I AM is the name of a good book a new friend of mine, Howard Falco, wrote. You might want to check it out on Amazon.
I've been thinking about the I AM's statements of Jesus. I have a few thoughts below.
According to the Gospel of John, Jesus said, "I AM!" on at least a half dozen different occasions. Each time, he followed the words “I am” with a metaphor. Each metaphor is replete with significance…with meaning. For example, Jesus said, "I am the Bread; I am the Light; I am the Door; I am the Good Shepherd; I am Resurrection and Life; I am the Vine; I am the Way.”
But, what did he mean by all of these metaphorical I Am’s?
Well, the one thing we do know is that he was not expecting people to take his words literally. Which is, of course, what people still do today.
For example, there was a time I shouted loudly that, when Jesus said “I am the way,” he meant to be taken literally, as in I’m the ONLY way to know God. Think of me as a literal path. If you don’t get on this path – by which I assumed and much of Christian history has assumed meant “believe in me as the sole source of God” – then you’d go to hell.
Isn’t this the way many have concluded? Of course it is. Rather than hearing Jesus say, “Look, fellas’ I am the way by which you may know God…that is, if you follow after me…that is, pattern your life after mine…take my words and how I live seriously, I can promise, you WILL know God, I heard instead that Jesus was setting himself up as the one-and-only-way of salvation. So much so, it became more important to me that people agree with me that Jesus was the one-and-only-way of salvation. In fact, that became more important than almost anything else.
Believing in Jesus meant you agreed there was no other means by which you could ever know God. Believing this became infinitely more important than taking seriously the teaching of Jesus to “love your enemies,” or “do good to those who use you,” or “give the shirt off your back when someone sues you.” None of these clear teachings of Jesus anybody ever had to actually follow, provided you believed in Jesus. Just as long as you believed he was the only way to God, nothing else mattered.
I know now just how misguided this thinking was. Although I interpreted the “I am the way," metaphor literally, I did not also interpret literally his other metaphorical statements. For example, I never insisted that, when he said, “I am the Good Shepherd,” he expected me to regard him as a literal Shepherd walking around with a staff in his hand, anymore than I felt he expected I regard myself as a literal “sheep” or "lamb" just because he likened me to such: as in, “I am the Shepherd; you are the sheep.”
The same is true of his statement, “I am the door.” I never took that literally and argued that he was a door that swung on a hitch or, because he said "I am the vine," that he was that which grows on a tree or the side of a house.
Of course not! Yet, this is how I tried to force my beliefs on others--beliefs which were only EVER inherited beliefs from other Christians who had themselves collected a quiver full of beliefs from their forbears, too. When I started to think for myself, however, I realized that just because a majority believes something doesn’t make it right. The majority of Christians in the south believed owning slaves was right. But, they were wrong. “A majority,” said someone, “may only mean the fools are all on the same side.” There are many Christians today, for example, who believe that a “traditional” marriage is the ONLY kind of marriage God will recognize. Here again the majority can be wrong. And, I, for one, think history will prove, as it did in the case of slave ownership, that the majority is wrong again. But, that’s a discussion for another time.
My point here is, when I began thinking for myself instead of just mindlessly believing what others told me was right, I was amazed at what new, spiritual insights came to me and so transformed my spiritual life.
So, when Jesus said, “I am” the point he was making is this: the “I am” that is in me is the same “I am” revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3). Futhermore, it is the same “I am” who is IN YOU…who IS you. Jesus prayed that we would be ONE with God, just as He and God were One (John 17).
When you move beyond your beliefs and the endless argument-making over them to defend your “rightness” and everyone else’s “wrongness” and are ready for real oneness with God, then remember this: the moment you desire to be one with God – beyond all the narrow pronoucements or belief statements you could ever make about God – in that very moment--instant--you are one with God. You ARE the “I am.”
This is the secret of happiness – genuine happiness BEYOND a mere collection of beliefs.