[New to our exegesis of John’s Gospel? Try starting at The Beginning — see top menu for John 1:1-2].
25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
25 λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ γυνή· Οἶδα ὅτι Μεσσίας ἔρχεται, ὁ λεγόμενος χριστός· ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐκεῖνος, ἀναγγελεῖ ἡμῖν ἅπαντα. 26 λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Ἐγώ εἰμι, ὁ λαλῶν σοι.
Jesus the Ego-ist
We continue to mine this remarkable story and discover gems. I mentioned in my last blog on this passage that Jesus brings the Samaritan woman’s attempt to divert the conversation back to her and who he is. Her comment in verse 25 is something we might say after a theological debate about this or that, ending with a, “Well, God knows!” and that would be the final word on the matter.
Except, in this case, Jesus says in essence, “That’s right, and I’m God!” He clearly wins the argument, but that’s not the point, of course. The point is: this is a sacred moment of encounter with God, a kind of burning bush moment, that can’t be reduced to a classroom conversation on the theology of worship.
The significance of Jesus’ response can’t be quickly passed over here. Jesus said, I am he, which sounds like he is saying he is the Messiah in response to her comment about the Messiah showing up one day to make all things clear. That would be enough for us except the Greek words are even more shocking: Ἐγώ εἰμι.
The first thing to note is the phrase is emphatic. You could translate it as, “I myself, I am!” or “I, I am!” The he is implied by the context. I am the one you’re referring to.
But it’s way more than that. God said to Moses, “I AM who I AM” (Ἐγώ εἰμι Ἐγώ εἰμι in the Greek Old Testament of Jesus’ day — LXX); and he said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you'” (Ex. 3:14). The name of God is, in essence, I AM. In the Gospel of John, most often when Jesus says Ἐγώ εἰμι he is identifying himself as God. (We must remember that Jesus spoke Aramaic, but John’s use of Ἐγώ εἰμι rather than simply εἰμι — the non-emphatic I am — means that John understood Jesus to be identifying himself as the I AM God. It’s even possible Jesus used the Greek words since they would be commonly known as referring to God at that time.)
In the Greek Old Testament of Jesus’ day (LXX), Isaiah 46:4 and 48:12 also use Ἐγώ εἰμι for the language of God’s self-identification and name. So, this term was understood in Jesus’ day as a Messianic term.
C.S. Lewis wrote regarding Jesus, “if he is neither God nor a lunatic, he has to be a liar, deceiving others by his lie.” Jesus clearly understands himself to be Messiah and God. Ἐγώ is transliterated as “Ego” in English:
Sooo, Jesus is either Ego Emi (God) or a lying egotist!