The use of the "I am" expressions is quite unique to Johannine writing. In the gospel Yah'shua (Jesus) uses these thirteen times in seven different instances where He refers to Himself as:
- The Bread of Life (6:35,51,48)
- The Light of the World (8:12)
- The Door of the Sheep (9:5)
- The Good Shepherd (10:7,9,11,14)
- The True Vine (11:25)
- The Resurrection and the Life (14:6)
- The Way, the Truth and the Life (15:5)
In each instance Yah'shua (Jesus) claims to be the final fulfilment or epitome of an idea or a concept so that He stands as the shining, perfect example of what He talks about. By following Him in word and deed the believer has no need to fear for he will in no way stumble.
One of the most famous of the "I am" sayings is where Yah'shua (Jesus) declares that He is the Light of the world. The world is in spiritual darkness, the truth is far from being known, and every man has followed after his own precepts or the precepts of those who are as blind as they are. Yah'shua (Jesus) likens Himself to a perfect Light - He is not a lantern as John the Harbinger (Baptist) is but the Light that emanates from the lantern. Thus John refuted the idea that he was the Light, claiming only to be an instrument whereby the Light might shine. The term 'Light' has a number of meanings and can refer to religious truth on the one hand and the light that warms us from the sun on the other. Light also describes power, in this can omnipotent power, for as mortals on the earth depend for their very existence on the light of the sun, so mortals equally depend on the Light of the Son for their inner being. Yah'shua's (Jesus') emphasis though is on religious doctrine - those who live His teachings and have faith in Him will be illuminated by a light that will never die. The Light brings knowledge, inner peace, spiritual power, and the faith to continue believing.
The use of the "I am" sayings is unique to the Johannine writings and mentioned only once in the Old Testament. When Moses enquired of Yahweh by what Name he should be addressed by the children of Israel, the answer he obtained was, "I am what I am" (Ehieh Esher Ehieh). In other words, Yahweh is who He is, does, has done, and will do - His Name is inscribed in the laws and actions He carries out. Thus the use by Yah'shua (Jesus) of "I am" sayings not only hints at His deity but indicates that Yah'shua (Jesus) wants to be known by what He does. Indeed, His common defence in the face of opposition is to refer His revilers and accusers to His works for they adequately testify of what and who He is.
Another famous "I am" saying is: "I am the door of the sheep". In this Yah'shua (Jesus) is pointing out that there is only one way into heaven and into the spiritual presence of Elohim (God). That way, or portal, is Him - His name, doctrine, and so on. He Himself - His temporal self - is not the literal door of the sheep (the believers) but His teaching is the means by which the righteous believers will enter that select fold, the Messianic Community (Church). The believers must pray to the Father in His Name, obey His commandments, abide His teachings, and have faith in His promises. As the advocate with the Father, the believers must go 'through' Him, and thus He is rightly called the 'door' - in this case, the door to Yahweh. The Pharisees and disbelieving Jews will never reach Elohim (God) now because they attempt to bypass Yah'shua (Jesus) and go directly to the Father. But this is not longer the order of heaven for Yahweh has revealed Himself in Yah'shua (Jesus) as the way to salvation.
John's gospel was written, so it is believed by many, to refute the heresy of the Gnostics who believed that Yah'shua (Jesus) was only temporarily divine, and that he reverted bacl to an ordinary human being at His death. John's employment of "I am" sayings in the context of Yah'shua's (Jesus') absolute divinity is therefore deliberate; he refutes the Gnostics' claims and uses their own terminology. The Gnostics also believed that they were very righteous indeed and without sin, implying therefore that they were perfect Lights and not in need of any Saviour. Such sayings as "I am the Light" go a long way in refuting the Gnostic claims. John may also have written his gospel to refute the claims of one Cerinthus who believed that Yah'shua (Jesus) was wholly human apart from the time when the Dove descended upon Him and when he was crucified. In Cerinthus' school of theology the "I am" expressions could only have been applied to the Father; John corrects the Cerinthian idea by applying divine attributes to Yah'shua (Jesus) by making use of the "I am" sayings from Yah'shua's (Jesus') mouth.