The Great “I AM”
“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, ‘I am’” (John 8:58).- John 8:48–59
Today we will look at the final and most dramatic “I AM” statement in the gospel of John. We will return to the eighth chapter of the gospel of John in order to do this. Last week we saw in this chapter that the Pharisees accused Jesus of being a liar because He was the only witness concerning Himself (8:13). It is the further discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees about this accusation that sets the stage for what will be Jesus’ greatest self-disclosure.
In 8:31–32, Jesus asserts that freedom will come to those who abide in His word as disciples. The Pharisees do not understand that they need freedom, claiming to be Abraham’s descendants who have never been in bondage to anyone (v. 33). This is true physically, but Jesus is not speaking of physical bondage. He is speaking of the bondage to sin that the Pharisees and everyone else apart from Christ finds himself in (v. 34). This bondage prevents us from knowing who Christ is unless He frees us from bondage by changing our hearts.
Jesus agrees that His opponents are the descendants of Abraham, but He draws a sharp distinction between His own Father and their father (v. 38). The Pharisees indignantly claim Abraham as their father once more (v. 39a), but Jesus replies that true fatherhood is something more than physical. If the Pharisees truly had Abraham as their father, they would do Abraham’s works. As it stands, they are doing only the evil deeds of their father, the devil (v. 39b–47). Jesus masterfully demonstrates that the true Jew is not one only descended physically from Abraham, but the one who follows Abraham by following the Messiah.
The enraged Pharisees now declare that Jesus is possessed. Jesus denies this and again points to Himself as the source of true life (v. 48–51). The Pharisees now understand that Jesus is claiming to be greater than Abraham and ask Him who He really is (v. 53). Jesus replies that Abraham saw Christ’s day and rejoiced (v. 56), but the Pharisees cannot believe this because Jesus was not even 50 years old! Jesus demonstrates that Abraham truly did see His day by declaring “‘… before Abraham was, I AM’” (v. 58) alluding to God’s self-disclosure to Moses at the burning bush and teaching that He, Jesus of Nazareth, is Yahweh Himself, the Lord and Creator of the universe!
Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, liberals, agnostics, secular historians and many others are perfectly happy to have a Jesus who is merely a wise teacher. However, as we have seen in this final “I AM” statement, Jesus is much more. He is God Himself. Spend some time today worshiping Jesus Christ who is the great I AM.
Passages for Further Study