And Jesus said, “I Am” … the Messiah, called Christ
The woman said, “I know the Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”
Imagine the surprise of the Samaritan woman when Jesus talked to her by Jacob’s well that day, for Jews do not associate with Samaritans (John 4:9). When He told her He had living water to offer, “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (4:14), she was intrigued. That He knew about her five husbands, and that “the man you now have is not your husband” (4:18), she saw He was a prophet. When He revealed that “salvation is from the Jews” (4:22), she indicated she was aware of the expected Messiah who would make all things clear.
However, it was when Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he”—"the Messiah (called Christ)”—that she abandoned her water jar (4:28) and took off to town running: “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (4:29). John starts his gospel proclaiming the Word (Jesus) was God…in the beginning (1:1-2), and remains true to his theme: these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (20:31). John’s seven “I am” metaphors are acclaimed by the commentaries; but it is the very first unclaimed “I Am” in John that catches my eye: “I am he—the Messiah (called Christ)”.
New Unger’s Bible Dictionary defines the name “I Am” this way: ”I AM (’ehyeh ’asher ’ehyeh, “I am Who I am”). The name God gave Himself when speaking to Moses from the midst of the burning bush (Exodus 3:14; lit., God is He who is); the absolute I, the self-existent One.” The Greek expression Jesus used, ego eimi, was the same declaration of deity.
The Jews had been looking for the Messiah forever. Apparently this Samaritan woman had too; as had the others who came in droves from the town, many believing because of her testimony (4:39), many more because of his words (4:42). To the contrary, the chief priests knew what Jesus was saying when He said “I am” but chose not to believe, crucifying Him for blasphemy: “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God” (John 19:7).
As we shall see, each of John’s seven “I am” metaphors points back to that first one: “I am he—the Messiah (called Christ)”. After all, Jesus was God…in the beginning.