10 Times Jesus Used God’s Name for Himself
Each repetition adds another layer of understanding of our Lord’s character until we see his form perfectly.
God said, ‘I AM Who I AM. You must tell them: The One Who is called I AM has sent me to you.’ (Exodus 3:14)
After God commissions Moses to speak to the Pharaoh in order to set his people free, Moses asks God for his Name and God replies with the phrase אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, (’ehyeh ’ăšer ’ehyeh.) This is a first-person singular phrase that is commonly translated as, “I AM who I AM”, or in rabbinical circles, more accurately translated as, “I will be who I will be.” This is due to the fact that Hebrew has no present tense of the verb “to be.” This is, in turn, shortened to יהוה or YHWH which is vocalized as Yahweh. As Hebrew hadn’t designated its vowels until the 8th century A.D. when Jewish scholars created diacritical marks―those little jots and tittles that appear above and below their consonants ― there’s no way to know exactly how God’s Name is correctly pronounced.
For Jews, God’s name is forbidden to speak aloud so they replace it with Adonai which translates as “My Lord.” Not coincidently, it’s the most common term used to refer to God in Italian (i.e., il Signore) and Spanish (el Señor).
John’s Gospel uses the Greek phrase, egō eimi, (i.e., “I AM”) as Jesus comes to define his ministry. These are direct and obvious references to how God identified himself to Moses in the guise of the Burning Bush. (Exodus 3:14) In saying “I AM,” Jesus is both declaring his divinity and his unity with the Father. In John’s Gospel, Jesus used the same phrase “I AM” twelve times in reference to himself. Seven of these utterances are paired with a powerful metaphor describing himself as the Savior of humanity:
1. I AM the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51) “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
Jesus said these words after praying alone in the wilderness. He had fed 5,000 people with just five loaves and two fish the day before and escaped into the wilderness to avoid being overwhelmed by the crowd he had just fed. He announced this after the assembled crowd asked for yet another sign of his divinity saying, that God had provided their ancestors with manna in the desert centuries earlier. Jesus explained to them that despite their ancestors having eaten manna from Heaven, they are now dead. However, he alone could offer the True Bread of Life which would confer eternal life.
2. I AM the Light of the World (John 8:12 cf. 9:5) Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the Light of the World. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the Light of Life.” (John 8:12)
Jesus spoke these words after he saved the adulterous woman from being stoned to death saying, “He who is without sin may cast the first stone.” (John 8:7) Her accusers quickly slinked off and he forgave her. At that, he turns to the what remained of the crowd and announces he is the Light of the World.
3. I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life ― “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” (John 14:6)
Jesus reminds St. Thomas and the other Apostles who worry that Jesus will leave them that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that he is the only Way to attain to God because he and the Father are One. He is God and he is our sole Source of salvation.
4. I AM the True Vine ― “I am the True Vine and My Father is the Vinedresser.” (John 15:1-5)
With this metaphor, Jesus points out that without him, humans can do nothing. The branches are dependent upon the Vine because the vine is a source of nutrition and water for the branches. As the Vine, Jesus is our Source of Everlasting Life.
5. I AM Who I AM (John 13:19) ― “I tell you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen, you will believe that 'I Am Who I Am.'” (John 13:19)
This is another one of Jesus’ powerful admissions. He admits his foreknowledge that he will be betrayed by one of his followers. (John 13:19) Prior to this point, Jesus acknowledges his Apostles calling him by his proper titles and, as God, commands them to humble and kind to each other: “You call me Teacher and Lord, and it is right that you do so, because that is what I am. I, your Lord and Teacher, have just washed your feet. You, then, should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:13-14)
6. I Am Who I Am (John 8:28) ― So he said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, you will know that 'I Am Who I Am'; then you will know that I do nothing on My own authority, but I say only what the Father has instructed me to say.” (John 8:28)
7. I AM He―[Jesus of Nazareth] (John 18:5, 6). In the Garden of Gethsemane, when the soldiers and guards come looking for him, he answers, “I am” (egō eimi) (John 18:5-6, 8).
In John’s Gospel account of Jesus’ arrest, he famously referred to himself as “I AM” in the Garden of Gethsemane and says the words with such manifest power and authority that the Roman and Temple guards fall to their knees each time he utters them:
Jesus knew everything that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward and asked them, “Who is it you are looking for?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they answered. “I AM He,” he said. Judas, the traitor, was standing there with them. When Jesus said to them, “I AM He,” they moved back and fell to the ground. Again Jesus asked them, “Who is it you are looking for?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they said. “I have already told you that I AM He,” Jesus said. “If, then, you are looking for Me, let these others go.” (John 18:4-8)
Jesus’ very voice―the Word of God uttered in the beginning at the creation of the universe (i.e., Gen 1:3)―stuns his enemies and makes them stumble and fall. I can’t read or listen to this account without a profound sense of awe.
8. Before Abraham was born, I AM (John 8:56-59). This is the most startling of Jesus’ admissions of divinity:
“Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see the time of my coming; he saw it and was glad.” They said to him, “You are not even fifty years old―and you have seen Abraham?” “I am telling you the truth,” Jesus replied. “Before Abraham was born, 'I AM.'” (John 8:56-59)
When Jesus admits that he is God, the Jews who were listening to them become furious and start picking up rocks to stone him. His crime? Blasphemy―Jesus admitted he was God―“The Cause of All Existence Itself.” Thus, Yahweh might not be God’s personal name but a declaration of his own personal, active, spiritual, dynamic and vital existence identifying himself and not of being a secondary, pantheistic demiurge (i.e., a being that is subordinate to the Supreme Being which controls the material world and is antagonistic to all that is purely spiritual such as angels and God.)
9. The One Who will be betrayed ― a bit more obliquely, Jesus later refers to himself as being “the One Who will be betrayed” mentioned in Psalm 41:
Those who come to see me are not sincere; they gather bad news about Me and then go out and tell it everywhere. (Psalms 41:6)
Even my best friend, the one I trusted most, the one who shared My food, has turned against Me. (Psalms 41:9)
Jesus said, “Those who have taken a bath are completely clean and do not have to wash tthemselves, except for their feet. All of you are clean―all except one.” (John 13:10)
10. I AM the first and the last. The Alpha and Omega. (Rev 1:8) Jesus also identities himself as God in the Book of Revelation several times:
“I AM the first and the last,” says the Lord God Almighty, Who is, Who was, and Who is to come.” (Rev 1:8) This is literally the English translation to the Hebrew phrase אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, (’ehyeh ’ăšer ’ehyeh) “I will be what I will be,” used by God when he identified himself to Moses.
Jesus further identifies himself as “the Alpha and Omega” in Revelation 1:8, 1:11, 21:6 and 22:13. In addition, he calls himself the “First and Last” in Revelation 1:11, 1:17, 2:8 and 22:13. He then returns to is earlier moniker of “Beginning and the End” three additional times. Revelation 1:8, 21:6 uses both in a single sentence.
Throughout John’s writings ― both the Gospel and the Book of Revelation ― Jesus expressly identified himself which his enemies can’t withstand his power and authority. John stresses Jesus' divinity in his “I AM” statements in his Gospel. He is convinced that Jesus as the Son of God and those who believe this will have eternal life (John 20:31).
Each repetition adds another layer of understanding of Jesus’s character until we see his form perfectly.