The ego eimi is not entirely exclusive to John’s Gospel, but is very prominently emphasized by John, occurring twenty-four times. Jesus says “eimi” (the usual form of “I am”) forty-five times in this Gospel, but of these twenty-four are the ego eimi, giving the deliberate addition of the ego (“I”), unnecessary in Greek grammar, which alerts us to something special being said. Of these twenty-four times, seven (8:24; 8:28; 8:58; 13:19; 18:5; 18:6; and 18:8) are absolute emphatic statements of self-identification with the Father, the I Am that I Am. These are moments of epiphany, when the power of Jesus shines out dramatically. In one case those to whom he speaks fall to the ground as if stunned (John 18:6). In another case, faith in him is the result (John 4:26).
By using this form, Jesus is claiming to be God, for only God is the I Am that I Am. That’s why he roused such anger in his hearers in 8:58–59. It is clear that, in his use of the phrase, Jesus is making an intentional link to its use in the Old Testament as the name of God. This “name” is no mere label, a random identifying moniker; it is like a compressed file in which is contained all the power and glory of the being of God himself, only waiting to be unzipped into our lives by personal encounter.
“The name of the Lord is a fortress. When the righteous take refuge in it, they are kept safe” (Proverbs 18:10, my paraphrase). How do you respond to the idea of God’s name as his actual self, a place of protection and security? Is that concept difficult for you, or does it resonate easily?
How do you think we might actually in practical terms go about taking refuge in God’s name?
It seems clear from John’s Gospel that it wasn’t just other people who concluded that Jesus is God – he thought so himself. What are your thoughts and feelings about Jesus? Which divine aspect do you relate to most comfortably – the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit?
Most glorious God, we praise and exalt your holy name, the quintessential expression of who you are – Ancient of Days, most mighty, the Mystery we can know and love as a fellow traveller in Jesus. Wrap the power and light of your name around us, we pray, so that, whatever happens to us in this world, our faith will hold firm in Jesus, in whose holy name we pray; Amen.