“…before Abraham was born, I AM!” (John 8:58, NIV)

Sunday, January 19, 2020

John 7:1-53; 8:12-59 (NIV)

At the burning bush, Moses asked God for His Name.  God said to Moses, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:13-15). For our God–who created time and matter from nothingness–there is no past and there is no future.  Our God is eternally present.  He is known as “I AM.”

The Pharisees thought that their salvation rested in being genetically related to the man, Abraham (John 8:31-47).  They were so focused upon their ancestry that they did not recognize the one who created their heritage and gave it meaning: Jesus Christ, I AM.   


John shows us that many different perceptions of Jesus’ identity were being debated in Jerusalem. In John 7 we see that Jesus’ own brothers did not believe He was who He said that He was. The crowds are all over the Messianic map, trying to discern between Jesus’ words the rumors about Him. The religious rulers were convinced that Jesus needed to be arrested and killed as a false Messiah. They even sent temple guards to arrest Jesus and bring Him before them. When the soldiers came back empty handed, however, their only explanation was ” “No one ever spoke the way this man does” (John 7:46).


The distinction is subtle but the implications are profound. Embroiled in debate with the religious rulers of the day Jesus affirms that they are, indeed, descendants of Abraham. Literally, they are of Abraham’s ‘seed’ (John 8:33, 37). But, father Abraham’s ‘children’ were different. They would receive Jesus in faith as their forefather had done (John 8:39).


Abraham's Three Visitors
Abraham’s Three Visitors

In Genesis 18-19:1 we have the story of three visitors who come to Abraham’s tent. In this passage, one of the visitors is identified as “the Lord” with whom Abraham has an extended conversation first, about the child of promise and secondly, about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. At the conclusion of Genesis 18 the Lord leaves Abraham at the end of their conversation and by Genesis 19:1 the two other visitors are now revealed as angels who enter the city of Sodom to rescue Lot and his family and to destroy the city.

Moses would later discover that no one may look at God and live (see Exodus 33:18-33). So, it is reasonable to assume that Jesus Christ, Himself, was “the Lord” to whom Abraham was speaking for He alone would be the one to show us God’s face (John 1:18).


For Jesus, it is enough for Him to testify about Himself (John 8:12-15) and the testimony of His Father backs Him up (John 8: 16-30). But his final claim to have been before Abraham–because of His unique identity as I AM–was enough to cause them to pick up stones to kill Him (John 8:58-59).

True children of Abraham recognized Jesus as God’s Son, believed in Him and were obedient to His word. As our future studies about Abraham will show, this understanding was amplified by Paul and other New Testament writers for our benefit today.

I AM – Before Abraham Was