May 23, 2011
“I Am Not”
According to spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, Jesus taught that the key to planetary transformation is for people to awaken to their identity as “Being.” In his book A New Earth, Tolle writes, “Jesus speaks of the innermost I am, the essence identity of every man and woman, every life-form, in fact. He speaks of the life that you are. Some Christian mystics have called it the Christ within; Buddhists call it your Buddha nature; for Hindus, it is Atman, the indwelling God.” Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (New York: Plume, 2005), 71.
Where does Jesus speak of this “innermost I am”? In one group of sayings Jesus says, “I am the bread of life” (6:35), “the light of the world” (8:12; 9:5), “the gate” (10:7), “the good shepherd” (10:11,14), “the resurrection and the life” (11:25), “the way, the truth and the life” (14:6), and “the true vine” (15:1).
In another group of statements, the “I am” has a more emphatic tone. In John 8:24, Jesus says, “Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins." John 18:6, says, “When he said to them, ‘I am,’ they turned away and fell to the ground.” The most emphatic “I am” statement of Jesus is found in John 8:58 where Jesus says, "Before Abraham was born, I am!" The Jew knew Jesus was boldly equating himself with God by attributing to himself the divine title “I AM” revealed by Yahweh in Exodus 3:14.
Nowhere in this collection of “I am” statements do we see Jesus saying anything like, “Can you sense your inner I am-ness?” Far from being mysterious statements that tell of the widespread divine spark within us all, the “I am” sayings of Jesus are clear proclamations of His unique status as the Son of God.
I am not I AM. No amount of meditation or chanting will ever get me to believe that someone as deeply flawed as myself could ever compare to Jesus. But Scripture does give us hope, telling us that while Jesus alone is the perfect image of God, he conquered death so that we could have life. We were crucified with him, raised with him, and can daily be made new.
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