“I will raise them up on the last day” John 6:54
Four uses of the word “I” in today’s Gospel reading help us to think about Jesus: I am, I live, I tell, and I will.
“I am,” reminds us who Jesus is. Four times in Saint John Chapter 6, Jesus uses the words “I am”. “I am the bread of life” he says in Verses 35 and 48; “‘I am the bread that came down from heaven”, he says in Verse 41; and “I am the living bread that came down from heaven”, in Verse 51. “I AM”, is the name of God in the book Exodus. If we recall the story of Moses and the burning bush in Exodus Chapter 3, we will remember that Moses says to God, “who shall I say sent me?” and God says, “tell them, I AM has sent you.” “I AM” is God’s name for himself. When the people of Israel talked about God they naturally talked about him in the third person. They called him YHWH, meaning “He Is”. A word we usually translate as Jehovah or, more commonly, as the LORD. If you look at the Bible, and see “LORD” written in capital letters, you know it is a translation of the special name for God, we see it in Exodus Chapter 3, this special name, He Is, I AM.
When we come to church, we should think about those two words, “I am”. we come to worship to meet with God. We might come for all sorts of other reasons as well, but our reason for being here should always first and foremost be that we are here to meet with the one who calls himself, “I am”. If we took those words seriously, if we thought about God as Moses thought of him, if we thought about God as Jesus speaks of him, wouldn’t it make us very different in the way we think about coming to church? “I am”, says Jesus, reminding us who it is all about.
“I live,” says Jesus. In Saint John Chapter 6 Verse 57, he says, “Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father.” Jesus has been sent into the world by “the living Father”, God is not someone who was in times past but who is no more, he is not the one who gave his people the Law and then disappeared, he is living. Nor is God a terrifyingly remote figure, a God who is uncaring and arbitrary, instead he is the “Father”. Jesus lives because of this God, he experiences the reality of our human life because of this God.
For Jesus to know what it is like to be human should make a difference to us, it means that we believe in someone who knows all our frustrations and our annoyances and our disappointments, it says that we can acknowledge these things, in our prayers we can talk openly about all the things that have upset us and hurt us and got us down. The Letter to the Hebrews Chapter 4 Verse 15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” “I live”, says Jesus, and he knows what it means to live.
“I tell,” says Jesus. In Saint John Chapter 6 Verse 53, we read, “So Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Jesus does not speak in an abstract way, instead he speaks directly and personally to the people who were there. There can be no mistake about to whom he is talking, “Very truly, I tell you”, he says. It would have been much easier for the crowd if Jesus had talked in a general way, if he had talked in the third person, if he had said “he” and “she” and “they” instead of you, but, instead, Jesus challenges them directly and they find it difficult. Some decide what Jesus is saying is too hard and in Verse 66, we read, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.”
“I tell you”, says Jesus, and he challenges us. He is saying to us that we have to make our own decision, no-one else can eat the bread and drink the cup for us, no-one else can believe in Jesus for us. Just as Jesus spoke directly to the crowd, so he speaks directly to us. Do we respond or do we behave like the disciples who turned back?
“I will”, says Jesus. In Verse 51 he says, “and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh;” in Verse 54 he says, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.” “I will” is a promise for his own time, a promise of what will happen in Jerusalem, and it is a promise for the end of time, a promise of new life on the last day. The people who listened to him may have been baffled, what was it that he would do? The people looking back on Jesus’ words after the resurrection would have understood, would have understood what it was that Jesus gave and would have understood what it was that he would do at the end.
“I will” is a promise about the future. As Christians, we should be confident because we believe that this is not the end, that beyond this world there is a life we cannot imagine. As Christians, we should be confident in those words of Jesus, “I will raise them up on the last day.” Do we live our lives in that confidence? If we really believe that we are going to live forever, then there is nothing in the world that we cannot overcome. If we are going to live forever, then all the trials and tribulations of this world are just passing things. If we believe that Jesus will raise us up, it should make us different people.
I am, I live, I tell, I will. We should hear what Jesus says to us.