Summary: This is the introduction to a series on the I Ams from the book of John. Here we look at why we should believe Jesus' accounts of himself
Did He Really Say That?
Man on the Street video about Jesus.
So who do you think Jesus was? And more importantly: who do you think Jesus is today? You obviously think something about Jesus you are sitting in church on Sunday Morning. So who is Jesus for you? Usually Jesus gets good reviews, even when people don’t think he was born of a virgin, or was raised from the dead or was the Son of God, they like the idea of Jesus even if they aren’t entirely comfortable with all that is taught about Jesus. And because of that people sometime try to redefine him into someone they can understand. That is why Mikhail Gorbachev could say “Jesus was the first socialist, the first to seek a better life for mankind.” And Mahatma Gandhi would write “A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.” Atheist Friedrich Nietzsche wrote “The word "Christianity" is already a misunderstanding -- in reality there has been only one Christian, and he died on the Cross.” And John Lennon said “Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.”
But who did Jesus say he was? That is really the crux isn’t it? Because it doesn’t really matter what people say about Jesus, or how people define Jesus. What really matters is how Jesus defines himself.
In the scripture that was read earlier Jesus makes a statement and a claim that was readily understood by those who first heard it but sometimes causes confusion when it is read today. So this morning we are going to take a look at John 8:58 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!” And some of you can’t get your mind around that because you are so caught up in the obvious incorrect use of the verb. You are thinking “No, he should have said ‘before Abraham was even born, I was!” And that is because you are thinking that Jesus was using “I am” as a verb when in reality he was using it as a noun. How confusing is that?
So let’s go back to the story to find out what exactly was going on here.
That’s awesome, people are believing in Jesus. And for many churches that is all they require that people believe in Jesus. But Jesus wasn’t content that they merely believe in Jesus, he seemed to feel that it was important that they believe in the right Jesus. He challenged them on their beliefs. And he does that different times when he asked the Apostles “Who do people say I am? And more importantly who do you say I am?”
And so after we read of the many who believed in Jesus we see Jesus confronting their beliefs. John 8:31-32 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
And this bothered them. They immediately interject John 8:33 “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?” And they get angry, and nasty. They had assumed that their religion would save them, they just wanted to add Jesus as a condiment. They believed in the Jesus they wanted to believe in, not Jesus as he defined himself. And so they get into this big discussion about his standing with Abraham and he tells them John 8:56 “Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”
And that is more than they can stand, that’s just madness and that’s what they tell him John 8:57 The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?”
Now if Jesus simply wanted to talk about his pre-existence he would have said ‘before Abraham was even born, I was!” but that isn’t what he says, what he says is John 8:58 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!” And that is confusing for us but it wasn’t confusing for those he said it to, because listen to their response. John 8:59 At that point they picked up stones to throw at him.
It wasn’t because he had bested them in intellectual debate, it was because of what he was claiming. And they knew exactly what he was saying, they weren’t confused at all. They had all been brought up in the culture of the Torah and the Old Testament, they knew the story of Moses and how he had delivered the people of Israel from the slavery of Egypt and they most certainly knew how God spoke to Moses from burning bush.