Greetings everyone! Grace, mercy and peace to you today from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and welcome to Thursday’s edition of EDiBS. As we continue to move through our week together, I’m thankful that you’ve taken the time to be here for some time in the Scriptures, where as we get going today we’ll be finishing up the eighth chapter of John. Let’s pray and ask God’s blessing on our time.
Father, you have told us in your Word that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and we are mindful today that in your Son we have been wonderfully remade — reborn, made new, the old being gone and the new having come. Thank you for such an incredible demonstration of your love, that you would send Jesus to die for us. Bless us now as we give ourselves to the study of the Scriptures. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
As we get started today, Jesus brings His teaching time with the crowd in the temple courts to a close, and He does so in a most memorable and controversial fashion. Our focus: “Before Abraham was born, I Am!”
54Jesus replied, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.” 55Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. 56Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." 57"You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!" 58"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" 59At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
Most of us have lived long enough to know when someone is trying to sell us a bill of goods. These days, of course, we really have to be on our guard, because some folks are scammers extraordinaire who are very good at deceiving even those people who wouldn’t normally fall into a trap. On the other hand, however, there are also folks who fall into the category of the tragic, even comical attempts at a con. Their pitch is so bad, their information is so outlandish, and the way they carry themselves is so obviously fraudulent that we see their ruse coming from a mile away and steer clear.
In our reading today here at the end of John 8, the words of our Lord Jesus have now thoroughly partitioned His listeners into at least two distinct groups, probably three. There are those who have now put their faith in Him, those whose hearts are perhaps in the process of being softened to His message...and then there is the group we’ve been focusing on for the past several study sessions: those whose hearts are now thoroughly hardened against Jesus and His message. Here in the end stages of this encounter, what we see from the language of the text is that this last group is at the point where mockery and unbelief has reached its apex. They are in a mode of complete dismissal. They have considered Jesus and His claims and are convinced that He has crossed every conceivable line of reason, every normal boundary of sanity, and certainly, every parameter of believability. Perhaps at first they considered Him clever, someone to be on their guard against; but now with His latest foray into the whole “I am God” realm they have made their final judgment. His pitch is so bad, His information so outlandish, and the way He carries Himself is so obviously fraudulent that they have labeled it all one big ruse.
Verses 55-56: It is into this context that we must place the final exchange between Jesus and His detractors, and it begins in verses 55-56 with our Lord’s continued affirmation about His knowledge of, and relationship with, the Father. In effect, Jesus is responding to the accusations of the crowd and says that in revealing His relationship with the Father He is not selling them a bill of goods, but simply telling them the truth. “In fact,” Jesus says, “If I say that I do not know the Father, that’s what would make Me a liar – not the other way around.” To place this remark in its proper framework, Jesus adds in verse 56 that Abraham rejoiced to see the day that has now come – the time of the revealing of the Messiah to the world. The subtext here is that if Abraham rejoices in the greatness of this day, then surely the true children of Abraham will rejoice as well...and that stands as another mark against these hostile unbelievers.
Verse 57: In verse 57, however, these remarks by Jesus are wholly discounted, aren’t they. The response by the people is, again, one of dismissal. Yeah, right, teacher – you know Abraham. Uh huh, good one. That really takes the cake: you’re not even 50 years old and you’ve seen the great patriarch. Tell us another one! To the people against Jesus, these words are representative of their now-crystallized views about this man. In their minds this is a tragic, even comical attempt at a con. They’ve seen it coming all along, and now they are ready to be done with it all.
Verses 58-59: But before they can walk away having had the last word on the matter, Jesus makes one final statement in response to their words, and what He says is something that cannot be let go. With one final declaration, our Lord puts an exclamation point on the end of all that He has said to the crowd. It’s a declaration that does not allow the people to simply dismiss Him. It’s a declaration that cannot be disregarded. It requires a conscious, considered response. Why? Because what He has spoken strikes at the core of these peoples’ existence. It can be received, or it can be rejected, but it cannot be passed off as something insignificant or rambling. It cannot be relegated to the mere musings of a madman. This final Word of Jesus is a Word of life to those who have believed in Him, while to those who have rejected Him it is a Word of condemnation. Yet to them, it is a word, in their minds, of utter blasphemy that must be punished — punished by death. What is the word? Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I Am.” At this, His enemies pick up stones with which to kill Him. But because His time has not yet come, Jesus slips away.
As we wrap things up for the day, though in reality we’ve been there for quite some time, with these final words of Jesus in today’s text regarding His claim to deity, we are truly now at the point of no return. Jesus has just spoken, in as plain a way as can be spoken, of Himself as the Almighty, eternal God; the Great I AM; the One beside whom there is no other. There can be no more wondering here, no more differing ideas about what Jesus has been saying about Himself all this time. The gauntlet has been thrown down for you and me and all the world. It can be received, or it can be rejected — but it cannot be passed off as something insignificant or rambling. Instead, it requires a conscious, considered response.
What will you do with that claim today? Please let me encourage you as you consider the Scriptures: hear God’s call to believe and live, for that is His will for you as one whom He greatly loves. Receive the Word of Jesus today as a Word of life, and you will be saved. It’s all here for you now – all laid out. I will continue to share this in the days ahead as I always do – but as the Bible says so clearly, today is the day of Salvation. If you have heard God’s voice, do not harden your heart. This is your time. Take care, God’s blessings of peace to you in His Son, our Savior, and I’ll see you again next time.