“ ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.’

So the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’

Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.’

Therefore, they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.”

John 8:56-59 NASB

One of my favorite things about the Gospels is that sometimes Jesus just amazes me with the things He says and the way He says them.  I love a good sentence, and as far as good sentences go, I find one of the best in these four verses. 

“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”

At first glance, this sentence makes you wonder if Jesus, or at least John, forgot the rules of grammar for a minute.  It sounds funny.  But once you understand what’s going on here, you’ll realize that this is one of the biggest, most audacious statements Jesus makes.

The Jewish leaders thought that Jesus was claiming to be alive at the same time that Abraham was.  That really doesn’t lend to a yes or no answer.  More like a yes and no answer.  We know that Jesus as a man was not on the earth when Abraham was alive, but we do know that Jesus exists eternally, from another passage in John.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”  John 1:1-3 NASB

We don’t know exactly what Jesus was referring to when He said Abraham saw His day.  It could have been that Abraham saw Jesus prophetically, or maybe Jesus is talking about Abraham seeing Him from heaven?  There are a few more possibilities, but that’s not really my point here so we’re going to move on.  If you are interested in reading more about this, check out The Chronological Life of Christ : From Glory to Galilee (Vol. 1) by Mark Moore.  Page 391 discusses this question.

What I really want to look at here is Jesus’ response. 

“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (verse 58).

If you’ve read much in Exodus, “I am” should sound familiar to you.

When Moses met God at the burning bush, God commanded Moses to return to Egypt to tell Pharaoh to release the Israelites.

“Then Moses said to God, ‘Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?’
God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ “  Exodus 3:13-14 NASB

I Am is not simply a statement of existence, it is a Name!  And not just any name.

In the book mentioned above, Mark Moore stated, “Whether Jesus says this in Greek, or more likely, Aramaic, the translation of the Tetragrammaton, is clear.  This ineffable name for God, ‘Jehovah,’ Jesus applies to himself” (391).

Jesus is calling Himself God.  No wonder the next thing that John tells us is that the Jewish leaders picked up rocks in order to stone Him.  To claim to be God is blasphemy!  

R.C. Foster, in Studies in the Life of Christ: Introduction, the Early Period, the Middle Period, the Final Week said, “If Jesus had said, ‘Before Abraham was born, I was,’ it would have been understood that He meant He had been in existence before Abraham, but the words I am make clear that Jesus affirmed eternality” (822).

“Say to the Israelites, ‘If anyone curses his God, he will be held responsible; anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord must be put to death.  The entire assembly must stone him.  Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death.”  Leviticus 24:15-16. 

You can also read 1 Kings 21:8-14 for an example of this and Matthew 26:63b-68 for another time Jesus is accused of blasphemy.

The Jewish leaders were half right.  Jesus was absolutely claiming to be God.  But it’s not blasphemy if it’s true!

One of my favorite authors over the history of the church is C.S. Lewis, and he presents an interesting argument concerning how we deal with Jesus.  Lewis says that Jesus either must be a terribly deceitful man, a crazy man worthy of the loony bin, or God incarnate.  There is no choice to label Jesus as merely a good teacher.  Jesus clearly told the Jews that He was God.  A good teacher doesn’t walk around the country lying to people!  You either have to call Jesus God or dismiss Him as a liar or a lunatic.  Check out Mere Christianity to read more about C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on the matter.

The Jewish leaders decided what they wanted to do with Jesus.

What will you do with Jesus?

This is the first in a series from the book of John.  We will be looking at each of the I Am statements that Jesus makes.

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2 Responses to I AM

  1. What will I do with Jesus? Walk with Him, listen to Him and serve Him. After all, He is 'I Am'.
    This is a great post. I look forward to reading the next.

    1. Thanks so much for your comments. I'm glad to know you're enjoying the blog!


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