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Lesson 1: Jesus Is the “I Am”

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Jesus answered, “Before Abraham was born, I Am.” (John 8:58 NIV)

The Painting the Portrait of Jesus lessons focus on the “I am” statements Jesus made in the gospel of John. These are called the “I am’s” because each one of them starts with the same 2 words, “I am.” Then, Jesus follows the words “I am” with a word picture to describe Himself to those who are listening.

Jesus’ word pictures were like paint colors in a portrait. Remember that a portrait is a painting, drawing, or photograph that is a true representation of that person. Each one of those “I am” statements is like another paint color being added to Jesus’ portrait.

Jesus painted Himself with words that reveal not His physical appearance but a “picture” of who He is, how He is the answer to our spiritual needs, and why we can trust Him enough to follow Him.

Jesus is the answer to the spiritual needs of every person. He is the answer to every inner need that you and I have. And, you will see that His self-portrait describes that. We’ll be adding a different color each lesson as we paint the portrait of Jesus.

Paint Color #1: White

Our first paint color is white. White is really a mixture of all colors. Have you ever seen white light shining through a prism?

A prism is a special kind of glass that causes white light shining through it to break up into all the different colors of a rainbow. All those colors miraculously mix together to form white light. So, white represents all the colors Jesus used to paint His portrait. And, in the Bible, the color white often represents the presence of God.

We find the “I am” statements in the book of John, written by one of Jesus’ disciples named John. The book of John is also called the gospel of John. The word “gospel” means “good news” so the book of John contains the good news about Jesus—who He is, why He came, and what He offers to those who trust in Him. In it, John emphasizes repeatedly that Jesus is God in human flesh. He says so in the key verse for the book of John found at the end in chapter 20.

1. Read John 20:31.

  • What did John say was his purpose in writing his gospel?
  • And, once you know and believe this, what will happen?

Belonging to Him means you will have a relationship with Him. It’s great to belong to someone who loves you, isn’t it? And, once you belong to Him, you also get life from Him, eternal life. We’ll learn a lot about both of these special things that come to those who know that Jesus is God’s Son and believe that to be true.

Let’s talk about the two words “I am.” To us, they are just part of our English language. To the Jewish people of Jesus’ time, those words were part of God’s name. Years and years before Jesus was born, God spoke to a man named Moses and told Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. Moses said to God, “What if I go to them, and they want to know your name, what shall I tell them?” We read God’s answer in Exodus chapter 3.

2. Read Exodus 3:13-14. What name did God give Himself?

That’s what our English Bibles say. The Old Testament where Exodus is found was written in the Hebrew language. The Hebrew name for God is spelled YHWH. We think the name was pronounced Yahweh (ya-way). This was God’s personal name. Jesus knew this name for God. And, He frequently claimed that name for Himself.

One time Jesus was talking to a woman at a well. She said that one future day the promised leader known as the Messiah would come. Let’s see how Jesus answered her.

3. Read John 4:19-26.

  • What would the Messiah do (v. 25)?
  • How did Jesus respond to her (v. 26)?

Since Jesus spoke Hebrew, what He originally said would have been, “Yahweh, the one speaking to you.” That’s what Jesus actually said.

4. What was Jesus communicating to the woman about Himself?

Another time, Jesus was talking to some Jewish leaders and told them He knew Abraham. They said, “You are not even 50 years old. How could you have seen Abraham?” Let’s see how Jesus answered them.

5. Read John 8:56-59.

  • What was Jesus’ answer?
  • Notice what happened next. Why do you think the Jewish leaders became so angry with Jesus?

So, this is what you can know. When Jesus said, “I am,” He is revealing something about Himself. He is God. He did the things that God does. He healed people and forgave them of their sins. He told people that He was God.

Jesus is the “I am.” He is God. We don’t think of God’s name as Yahweh anymore. We often think of God’s name as Jesus, don’t we?

Remember that I told you the color white represents the presence of God. One day, when Jesus was on a mountain with His disciples, His clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any bleach could ever make them. His disciples saw that and knew it meant they were in God’s presence.

6. Read Mark 9:2-8. What did the disciples hear the voice from heaven say?

So, not only is Jesus God, He is more specifically the Son of God. He knows God as His very own Father.

Jesus obeyed His Father and lived His life as a God-man among people. That way, He knows every need that we have—every need, both physical and spiritual. He knows what it is like to be hungry and thirsty, to know fear, to be alone, and to long to know God.

Jesus knows that He is the answer to every need, especially the need to know God.

7. Read Hebrews 4:15. How confident are you that Jesus (as man) understands how you feel but is also powerful enough (as God) to take care of your every need?

Jesus is the “I Am.” He said to His disciples, “If you know me, you will know God.” That’s what Jesus is saying to you and what the rest of these lessons will be about—getting to know Jesus through His descriptions of Himself as though they were paint colors. With that we’ll paint the portrait of Jesus.

Jesus is the answer to the spiritual needs of every person, especially the need to have a relationship with Him, to belong to Someone who loves us dearly.

8. Read Matthew 11:28-29.

  • What is the invitation and the promise?
  • What inner needs do you have that Jesus’ promise could satisfy?

Isn’t it great to know that you are loved by someone as wonderful as Jesus?

Following Jesus

1) Bible verse to learn:

Jesus answered, “Before Abraham was born, I Am.” (John 8:58 NIV)

2) Response in prayer & praise:

Thank Jesus for coming to earth and living among us so you can see what God is like by learning from Him. Thank Him that He wants to have a relationship with you. Ask Him to give you a longing in your heart this week to know Him closely.

3) Filling in the portrait of Jesus:

Christianity is Christ so spend a few minutes each day reading the verses and reflecting on Jesus—His life, His relationships, and His teaching. Get to know Him well—this One who loves you dearly.

  • Read John 1:1-28. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read John 1:29-51. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read John 2:1-11. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read John 2:12-25. Reflect on what you read.

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