“I will raise them up on the last day” John 6:54
Four uses of the word “I” in today’s Gospel reading help thinking about Jesus: I am, I live, I tell, and I will.
“I am,” is a reminder of 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. In the story of Moses and the burning bush in Exodus Chapter 3, 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 usually translated as Jehovah or, more commonly, as the LORD. In English translations the word “LORD” written in capital letters, is a translation of the special name for God. It is found in Exodus Chapter 3, this special name, He Is, I AM.
Coming to church, do people think about those two words, “I am?”
People come to worship to meet with God. They might come for all sorts of other reasons as well, but the reason for being at church should always first and foremost be to meet with the one who calls himself, “I am”. Taking those words seriously, thinking about God as Moses thought of him, thinking about God as Jesus speaks of him, would make Christians very different in the way they think about going to church. “I am”, says Jesus, reminding listeners 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 now 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 Christians, it means that they believe in someone who knows all their frustrations and all of their annoyances and their disappointments, it says that people can acknowledge these things. In their prayers, they can talk openly about all the things that have upset them and hurt them and got them 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, it says, “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 later in the chapter, in Verse 66, it says, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.”
“I tell you”, says Jesus, and he challenges people. He is saying to those who listen that they have to make their own decision, no-one else can eat the bread and drink the cup for someone, no-one else can believe in Jesus for someone. Just as Jesus spoke directly to the crowd, so he speaks directly to people now. Do people respond or do they 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. Christians should be confident because they do not believe that this is the end, faith says that beyond this world there is a life they cannot imagine.
Christians should be confident in those words of Jesus, “I will raise them up on the last day.” Is there that confidence? If people really believe that they are going to live forever, then there is nothing in the world that they cannot overcome. If people are going to live forever, then all the trials and tribulations of this world are just passing things. If people believe that Jesus will raise them up, it should make them different people.
I am, I live, I tell, I will.