“I Am!”

“I tell you the truth,”  Jesus answered,  “before Abraham was born, I am!”  John 8:58.

Did Jesus just say what I think He said?   Did He just declare His identity clearly and succinctly?  I think He so.  The significance of this cannot be lost on anyone who knows Jewish history or the Law, for it is the name God gave Himself:  “I Am”.  His reference couldn’t be lost on those listening for sure, because immediately they picked up stones to kill Him, yet somehow He pulled a Houdini and hid from them, walking away unscathed.

They had asked,  “Who are you?  Tell us plainly…” and when He did, they decided they didn’t like the answer and would stone Him instead.  To me this is the paradox of fallen human nature:  one moment we want a rescuer to save us from the bad guys, the next we decide we don’t like how our Knight in shining white armor plans to do it and go looking for someone else—or something else. 

Simply saying “I am” isn’t earth shattering in and of itself because we say this all the time in reply to questions about our daily lives.  You know “I am coming over…”  “I am ready” “I am…etc.” rolls off our tongues without a second thought.  Jesus’ use, however, is in the continuous present tense.  Even without knowing Greek we can see by the phrasing He was saying something quite profound (and for further proof just look at the reaction of the Jews again). 

“Before Abraham was born, I am!”

By stating He  is, not was, before Abraham was born, He declared Himself to exist in the eternal now where all times are the present for Him through the Father.  Though He gave up omnipresence and had no more power than humans have at their disposal, His connection to the Father shined through and affected everyone in His path.  I Am is the name God gave Himself.  The Eternal One; the only self-existent being in the universe and beyond.

Jesus, without question, establishes both His connection with the Father and identity.  His statement declared His mission; His mission declared God’s intent.

On the other hand, the Jews reaction declared both their hopes for themselves and intent.  By picking up stones to kill Jesus they displayed their hearts for all people then and throughout history to see.  They didn’t want a messiah like Jesus, for some reason…which is the same reason many don’t want Him now.

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