listening to Him speak would have understood the significance of this statement. 

We’ll continue looking at the remaining “I am…” statements in upcoming blog posts.


Related resources

Free resources:

Blog posts - Light in the Darkness (Part 1) and Light in the Darkness (Part 2)

Podcast episode 118 - Part 15 Walking Through the Bible: Psalms


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