Summary: Jesus didn't say he would show us the way or would point us in the way, he said "I am the Way."
I Am the Way
I am! What a statement. I am. When I was growing up I used to watch Popeye and you may remember that he used to say “I yam, what I yam” And Popeye was simply stating his acceptance of himself. And that’s not a bad thing, being comfortable in your own skin. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be improving ourselves, and that we shouldn’t embark on a life time journey of self-improvement and education, but it does get to the core of how we feel about ourselves, how we were created and our standing with our creator. I yam what I yam.
But that was just a tangent and really has nothing to do with what we looked at last week or what we will be looking at in the weeks ahead. Last week we looked at that defining moment in Jesus’ ministry when he identified himself as God. He had been engaged in one of those theological back and forths that he was so famous for and the discussion turned to the people’s reliance on being the “Children of Abraham”.
Have you ever met someone that when they were challenged on matters of faith, or for that matter challenged on their behavior their response was “Well I’ve been born again.”? They may not follow the teaching of Jesus, they may not obey the laws of God they might live like the devil but at some point they prayed a prayer, recited a mantra or walked forward at a crusade and for them there doesn’t have to be anything else. “Don’t judge me, I’ve been born again.” Although I firmly believe that if being born again doesn’t make a difference in your life in the “here and now” it won’t make a difference in your life in the “there and then”. Just saying. That may have been another tangent, so let’s see if we can circle back around and tie it in. For many of the Jews of Jesus’ day being a “Child of Abraham” seemed to be more important than being a child of God. For them it was the last word, it didn’t matter what happened it didn’t matter what people said, it really didn’t even matter how they behaved they were “Children of Abraham”.
And in John chapter 8 Jesus challenged that, he said that their relationship with God was more important that their relationship to Abraham. And that got them cranky, and they resorted to that time tested final argument, “Oh yeah, what do you know?” That’s a rough translation. But Jesus response is found in John 8:58 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!” And while we may think that Jesus was confusing his verb usage, and that he should have said “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I was.” Those who heard him that day knew exactly what he was saying because in the very next verse it tells us that those who were listening picked up rocks to stone Jesus. Why? Because of his superior debating skills? No. Because he was claiming to be over 1500 years old? No. It wasn’t about when Jesus claimed to be but instead it was all about who Jesus claimed to be.
From childhood every Jew had been taught the story of how Moses had been called of God to deliver the children of Abraham from the slavery of Egypt. They all knew the details and they knew that when God called Moses while he was in the wilderness that he didn’t want to go, and when Moses finally gave in he had one final question for God and that question is found in Exodus 3:13 But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” And that is a good question? It’s something that I would want to know. “Why should the people believe me? Whose authority am I coming in?” And God’s response is found in the next verse Exodus 3:14 God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.”
And so when Jesus told the people who had gathered that day John 8:58 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!” They knew exactly what he was saying and exactly who he was claiming to be. And when someone claimed to be God, for the Jews that was blasphemy and the penalty for blasphemy was stoning. You might be thinking “Well how did Jesus escape?” Well . . . we don’t really have all the details. What the bible tells us in John 8:59 At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple. And we don’t know if Jesus put on his cloak of invisibility or if his disciples crowded around him or what. All we know is that the plans of the people to stone Jesus were thwarted.