When Jesus Said, “I Am”


Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.” I want to take a look at that little phrase, I am. This isn’t the first time Jesus had said something like this.

In John 8, Jesus was having a heated discussion with the religious teachers of the day, and naturally He was winning. They didn’t like the fact that Jesus acted and talked a lot like a divine Savior, so finally, in exasperation, they asked Him, “Do you really think you are better than our forefather Abraham?”

Jesus replied: “Before Abraham was, I am.”

At this point in the narrative, English majors everywhere want to call a grammar time-out. “No, no, Lord. Grammatically speaking, that is wrong. That’s confusing. I think you meant to say, ‘Before Abraham was, I was.’ Was and am, they don’t go together. You either are or you were. What are you talking about?”

Academics weren’t exactly my strong suit. But I think if an infinite, infallible God chooses to use bad grammar, he’s probably making a point. Grammar police, stand down. It might be awkward grammatically, but it’s the only correct way to express God’s timeless, limitless availability and sufficiency.

God simply is. He is in the present, He is in the past, and He is in the future. [tweet this]

He always exists in present tense because He is outside of time and space. Wherever you look on the time line of humanity, God is present and active. He isn’t just a memory from the past or a promise for the future: He’s a real-time, present-day God.

Jesus was actually quoting from one of the greatest stories in Scripture. It’s found in Exodus 3. It is the story of how a man named Moses delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt some fifteen hundred years earlier. Moses was an Israelite who had been raised in the Egyptian palace, but he fled into exile in the desert after killing an Egyptian guard who was mistreating an Israelite. He was hated by Egypt and mistrusted by Israel. He wasn’t exactly a prime candidate to broker the deliverance of a nation.

One day he is out tending sheep in the desert, and God speaks to him. Actually, a random bush that is on fire speaks to him, and it turns out to be God. Odd, but God likes to stay unpredictable.

So God tells Moses, “I want you to go back to Egypt and rescue your people.”

Moses starts to freak out, and frankly, I can see why. Not only is he on the Egypt’s Most Wanted list, but there is no way Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, is going to let his workforce go. Someone has to build those pyramids and sphinxes and tombs.

Moses is like, “What? Who am I to do that? Besides — I stutter. You’ve got the wrong man for the job. This isn’t going to work, and I’m going to look like a dork.”

Moses is having an identity crisis. He feels insufficient. He feels like he doesn’t have enough. He can’t pull this off.

Notice God’s answer in Exodus 3:14. This is His antidote to Moses’ anxiety. He says,

I Am who I Am.

I’m sure Moses is thinking, Oh, that clears up everything, doesn’t it? Like not at all.

“Moses, this is all you need to know. I Am who I Am.”

In the face of Moses’ insecurity and identity crisis, God does not say, “Moses, you’re great. You’ve got this. You’re smart, and you’re educated, and you’ve got a great beard. You’ll be fine.”

To solve Moses’ identity crisis, God reminds Moses who God is.

I love that. The answer to our frequent identity crises is not first and foremost focusing on who we are, but focusing on who God is.

God is essentially saying, “Moses, I’ve got you covered. I am here. I am available. I have all the supply and surplus you could ever need. I am self-existent. I have no beginning and no end. I just am.”

That changes everything.

When Jesus says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life,” He is reminding her that He is all she really needs. In her grief and desperation, Jesus is the answer. His “I am” is more than enough for her “I need.”

Excerpted with permission from Life Is by Judah Smith, copyright Thomas Nelson.

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Your Turn

What is your “I need” today? What crisis needs to be brought to the great I Am? Come join in on the conversation on our blog! We’d love to hear from you about finding all you need in Jesus! ~ Devotionals Daily

Judah Smith

Judah Smith and his wife, Chelsea, are the lead pastors of The City Church in Seattle, Washington. Judah is the author of the New York Times bestseller Jesus Is ____. Judah and his wife were youth ministry pastors for ten years-- ranked as one of the top five "most dynamic" youth groups in the country by Ministry Today-- before stepping into their new role in 2009. Judah is in high demand as speaker, both in the U.S. and abroad. He and Chelsea have three children: Zion, Eliott, and Grace.

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