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The idea of undertaking an "I AM" series of carvings came to me some years ago, when I was studying and teaching the Gospel of John to a group of bible students. It's an idea that took some time to find an space in my carving scedule. The name for that space is "retirement".
It is startling to realize, while examining the witness of St. John that the Jesus makes seven extraordinary claims to divinity in seven "I AM" statements. The "I AM" which begins each of these seven statements is explained in an article, above.
The idea is this: Jesus used the same term to descibe Himself - the self-existent one - as did Yahweh when He identified himself to Moses at the burning bush. In so doing Jesus was claiming that He shared the identity of Yahweh, that He and the "Father" were one.
At the same time, Jesus attached His identity as the great "I AM" to seven different descriptors. He claimed that He was:
• the BREAD OF LIFE
• the LIGHT OF THE WORLD
• the DOOR
• the GOOD SHEPHERD
• the RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE
• the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE
• the VINE
There is no end to the meaning behind these powerful statements, and over the centuries countless commentators, preachers and everyday christians have devoted their thoughts and prayers to understanding these radical claims.
C.S. Lewis once wrote: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say.
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.
You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher.
He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
With this in mind, I decided to undertake this carving series with a single purpose, that being the carving of the plain and simple words Jesus chose with which to reveal Himself to us.
Let His words speak for themselves.
In the Greek translation of the new testament, two words uttered by Jesus Christ (ego eimi), are much more powerful and significant than most Bible readers realize. When Jesus says "I am," He intends us to understand these words as a direct assertion of His deity.
At the burning bush, as Moses was called by God to lead His people out of bondage to the Egyptians, Moses had asked God:
"Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they say to me, 'What is His name?' what shall I say to them?" And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" (Exodus 3:13-14).
Seven times in John's Gospel Jesus utters the words "I AM". In doing so He declaring that He is the Yahweh of the Old Testament. Throughout the New Testament, there are a number of significant amplifications of this: Christ is the "I AM" that is the bread of life; the light of the world; the good shepherd; the resurrection; the way, the truth, and the life; and the Alpha and Omega, among other things.