January 17, 2016

Again, “I Am”

John 8:48-59

Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!

—  John 8:58

Jesus made some astonishing claims in this conversation with the Pharisees. He said, “If you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24). They argued with him and even said, “Who do you think you are?” And he eventually made the most astonishing claim of all: “Before Abraham was born, I am.”

Someone might think Jesus’ grammar wasn’t so good, that he should have said, “Before Abraham was born, I was.” Even that would have been astonishing, for Abraham lived about 2,000 years before Christ. By that reckoning, Jesus would have been claiming to be more than 2,000 years old!

But the Jews with whom Jesus was speaking knew he was not making a grammatical mistake. He meant to use the present tense, because he was referring to the eternal name of God revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14): “I am who I am.” This Jesus of Nazareth was claiming to be the eternal God, whose name is I am. And his opponents did not like that, because Jesus had called them hypocrites many times. And if he was really God, they would have to repent. So, rather than repent, they tried to stone him for blasphemy. 

Don’t let anyone tell you that Jesus never claimed to be God. He did, and his miracles and resurrection backed up his claims.

Eternal God, thank you for coming to us in our distress in order to save us in Christ, the great I am. In his name we pray. Amen.

About the author — George Young

George Young, a native New Yorker, worked as a taxi driver in New York City before studying to become a pastor. Then he, his wife Ruth, and their children were missionaries for many years in northeastern Japan. They worked with ministers and believers from the Reformed Church in Japan to spread the good news of salvation in Christ and ­establish new churches. Now George and Ruth are retired and live in the northeastern United States, nearer to their children and grandchildren.

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