Some of the stories in the news these days about people identifying differently than the way they were born are confusing. We all wear labels whether we realize it or not, and for the most part they help our friends and acquaintances know who we are.
C.S. Lewis could be somewhat crass, but never cruel; silly but not sacrilegious. He supposed Jesus could be considered either as crazy as a man who says he is a poached egg, or as deceitful as the Devil of Hell. Perhaps you’ve heard his argument that given how Jesus self-identified, he was either a lunatic, a liar, or Lord. He summarized this way: “You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”
So how did Jesus identify himself? Just within the confines of the gospel of John we find a trove of claims. He told the woman at the well, “I who speak to you am (the Messiah).” Isaiah tells us the Messiah would be Almighty God and Everlasting Father and Jesus knew that.
Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” People clearly understood that he equated himself with God and were incensed about it. When He said, “I am the bread of life” and “I am the living water,” He declared that the deepest, most basic, and most enduring human need can only be met by knowing and believing him.
He said, “I am the light of the world” as he made the blind man see. “I am the door of the sheep…if anyone enters through Me he will be saved.” “I am the good shepherd” that lays down His life for the sheep.
Over and over he says, “I am.” But probably my favorite is when Jesus enraged an argumentative bunch with, “before Abraham was born, I am!” Here he claimed the very name of God as revealed to Moses at the burning bush. Shocking! Lunatic, liar, or Lord?
Skeptics don’t think the ‘LLL’ argument is very strong because to them we can’t be sure what Jesus actually claimed. They would dismiss the gospel of John as a fabrication of his followers. If so, skeptics need also explain why his followers who walked with him, knowing it to be a lie, would suffer persecution for a myth of their own making.
I’m convinced of John’s narrative of how Jesus self-identified as God the Son. “I Am,” he said, and he still is. Identify with him, believe him, and live!