And Moses said to God, "When I go to the children of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you," and they ask me, 'What is His name?' What should I say to them?" (Exodus 3:13)
And God said to Moses, "I am who I am!" and He said, "Thus shall you say to them 'I AM has sent me to you!'" (3:14)
And God said further to Moses, "Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, 'Yahweh the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob has sent me to you!' This is my name forever and this is how I am to be remembered to generation on generation!" (3:15)
When God revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush, He gave His name as Yahweh (translated LORD in most English translations). The word is related to the words "I am" (Ehyeh) in the previous verse, a form of the verb "to be." The name has been understood in various ways but is generally understood to mean something like "the One Who Is" or "the Eternally Existing One."
Though the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament translation ca. 200 + BC) uses the word "Kurios" (Lord) to translate "Yahweh" in verse 13, it translates "I am who I am" as "Ego Eimi Ho On" or "I am the One Who Is."
Why is this important? Because the words Jesus uses when He say "I am ..." are those two words, Ego Eimi. If He spoke them in Greek, the any of His contemporary Jews who were familiar with the Septuagint would immediately understand that He was in some way claiming kinship or even equality with Israel's covenant God, whose Hebrew name Yahweh was never even spoken. His disciple John, the author of the fourth gospel certainly had that understanding.
In a previous post, IS JESUS REALLY THE ONLY WAY? I attempted to deal with Brian McLaren's faulty and (I believe) deceptive exegesis of John 14:6. I said, "Even if his “exegesis” of John 14:6 were correct (it’s not) and Jesus was not claiming exclusivity here, McLaren would still have to contend with the vast number of claims Jesus made elsewhere. There are other “I Am’s” in John’s gospel. Is McLaren capable of explaining away the apparent exclusivity in all of these?" I don't know if McLaren ever tried to deal with these or not, but I felt I needed to say a bit about them.
Jesus uses the combined words Ego eimi (I am) in John's gospel 23 times by my count. He also uses the word eimi by itself or in slightly different combinations another 22 times. [The verb can be used without the pronoun in Greek. The meaning is still the same, only without the emphasis.] A few samples:
"The woman says to Him, 'I know that Messiah is coming (the one called Christ ...)' Jesus says to her 'I am -- the one speaking to you.'" (John 4:25, 26)
"Jesus said to them, 'I am the Bread of Life.'" (6:38, also verses 41, 48, 51)
"Again then Jesus spoke to them saying, 'I am the Light of the World.'" (8:12)
"Jesus said to them, 'Amen, amen, I'm telling you, before Abraham came to be, I am!'" (8:58)
Jesus says to His hearers and followers, "I am the Door" (10:7, 9), "the Good Shepherd" (10:11, 14), "the Resurrection and the Life" (11:25), "the Way and the Truth and the Life" (14:6), "the True Vine" (15:1).
"Jesus ... says to them (the mob in the garden), 'Whom are you seeking?' They answered Him, 'Jesus the Nazarene.' He says to them, 'I am.' ... When He said to them 'I am' they drew back and fell to the ground." (18:4-6)
When John records that the mere saying of the two words is enough to knock Jesus' assailants over he seems to imply that there was divine power in the words themselves.
Jesus is claiming in these sayings more than that He is the only way to God; He is claiming that He is God. I don't see how one can deny that He is making that claim.
His use of the phrase "I am" itself takes us back to Exodus 3. As Yahweh revealed Himself to Moses, so Jesus is revealing Himself as that same "One Who Is." The above reference to His existence (in the present tense) before Abraham, seems to be a clear claim to Deity. The references to light, to resurrection, to life all carry us back to the God who revealed Himself to Israel in the Old Covenant. The claim to being "the Good Shepherd" takes us back to the 23rd Psalm -- "Yahweh is my Shepherd" as well as to the prophets and Psalmists' words of Yahweh that He Himself would shepherd His people (Isaiah 40:11; Micah 7:14; Psalm 28:9, 80:1).
To detail all the Old Testament references in Jesus' "I am" sayings would require a thesis, but I hope I have shown enough of them to demonstrate that Jesus was clearly claiming not only that He is the only way to the Father, but that He Himself is God in the flesh.
In John 10:30, Jesus makes His claims clear using the plural form of the same verb "I and the Father are One."