John 8: 47-59
Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.’
The Jews answered him, ‘Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?’ Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honour my Father, and you dishonour me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge. Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.’ The Jews said to him, ‘Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.” Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, “He is our God”, though you do not know him. But I know him; if I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.’ Then the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
As you see, Abraham was a powerful and central figure for the first century Jewish community. His faithfulness to the call of God actually gave birth to the people of Israel through his family line. But now, the people began to use their knowledge and faith in Abraham to challenge Jesus. In essence they were saying “Hey, Jesus, who do you think you are anyway?”
After a back-and-forth conversation Jesus makes a remarkable claim. He uses another of his powerful “I am” images. Look at verse 58 to see the claim. “Before Abraham was born, I am!”
The Biblical story of Abraham and his family really begins in Genesis chapter twelve. You might want to check out the various generations of the family that grew out of Abraham’s faithfulness starting with Genesis 12. But I want to direct you for a moment to another passage of the Old Testament. Turn for a moment to Exodus 3:13-15.
It is the passage where Moses is standing in front of the burning bush. God has been giving Moses some instructions but Moses is making excuses. Does that sound familiar for your life? While you are thinking about the excuses we all make…let’s get back to Moses. He says to God, “what if people ask me what is your name? What shall I tell them?” And God says, “Tell them I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
Apparently the identity of I AM is important. It is in fact the sacred name of God. It is the same language that Jesus used with the people of his day. “Before Abraham was born, I am!” We won’t get too deep here but you can see that we are talking about the divine nature of Jesus and we are talking about creation as well.
Just on the surface, let’s ponder together…what difference would it make in our lives as disciples if we believed with all our hearts that Jesus was in fact the great I AM? This is the Circle of Love in action from Moses, to Jesus, and on to our daily stewardship decisions. Do you see the Circle?