Jesus said “I am”:
1. The Bread. “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger.” John 6:35
2. The Light. “I am the light of the world; he who fallows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12
3. The Gate. “I am the gate; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” John 10:9
4. The Good Shepherd. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.” John 10:11
5. The Resurrection and Life. “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies.” John 11:25
6. The Way, The Truth, and The Life. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” John 14:6
7. The True Vine. “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” John 15:1
More than once, the Apostle Paul stressed how he patterned his own life after that of Jesus. See for example, 1 Corinthians 11:1, where he says: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Thus, even in his teaching, he looked to Jesus for inspiration.
And like Jesus, he too employs the use of several “I am” sayings. In the first chapter of his New Testament Letter to the Romans, scholars tell us that Paul’s use of this phrase "I am" three times in rapid succession is an intentional literary devise that is based upon the teachings of Jesus. In verses 14-17, Paul says:
I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed - a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
I am obligated to all people; I am eager to preach the Gospel to everyone; I am not ashamed of the Gospel! What a powerful statement about the priorities of life for a follower of Jesus Christ.
In reading this, I was reminded of the following story, as recounted by Paul W. Powell in his book, Getting the Lead Out of Leadership:
Around midnight on July 28, 1981, three masked men reportedly entered the church rectory of the Santiago de Atitlan, in the Highlands of Guatemala, and shot Rev. Stanley Rother twice at close range.
The assassins were a right-wing Guatemalan death squad who had targeted the mission priests because of their efforts to improve the living conditions of the Tzutuhil Indians, who lived in the impoverished villages surrounding Santiago.
In his 13 years as priest in Guatemala, Father Rother had developed a deep and lasting bond with the Tzutuhil Indians, taught them how to terrace the land so they could raise crops on the steep mountain sides, and developed a written alphabet for them.
Prior to his death, four other priests had been killed in the previous seven months, and Father Rother learned he was on the hit list.
A friend, Susan Alig, said, “He saw firsthand what it was like to be on the death list, and how people were brutally murdered in the streets. But, in spite of the danger, he chose to stay and serve, saying, ‘The shepherd cannot run.’”
With that statement Father Rother wrote in his own blood one of the essentials of leadership - courage! If he is going to lead, “the shepherd cannot run.”*
While I certainly hope that no one ever has to undergo persecution and especially martyrdom for their faith, I would that more of us (including me) who bear the name of Christian were as committed to the task of loving people and sharing Jesus Christ with them as was this man!
Would that more of us felt as obligated, as eager, and as not ashamed of the Gospel as did Paul! Perhaps we too would then be better suited to say, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ!”
****Source: Paul W. Powell, Getting the Lead Out of Leadership, pp.47-48. Cf.: http://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php?.