“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
The phrase “I am” is a part of everyday conversation: A sports enthusiast might boast “I am a strong swimmer”, an interviewee “I am highly organised”, a tradesman “I am a skilled carpenter.”
It was diﬀerent for Jesus. When Jesus said “I AM” he used a clear title recognised by the Jews as deity, and this caused an uproar among his detractors. In fact, when the Jewish religious leaders heard Jesus declare “I AM” they heard more than “I am a carpenter”. They heard I am eternal, without beginning or end, I existed before Abraham, and Abraham who walked the Earth two thousand years ago looked forward to my arrival – Jesus the Messiah.
We can plainly see why the religious leaders were upset – to them, claiming to be God was the height of profanity.
In John’s gospel, there are eight occasions where Jesus makes a statement alluding to His divine status. There are the seven “I AM” statements. You may have heard of a few such as: “I am the bread of life (John 6:35), I am the light of the world (John 8:12)” … Plus this eighth and final “I am” statement (John 8:58).
Moreover, in using the phrase Jesus identified himself with the holy, perfect God of Israel who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, pronouncing the same words of divinity: “I am God” (Exodus 3:13-14).
Now in the unbelieving eyes of the religious leaders, this “I am” statement was blasphemy, and they were itching to stone him, but Jesus hid Himself, and slipped away from the temple grounds (John 8:59).
Like the religious leaders this phrase should provoke a strong reaction in us. Do we worship Jesus as God? Or do we deny him?
There are many religions today who would deny Jesus as God, they would rather see him as a carpenter or clever teacher. However, as we have seen in this final “I AM” statement, Jesus is much more.
This Christmas consider the great “I AM” for yourself. Even read John chapter 8 and ask: who is this Jesus? Why does he matter to the whole world and me?