John 8:58 – Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.”
If I claimed to be able to walk on the water of Treasure Lake and was giving a demonstration, would you come to watch? If I claimed to be able to heal the sick in Dubois hospital or raise the dead to life at the funeral home, would you follow me to see if it was true? If I claimed to be planning a coup of an unpopular leader, would you be curious as to how that might impact you, and would you look to find out more? If I did any or all of these things would you consider me…radical?
Jesus was radical. Most people would recognize that to be true of Jesus, but many might not be aware of the way in which he was the most radical. Some might point to his radical miracles of healing and deliverance. Some may think of his radical teaching of loving others more than yourself. Still others point to his radical opposition to the religious and political establishments of his day as what made him a “radical.” Indeed, all these things were radical in his day and would be in ours, but they are not what made Jesus radical. They were the radical results of something far deeper and more profoundly radical. Jesus claimed to be God.
Any one of us today should be able to recognize the radical nature of this claim, and it was not lost on the Jews of Jesus’ day either. It is, in fact, their central indictment against Jesus, claiming to be God, or blasphemy, which was punishable by death. One of the clearest examples of this claim of Jesus comes in John 8:58, where Jesus says “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I AM.” You might be asking, “what is so radical about this statement?” Let me explain.
In Exodus 3 Moses is confronted by God in the desert in a burning, yet not consumed, bush. There Moses removed his sandals because of the holiness of the ground he stood upon. It is here that God reveals to Moses who he really is by giving Moses his most personal name YHWH or “I AM.” This is significant because it shows God as personal, not just a general force of the universe. In addition, it shows God to be living, not just a dead idol, object, or idea. God has a name, he is personal, and he is alive.
When we compare Exodus 3 and John 8 we can perhaps begin to understand why the religious leaders were so upset. Jesus was not claiming to be a great miracle worker, a good teacher, or even just a prophet sent by God to overthrow the political system. By using the same phrase as is found in Exodus 3, “I AM,” he was claiming to be God in the flesh, and those in attendance knew it. The punishment for this claim was clear according to Jewish law, death by stoning, and that’s what the crowd was preparing to do.
This is significant for us because it forces us to either accept Jesus’ claim of being God, along with all his other claims, or reject him outright and discard him all together. However, if Jesus is not lying about being God, then his claims, teaching, miracles, and death and resurrection, are of greater consequence than you or I can comprehend. And so we must all answer the question, “Who is Jesus?”
No less than seven times in John’s gospel Jesus claims “I am…” and each one should be encouraging to our souls. For the next couple of weeks I would like for us to examine who Jesus claimed to be and how that can be a help for us in times of greatest need.
We at Treasure Lake Church pray you have found this brief meditation encouraging. We invite all Treasure Lake residents, and those in the surrounding community, to gather with us as we worship the God who is personal, alive, and in the flesh. We are located at 1427 Bay Rd. and gather weekly for worship services on Saturday at 6:00pm (children’s ministry provided), and on Sunday at 8:30am (no children’s ministry) and 11:00am (children’s ministry provided) as well as Sunday School on Sunday mornings at 10:00am for all ages. For more information you can visit us on the web at http://www.treasurelakechurch.org/.