“I am telling you the truth. Before Abraham was born, ‘I Am’”
(Jesus says about himself, John 8:58, TEV)
It all begins in the time of Moses, Israel’s great national hero. When God called on him to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, Moses was reluctant to accept – in fact, he played hard-to-get or in my local language: ‘Jual mahal!’ (Read about it in Exodus 3). He offered all sorts of excuses for not going. One of the more reasonable was that he couldn’t explain who had sent him. Moses said to God, “When I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ So what can I tell them?” (Exodus 3:13, TEV). God replied (and it’s a little difficult to make it sound sense in English): “I am who I am. You must tell them: ‘The one who is called I Am has sent me to you’” (3:14).
Clearly, in the New Testament John 8, Jesus’ use of the phrase “I Am” would remind His hearers of that incident and of that special name for God. More than that, the fact that Jesus said, “Before Abraham was born, ‘I Am’”, and not “I was”, would suggest something else: that He was claiming to be what only God really is – eternal. Only God can legitimately claim “I Am” at any time, past, present, or future; but there is Jesus saying that He is also eternal, that His birth in Bethlehem was not His beginning, that He had always been in existence, even before Abraham.
This was highly provocative. Jesus must have realized that His words would imply these things and would arouse the anger of His critics (as He always does). By applying the name “I Am” to Himself, Jesus was talking for Himself something that was properly God’s alone – Jesus was claiming to be equal with God. Morgan G. Campbell writes, “These are the words of the most impudent blasphemer that ever spoke, or the words of God incarnate.” His critics took it as blasphemy, and in their Law, the punishment for that was death by stoning. So angry were they by now, that they dispensed with arrest, trial and sentence. So clearly understood Jesus’ statement that they grabbed the nearest stones and trying to kill Him there and then. Even today, the real Jesus is so hated by the enemies because He, in God’s Word, says, “I Am.”
Is Jesus really the “I Am”?
Do you know Jesus of the Bible?
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.