Strangely enough, a study of the gospel of John reveals many lists of sevens. In this series, I hope to show many of them. Which, of course, leads to an interesting question. We do know from Revelation that John shared much in sevens. There are the seven thunders, the seven horns, the seven seals, the seven eyes, the seven trumpets, the seven angels, etc. We note and appreciate all the sevens and they teach us that there is a completeness in the sense of final perfection to all the judgments of wickedness. But for me to find this many sevens in John is surprising, and all the more so to me because John has long been my favorite gospel and I thought I knew it very well.
What led me to this fascinating study was the unconscious realization that sevens were occurring in several places. Once I began to list them, one thing led to another, and I began to see sevens in many more places. The interesting question to look at now becomes: did John think in sevens? I know that he was so definitely inspired as he wrote the gospel, but did he unconsciously think of things in sevens? I cannot be sure about the answer to that, but I am sure that there are a great many lists of seven things in the gospel, which may surprise people as much as it did me. I will do each list of seven things in a multi-part series.
The seven I am statements of John
Each of the seven great I am statements of John establish the deity and the basic foundation of Jesus Christ to the world. Without these great statements of Jesus our understanding of the person of Jesus would be greatly, and perhaps mortally reduced. But have them we do, and I find it so interesting that John lists exactly seven of them, and all of them point to a Savior who can completely save. It is worthy to notice that nearly all are exclusive; power, authority, and salvation alone belong to this solitary man Jesus. Many Christians suffer from the false idea that there is after all more than one way to heaven, but Jesus insists time and again that the way to hell is broad, and many find it, but the path to heaven is narrow, and few are those who find it. In making each of these epic statements about himself, Jesus would force us to see the Savior, the Son of God, and the co-equal of the Father. No other interpretation of these verses is possible for the literal view.
1. John 6:35
I am the bread of life.
The basic food of man is bread. Here Jesus is claiming to be the basic sustenance of man—the needed component without which man would starve. He is claiming that He is the Bread, the foundation on which rests all of life itself.
2. John 8:12
I am the light of the world.
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness did not comprehend it. The light is so far beyond the darkness that it could never understand the light. The light draws men to it as a moth might be attracted to a lamp, but sinful men, performing their deeds of darkness, prefer it to light. Here Jesus is claiming to be that light, and in the thousands of years since he came we can find no other person in history who has acted like a light, drawing men to it as moths to lamps. Certainly we also note the deeds of darkness always try to mask themselves, and flee the light where so ever it might shine. On the last day is it not promised that the light will shine and uncover all the evil deeds of men?
3. John 10:7
I am the door of the sheep.
There is but one door, and that is the door for which we sheep can enter. Jesus elaborates greatly on this picture, telling us that some try to come in by another door, but they are thieves and robbers. Devising many wicked plots, men have tried to find other doors, any other doors, except that one which is freely offered by the Good Shepherd. How foolish is the man who will not use the door!
4. John 10:11
I am the good shepherd.
He knows his sheep, his sheep hear his voice, and they follow him. All that the Lord has sovereignly chosen are in the fold. They know their Shepherd, and are awaiting his return.
5. John 11:25
I am the resurrection, and the life.
Note that this rather famous “I am” was said before the resurrection of Jesus, and refers to our resurrection, and our life, which is found in his resurrection and in his life. The claim of Christ here is that he is fount of life and resurrection, that he alone is the way back to God. We find ourselves in him, a riddle that has defeated the wise for centuries.
6. John 14:6
I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one, Jesus continues, comes to the Father but by me. All other ways of salvation are meaningless plots devised in the hearts of men who fail to hear the ringing of this verse. God, in his mercy, has provided a way, and happy are the many millions who have found it!
7. John 15:1
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
There is one vine, and one only. That one is the true vine. The vine provides the juice of the grape that the lost world might be saved if it chooses to partake. I am the Vine; ye are the branches. Later Paul tells us that we are but branches which have been grafted in, and that is a wonderful picture of salvation. We were lost and dead branches until the Great Husbandman made us to be part of that vine.
And last I would make mention of the great I am statement. This is a statement of deity, and not the same as the statements of Jesus equating himself to some known quantity, so it does not properly fit in the list of seven. In this great statement, Jesus is claiming to be equal to the Father, taking upon himself that same mantle of divinity which is so far above our understanding. Many are the interpreters who would change this verse, but note that the Jews quickly understood it for what it was, a great statement of divinity, for their reaction is to try to stone Jesus for blasphemy. For any but the Son of God, this would indeed be the most blasphemous statement. As a true statement it is deserving of all the consideration and worship that we can give it.
And his statement of being Jehovah:
Before Abraham was, I am.
These are either the statements of an insane man, the statements of the most evil and diabolical man in history (note the many millions who have subsequently given their lives for his message), or the statements of a man who is telling the truth. The statements do not at all fit an insane man—readers of the Bible can look in vain for hints of madness. What we do find is a man presenting himself lucidly as the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the True Vine, and the Good Shepherd. His message is consistent and is validated by the miracles which he continually shows. But neither can these statements be shown to be statements of an evil man, trying to deliberately lead the world astray. His foresight with men was remarkable, seeing their hearts, and frequently answering not the question given as much as the question unspoken. Perhaps the greatest proof of his innate goodness lies in the changed nature of the millions who have met the great “I am”.