“God’s children listen to God’s words. You don’t listen to me because you aren’t God’s children.”
The Jewish opposition answered, “We were right to say that you are a Samaritan and have a demon, weren’t we?”
“I don’t have a demon,” Jesus replied. “But I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I’m not trying to bring glory to myself. There’s one who is seeking to glorify me, and he’s the judge. I assure you that whoever keeps my word will never die.”
The Jewish opposition said to Jesus, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham and the prophets died, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never die.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died and the prophets died, so who do you make yourself out to be?”
Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is meaningless. My Father, who you say is your God, is the one who glorifies me. You don’t know him, but I do. If I said I didn’t know him, I would be like you, a liar. But I do know him, and I keep his word. Your father Abraham was overjoyed that he would see my day. He saw it and was happy.”
“You aren’t even 50 years old!” the Jewish opposition replied. “How can you say that you have seen Abraham?”
“I assure you,” Jesus replied, “before Abraham was, I Am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and left the temple.
“Before Abraham was, I Am.” As we can see from the story, that was the last straw. Jesus had pushed too many buttons. He went too far. The opposition just couldn’t contain themselves any longer. Forget the Roman legal system (as well as their own). They’ll kill him right now.
But what does it mean when Jesus said he was “I Am”? Some simply say that it means that Jesus was claiming to be G_d. And that’s true. But it’s deeper than that (as with most things Jesus did and said).
“I Am” is tied to a specific time in Israel’s history - the time of the Exodus. As I’ve stated before,
The parallel with [the Exodus] story to what was going on in the first century is quite remarkable. For too many years, Israel had been under the boot of a “pagan” ruler. First it was Babylon, then it was Persia, later it was Greece, and finally the Romans came to power. And even though the Jews were back in their land, the Romans were still in charge. Therefore, some (most) felt that they weren’t really free. They were waiting for G_d to come and bring justice and rule on earth as in heaven. They were waiting for a new exodus. That’s the expectation. That’s the story.
That was what G_d promised through the prophets and poets. Jesus was acting out that new exodus. He was “the one Moses wrote about in the Law and the Prophets” (John 1.45).
But he wasn’t just the new Moses. Jesus is saying he’s the one who led Moses and Israel. He was the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. That’s what he means when he says he’s “I Am.” Somehow, mystically, he’s YHWH, Israel’s G_d, and through him, just as mystically, he’s bringing about the new exodus.
However, as I’ve said elsewhere, it didn’t look like what his contemporaries thought it would. They were expecting it to resemble the stories of the past. G_d would come in and rescue them and wipe out the “pagans” - the non-humans - and establish them as the new humanity. That G_d would approve of their ways of doing things, their ways of being. That they would get off unscathed because, as we’ve been seeing the last couple of days, they were “G_d’s children.”
Jesus, on the other hand, is saying that, yes, G_d’s justice is coming, but “it must begin with God’s household” (1Peter 4.17; NLT*). But, if people would trust The Way of Jesus, The Way of Being, they “will never die.” Their existence would continue through the ages of the ages.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.