Summary: A sermon on Jesus claim to be "I AM" and how people often tie their identity to the wrong things.
Unless you are living in a cave, you probably realize that today is the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States. You may even remember wherever you were at the time of those attacks. I was in Johnson City, TN. I was in my first year of seminary down there. I remember watching it on the morning news unfold throughout the day. As you recall, there were 19 terrorists. They hijacked four passenger jets. Two of those jets found their way to the World Trade Center, struck them, and within two hours both the towers had come down. A third plane made it to the Pentagon and crashed into that. On the fourth plane the passengers tried to take control and it ended up crashing in a field in Shanksville, PA. All told, I guess over 3,000 people died. I was reflecting on this anniversary. I started thinking about why did the terrorists target those particular buildings. I had a suspicion but I went online and read about it. We will never know for sure but by attacking the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, they were attacking a symbol of America’s prosperity and economy. By going after the Pentagon, it was an attack on our military power. They believe that the fourth plane, had it not crashed in Shanksville, would have ended up either crashing into the White House or the Capitol Building. Those would be symbols of our democracy. Those attacks were an attack at the identity of the United States. As we continue to look at the book of John today, we are reminded that when our national identity or even the things we get our personal identity from, Jesus stands in the middle of the rubble even when things come crashing down. Jesus stands in the middle of the rubble and says loudly that “I Am”. “I am the first, the last. I am the one who was and is and is to come.”
If you have your Bibles, why don’t you open up to John 8:48. We have been looking at the book of John. Today we are closing off a rather lengthy passage and lengthy and heated dialogue between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. It started back in verse 12. Last week, Jesus had implied to the Jewish leaders that they were having trouble hearing. They were having trouble understanding his words. Jesus implied that the reason they could not hear his teaching was that they didn’t serve the same father as he did. They didn’t serve the father of the universe. They didn’t serve the father of truth but they served the father of lies, also known as Satan. As we find out today, the Jews didn’t take that criticism very well. They went on the attack. They started some name calling and by the end of this particular passage they were ready to stone Jesus to death. We are going to be reading John 8:48-59. (Scripture read here.)
We have a lot of passage here to deal with. Too much to deal with in one particular setting. We get the sense that the Jews were quite upset with Jesus. So upset at what he had said to them that they started some name calling back to him. The opening verse says “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” You may recall a couple months back when we looked at the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. You may recall that the Samaritans weren’t looked at with favor by the Jews. They were considered a mixed breed, half Jewish and half pagan because they intermarried. They were seen as an unclean people. A people that worshipped foreign gods. A people that had a cultic worship. When they are using this word, it is basically an ethnic slur at Jesus. Then they go on to say you are also demon-possessed. That basically implied you are crazy. You are a lunatic. At a minimum, you are a liar. They are saying to Jesus you have no value. You are worthless, unclean, lunatic, and a liar. That is basically what they are saying to Jesus. We get the idea of how darkened their mind had become. How far away removed they were from his real identity. As Jesus does, he begins to unfold who he is, his real identity. He doesn’t say I am not a Samaritan; you are wrong because they know he is not a Samaritan. But he does say I am not demon-possessed. He goes on to say a few other things. He says “I honor my Father and you dishonor me.” Which implies that they don’t honor the father. He says “I am not seeking glory for myself, but there is one who seeks it and he is the judge.” Then he goes on and says a phrase that really kind of provokes them in a new way. He said “If you keep my word, you will never see death.” Basically, what he was saying there was he was just reaffirming what he had been saying all along. If you hold to my teachings, if you hold to the core gospel message I am trying to teach you, you will not see death. This they saw as an opportunity to try and corner Jesus a little bit. Their response is “Now we know that you are demon-possessed. Abraham died and so did the prophets. Yet you say that if anyone keeps your word he will never taste death.”