Day 309: John 6-7; I Am… The Bread of Life

While we didn’t do a great deal to connect yesterday’s reading to the prologue in John 1, today’s Scripture cannot be read outside of that text.  The implications of what Jesus says in John 6, and the subsequent “I AM” statements of the Gospel of John stem directly from John original assertion that Jesus Christ is the Word of God incarnate, the Divine taking on human flesh that has “tabernacled” or “dwelt” among us.  There are other narratives in today’s two chapters of reading, signs of Jesus power over creation and the abundant provision that He offers to so many people.  Jesus’ teaching in several different places and events are also very powerful and could even be called intrusive, at least intrusive to the societal norms of the day.  We see that they elicit two responses: questions about who He is and the teaching that He offers and that of the leaders who send soldiers to arrest Jesus.  All of this though, is linked inextricably to John 1.

I would like to spend a brief amount of time talking about Jesus’ “I AM” statement here in John 6.  To do this though, we need to think back a little bit, all the way to Exodus and the story of Moses’ first encounter with God at the burning bush.  Remember with me that when God first reveals Himself to Moses, calling Him to be the leader of Israel, Moses asks for God’s name in case “the elders of Israel” ask who sent him.  Do you remember God’s answer?

God said to Moses, “I AM who I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

This is The Name that is given to God for all time.  It was deemed so Holy that the people of God, out of reverence for God’s Name, chose other words as a substitute for it like “Adonai.”  In any case, the Tetragrammaton, which is another name for the name of God, was extremely Holy and to say it was to dishonor God… at least in that culture.  However, when Jesus is talking about the bread of like says, “I AM the bread of life.”  It is likely that Jesus was speaking in Aramaic here,  but when John translates this into the Greek he uses the words “ἐγώ εἰμί” (pronounced“egō eimi”).  Literally this means “I I am” or more appropriately, (I AM that I AM)… the Greek equivalent for the name of God.  Jesus is communicating here, as God did to Moses so many years prior, that He is the very essence of being… the ontological beginning if you will.  While people are always something (I am hungry, I am tall, I am Jon), Jesus is just I AM…  This phrase, to all who were listening, especially the religious leaders, would have linked and set on the same level Jesus and God.

Now, I understand that Jesus also says “I AM the bread of life.”  He places this caveat on Himself, perhaps linking Himself with Scripture.  Deuteronomy 8, which Jesus also quotes when He is being tempted by the devil, says, “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  He is linking Himself also with this Word, THE WORD.  Jesus is the Word of God, the Bread of Life, and it is only through Him that humanity can live at all… physically and spiritually.  Jesus Christ is the great I AM, the Word of God who was and is and is to come.

Day 17: Exodus 1-4; Enter Moses

Welcome to the book of Exodus and the beginning of the story of Moses and the “nation of Israel” which we now refer to as the Hebrews or Israelites.  There is much to talk about in these first four chapters that sets up the whole rest of the book, and in many ways lays the groundwork for future stories and people in the Bible.  This post is longer than the others to date because of the abundant amount of background in these first chapters.

Before we get to Moses, we read a little recap of the Hebrews post-Jacob and post-Joseph.  Remember that yesterday we went through the genealogy of Jacob and his sons, totaling 70 people in all.  This is important because it shows now how much they have grown and prospered in the land of Egypt.  We don’t know the full extent of it until the numbers are given to us when the Hebrews leave Egypt, but suffice to say, it is a lot more than 70.  So what was the point of being in Egypt?  Couldn’t this have happened in Canaan?  Well, the answer is… likely no.  As this people group grew, it is likely that the indigineous people of Canaan would have started imposing on them, the Hebrews would have inter-married with them, and/or there would have been an all-out war against the Israelites due to their size.  In Egypt, the people lived in a specific area, protected by the Egyptians (who were the world power of the time), and yet not intermingled with them because the Hebrews were mostly shepherds (which we read yesterday were detestable to Egyptians).   Therefore, the people of Israel grew, unfettered, uninterrupted, and unmixed from the people around them.

Enter slavery and Moses.

God is clearly blessing the people despite the ruthless treatment of the Egyptians, so much so that Pharaoh orders the killing of all the males of the Israelite babies.  This is the situation that Moses is born into, and it is in this situation that God rescues Moses.  The man Moses is very much a “messianic figure” in the Old Testament.  In a way, he is a type of foreshadowing of things to come.  Though not the Messiah (aka. Jesus Christ), we do see marked similarities in their lives, the way that act, and the events that take place.  I would encourage you, especially in the next few days (Exodus 1-20ish) to think about how Moses and Jesus are similar in nature, in action, and in leading.  Leave a comment on some of the things that you find!!

There are two other things that are important in this particular passage that I feel just need to be pointed out.

First I would like to talk about the parts of Exodus 1 and 2 that talk about Israel being oppressed and the point at which “God hears their groaning and remembers the covenant.”  I think that first and foremost it is important to note that, though the Hebrews couldn’t see it at the time, God was blessing them through this in many ways, one of which is the drastic increase in their physical numbers.  They are no longer a small family, they are quite literally a small nation; several hundred thousand people.  The other part in here is the point at which is seems that it has taken a while for the groans to reach God but then all of the sudden He hears them and remembers them.  It isn’t as if God couldn’t hear them before… we know that God is ever present and always listening.  Why the author uses this particular type of wording is somewhat unknown.  I don’t think that it translates well into English.  What we do know is that it does have something to do with the mystery of God’s perfect plan and timing for all things.  Like in Genesis 15:16 when God says that “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”  We ask, what does this mean?  Isn’t one sin as bad as many sins?  We would say that a sin is a sin… but apparently in this time, for whatever reason, there was perhaps more sinning to be done before God decides to punish them?  Or later when the Israelites go into Exile, it takes a long time before that actually happens.  Why?  There is something to God’s timing that we don’t always understand, but we trust that He knows what He is doing and that He is working everything out according to His will.  So, did God not hear Israel?  No… God heard them… but it didn’t seem to be time yet.  Other things had to happen before it could be time to come out of Egypt.

Finally, there is the burning bush narrative.  moses burning bush icon

This is an extra-ordinary experience for Moses, as he is called directly by God.  The first thing, and maybe the most obvious if you are looking for it, is that God basically tells Moses everything that is about to happen right down to the letter.  Lots of wonders, killing of the first born, Israel leaving and plundering the Egyptians… its all right there in Exodus 3:13-22.  The other thing, significantly more important, and perhaps a bit more perplexing, is God giving Moses His name.  I AM WHO I AM.  or in some translations: I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.  They Hebrew word is YHWH.  A name so reverent to the Hebrew people that they never speak it and have come up with an abundance of names to be used for God in place of it.  Like the re-naming of Jacob in Genesis 35, which we talked about on January 11, the name of God is significant because of the power and intimacy that is attached to it.  God is no longer just the God of their ancestors, God is THEIR God.  The name itself is significant.  While a person is always something (I am Jon, you are hungry, that tree is tall), God is I AM… God in a continual state of being… which really says something to the fact that He is the eternal one, the creator and sustainer of all things… with no beginning and no end.  Later in the year, when we get to the book of John, we’ll see Jesus using this name for himself as well.

There is very important meaning in the name of God… and yet it is so abundantly reverent as well.  Sometimes I wonder about our use of the word God, or the taking of the name of God… we float it around like its nothing, just another word.  What do you think about this?  Should we be so careless with the name of God?