Jesus said to the Pharisees: “I am going away, and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” So, the Jews said, “He is not going to kill himself, is he, because he said, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” So, they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “What I told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you in condemnation. But the one who sent me is true, and what I heard from him I tell the world.” They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father. So Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone because I always do what is pleasing to him.” Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.
Jesus had the Pharisees mystified. They were not alone. We all struggle with our understanding of who he is. Jesus is “I AM,” a reference to Exodus 3:14, when Yahweh told Moses, “I am who I am,” a statement that is profound as it is humbling. This Old Testament reference is one of those encounters that made much more sense to Jesus’ disciples in the days, weeks, and months following the Resurrection.
Here Jesus emphasizes that the source of his being is from above, and to believe in I AM is the only way to escape sin and death. Obedience to him is how we share in that oneness with the Father. The Cross of Jesus is the final and ultimate proof of that same oneness with our Father in Heaven. Jesus speaks of his being lifted up as a sign that he is one with the Father. For it is in Jesus that God completely heals us and gives us the gift of eternal life. Some in the crowd in this passage understood the meaning of his words. And, despite the great numbers who criticized Jesus, John tells us that many came to believe. As with their predecessors, God continued to provide a way forward for his people – if they listened and had faith.
God does the same for us. Whether we grumble or give thanks, there is a way forward. That way is through Jesus Christ, in whom we have true bread from heaven. We need only to repent when we have turned from God, we need only to repent and give thanks for his goodness. It always awaits us for Christ is our healer, and the way, the truth, and the life. All who come to him will live forever.