Reader: “I tell you the truth,”
Response: “before Abraham was even born, I AM!”
Scripture: John 8:48-59
The people retorted, “You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?”
“No,” Jesus said, “I have no demon in me. For I honor my Father—and you dishonor me. And though I have no wish to glorify myself, God is going to glorify me. He is the true judge. I tell you the truth, anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!”
The people said, “Now we know you are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but you say, ‘Anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!’ Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
Jesus answered, “If I want glory for myself, it doesn’t count. But it is my Father who will glorify me. You say, ‘He is our God,’but you don’t even know him. I know him. If I said otherwise, I would be as great a liar as you! But I do know him and obey him. Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”
The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am!” At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
In each of the previous seven chapters of John, the main point was the identity of Jesus as God’s own Son. Then we come to chapter eight and this interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees. As you read, did you notice how similar Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees and Jewish leaders was to Stephen’s defense which we looked at yesterday? We’re back to talking about Abraham, the founding father of the nation of Israel. The crux of the matter is, the Jewish leadership believed that since they were in the lineage of Abraham and had been circumcised, they automatically knew God as their Father. What they were hearing from Jesus was that being born a Jew did not automatically mean you knew God. In his words, if they were truly children of Abraham, they would recognize Jesus for who he truly was, the Son of God. Since they were not willing to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, that meant they were children of Abraham in lineage only, not in faith. Those words were more than they could handle. Jesus does not let up.
It escalates! When Jesus says that he existed before Abraham was born, and that Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to Jesus’ coming to earth, the people had great difficulty. Their next comment meant that they had really understood what Jesus said. “You’re not yet fifty years old Jesus, and you’ve seen Abraham who lived 2,000 years ago? That’s not possible!” Jesus’ response sent them all over the edge. Jesus began with the “I tell you the truth . . .” remember that from a couple of days ago? When Jesus says that phrase, something extremely significant and important is to follow. His words . . . “Before Abraham was born, I AM!” The Pharisees and all the people knew the story of Moses and the burning bush. “I AM” was the name God gave Moses when Moses asked, “Whom shall I say sent me?” It was none other than the name of God, i.e. Jesus was God in the flesh. Anyone claiming to be God was to be stoned according to the law. The Pharisees questioned Jesus in an effort to disprove his claims to be the Son of Man. In their questioning, the opposite happened. They were confronted with the truth that indeed he was the Son of Man and they really did not know the God of Abraham after all. That revelation proved to be too much for them, so they killed him thinking that would end it. It didn’t! HE IS RISEN!
Music: “Give Me Jesus” Fernando Ortega at Ruth Graham Funeral
Almighty God, who hast shown us in the life and teaching of Thy Son the true way of blessedness. Thou hast also shown us in his suffering and death that the path of love may lead to a cross, and the reward of faithfulness may be a crown of thorns. Give us grace to learn these hard lessons. May we take up our cross and follow Christ in the strength of patience and the constancy of faith; and may we have such fellowship with him in his sorrow that we shall know the secret of his strength and peace, and see even in our darkest hour the shining of the eternal light; for his sake who died and rose again for us, the same Jesus Christ our Lord. ―John Hunter, The Quiet Corner, p.20