October 25th, 2020

‘I am the Good Shepherd’


By Submitted Article on March 28, 2020.

Lifted up

Second of four parts

Jacob M. Van Zyl

In the main Greek traditions of the New Testament – Byzantine and Alexandrian – Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, you will know that I am,” not “I am He.” The “He” is added by some translations, pointing to Messiah.

God revealed his personal name, I AM, to Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3:14). Moses wrote Genesis later; therefore, he used this name of God already in Genesis 2 and afterwards.

In Hebrew, this name of God is written as YHWH. After the exile, Jews did not pronounce this name. When they came to it in Bible reading, they said Adonai. Adding the vowels of Adonai to YHWH caused non-Jews to pronounce it as Jehovah.

The short form, Yah, appears in many names (Elijah, Hezekiah) and in the psalms (hallelujah). God told Moses to tell the Israelites and the Pharaoh that Yahweh sent him. He could not tell them so if he could not pronounce the name.

God said to Moses that he wanted to be remembered by this name (Ex. 3:15). How can you remember a name and teach it to your children if you can’t say it? The adding of Yah to many names, including Yeshua (the Lord’s salvation), shows that it was not taboo as many believe today.

Jesus did not shy away from I AM. He said to the Jews: “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). He compared himself to several things: “I am the bread of life,” “I am the light of the world,” “I am the door of the sheep’s pen,” “I am the good shepherd,” “I am the resurrection,” “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and “I am a the true vine.”

To the high priest Christ affirmed that he was the Messiah; he admitted to the governor that he was a king, though his kingdom was not of this world.

He told the Jews that they were from below; he was from above (John 8:23). John wrote that no one had seen God, but the only Son who knew him intimately made him known (John 1:18).

Because the Jews of his time waited for a Messiah that was a warrior-king, who would free them from Roman oppression, they did not accept Jesus of Nazareth as such, despite his healing ministry, miracles and wise teaching.

Jesus said that when they had lifted him up (crucified him), some of them would realize who he really was. That happened 50 days later when 3,000 accepted him as Saviour (Acts 2). Soon after, another 2,000 joined the early church. Christianity spread fast around the Mediterranean Sea.

Many believed he was the great I AM, who came to humanity in human form.

Jacob Van Zyl of Lethbridge is a retired counsellor and the author of several faith-based books.

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