“I am not!” . . .
It is no accident that we find in the gospels this juxtaposition of opposing declarations, and in virtually the same scene! One says “I AM,” the other proclaims, “I am not.” This is significant because it highlights what is at the very core of the gospel message: that what God is we are not, and that what we are God is not. Even more so, when confronted with the reality of who God is, our tendency is, like Peter, to run away, to hide, to lie, and to deny. When confronted with the reality of who we are—again and again and again—as his creation, on the other hand, God determines to love, to serve, to draw us to him, and to sacrifice for our salvation. It is in this dissonance between our response and his that we can see most clearly what it is that God has done for us. It is in this moment of clarity that we begin to come to grips with the truth about our salvation. It is crucial that we understand that we have not been qualified to earn the salvation that God has wrought in us. On the contrary, if we learn anything from the cross, it is that our only qualification is as potential recipients of a grace that defies our imagination. We learn that we are being rewarded not for our goodness, or for our worth, or for any other self-value that we may have ignorantly misidentified. Instead, we are being welcomed into a life—through our faith in Jesus Christ—that has totally, completely, and utterly originated in the mind of God. He has placed eternal value on us, and he has decided that we are worth everything to him. In other words, it behooves us to remember this: He is, and we are not.