Dear radio friends,
In the last seven weeks we have considered the “I Am” sayings of Jesus Christ as recorded in the gospel of John. Jesus said: “I am the bread of life; I am the light of the world; I am the door; I am the good shepherd; I am the resurrection and the life; I am the way, the truth, that the life; I am the true vine.” Today we consider one more. Jesus said in John 8:58, 59: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.”
This verse, and this saying of Jesus, is not usually considered one of the “I ams” because there is no predicate. I am…what? But really, this is the most important I am, and the reason why Jesus could say He was all of those other things. He could say, “I am the bread of life, the light of the world, the door, the good shepherd, etc.” because Jesus could say, “I am.”
Jesus said this to the Jews twice as recorded in the gospel of John. Recall John 18:6, in the night when the high priest had sent to arrest Him in the garden of Gethsemane. The mob, and the soldiers with their swords and staves, had come before them and He caused them to fall backwards. As they appeared before Him that night, Jesus had asked, “Whomseek ye?” They responded, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered: “I am.” And they went backward and fell to the ground.
This tells us exactly who Jesus is. It leaves no doubt. He is eternal God. He is very truly God, made in our flesh, and thus the Savior.
What must be the response? Not that of the Jews. For we read in John 8 that when He identified Himself as eternal Son of God, they took up stones to cast at Him. But our response must be worship and joy and life. For very God loved me and gave Himself for me upon the cross.
Do you want to know who Jesus is? He is the I AM.
Whom do you make yourself to be was the question that led to Jesus’ identification of Himself as the I AM. Who do you think you are? the Jews had asked Him in John 8 in shocked amazement.
There had been a lengthy debate in John 8, begun when Jesus had said, “I am the light of the world.” Jesus had gone on to tell the unbelieving Jews that He had come from the Father, that He represented God, and that He was the only One who could ever make a person free from sin. All the time the Jews had contradicted Him and sneered and said to Him, “Thou hast a devil,” until finally Jesus said in verse 51 of John 8: “If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.”
That made them bristle. “It’s what we said! You have a devil. Abraham, our father, is dead. You say, to keep your sayings a man shall never die. Are you then greater than our father Abraham?” To which Jesus said: “Yes.” John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.”
Imagine what Jesus is saying to them. “Abraham pinned all of his hope on Me. Your spiritual father, the one in whom you boast, placed all of his trust and hope in Me.” To which they respond, almost with a sneer: “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? You talk as if you knew Abraham, as if you were a personal acquaintance with Abraham, as if you were aware of all that was in his soul. And we look upon you and you’re not fifty years old yet.” Jesus at that time was probably thirty-three years old. They say to Him, “Well, if you are not even fifty; and Abraham lived two thousand years ago, and you talk as if you know him and he knew you, just who do you think you are?”
And Jesus tells them: “Verily, verily, I say unto you (that is, the Lord is introducing an important statement of truth: truly, truly, I say unto you), Before Abraham was, I am.” He meant, “Before Abraham existed, I existed. Before Abraham became, that is, was born, I am. Abraham has died two thousand years ago. But I, who appear to you to be younger than fifty years old, existed before Abraham existed. Before Abraham, I am.”
Now the Lord is not using bad grammar. He knew grammar very well. Very intentionally He does not say, “Before Abraham was, I was.” But He said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” He was giving His name. He was not giving the present tense of the verb “to be.” But He was giving His name: “This is who I am, I AM the great I AM.”
The Pharisees understood exactly what he meant. That is why they took up stones to kill Him. In mob justice, they were going to fulfill the Old Testament law that said that they could stone anyone who claimed to be God. Jesus said, “Before Abraham became, had existence, I am. I am Jehovah. I am the eternal God standing before you in the flesh.”
Jesus, of course, was referring to something that they knew very well. In Exodus 3:14, one of their favorite Old Testament passages, we read that God appeared to a humble, timid Moses in the burning bush. Forty years before that, Moses had been bursting with self-confidence and had killed an Egyptian, ready to deliver God’s people from their bondage. But now, at 80 years, and after forty years in a wilderness caring for sheep, Moses is stripped of his self-confidence. And he sees that he cannot deliver Israel. And God comes and says to him, through the burning bush, “Moses, you are the man.”
Moses begins to give excuses. “I can’t. I can’t speak. The people will not believe me when I come to them and say that someone appeared to me in the wilderness and told me to lead them out of their bondage. They will ask, ‘Oh, who was that?’ What am I to say?”
And God said to Moses: “I AM THAT I AM,” the Hebrew is Jehovah. “And he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” I AM is the name Jehovah. God says, “Never call Me, ‘I was.’ Never refer to Me as the great ‘will be.’ Do not think that I am in the process of becoming. But always I am. I am the One who I am. I am the eternal and the unchangeable and the faithful God. I am the God who exists sovereignly and independently in Myself. This is My memorial to all generations: I am Jehovah.”
Now, put that back into John 8. The Jews had asked, “Who are you?” And Jesus replied, “I AM—Jehovah is My name!” He took to Himself the name of God, the name of all names that tells us that God is the eternal, independent, sovereign, faithful One. That God is God Himself.
How amazing when we look further. Jesus meant to say to the Jews (and they understood Him), “Yes, I am a man of thirty-three years old. I am fully human. You see that I am fully human. I stand before you. But I am more. I am divine. My divine nature is God. I am God in the flesh. As to who I am, I am the second person of the holy Trinity. I am God, the Son, living eternally with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. I am God, blessed forever. Abraham became. He had a beginning. He was born. God brought him into this human existence. He started. There was a time when he wasn’t. Then he lived, and then he died. You want to know me? You may not say that I had a beginning as to My person. Nor must you think that I shall ever have an end.”
That is why John begins his gospel narrative the way he does in John 1:1. John, when he begins his gospel narrative, is very different from Matthew and Luke and Mark in that he gives no genealogy, no human origin of the Lord, no account of His genealogy. But he begins by saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. All things were made by him;…and the Word was made flesh.” John begins that way because John was in the audience that day in John 8. And the burden of John is to tell us that Jesus is the “I AM,” in the flesh. He is the eternal Son, and, by a wonder of God’s grace, now in our flesh as Savior. He is very God of God. He is the Word. He is the revelation of God. And now He abides with us in our flesh.
Do you want to know who Jesus Christ is? Now we go into that which is so deep that we cannot fathom its depth even to all eternity. He is God of God, second person of the Trinity, I AM THAT I AM, in human flesh.
But Jesus means more. And this is what we must understand and get into our souls. He means to tell us that from eternity He existed as the Christ, the Savior. “Before Abraham was, I am.” He is the One appointed eternally as the Mediator, as the Savior. From eternity Christ was. That is, God’s Son eternally appeared as our Savior.
We read in Colossians 1:17, 18: “And he (Jesus) is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church.” This is the revelation that Jesus makes. As God’s Son, second person of the Trinity, always His place is the Mediator, as the One through whom God would save us. Salvation is not an afterthought of God. It was not something He planned after He saw Adam plunge himself and us into our ruin of sin. But from eternity to eternity He says, “I AM.” And as the I AM, He gives His Son, the second person in the flesh, to be Savior.
This is what is meant by the words in Revelation 13:8: “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (from the creation of the world).” Or in I Peter 1:19, 20: We have been redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world.” God has planned our salvation, every detail, in His will and counsel. He said, “This is My Son who shall reveal Me in the wonder of grace to die for sinners upon the cross.”
And it means even more. God’s Son eternally appears as the Mediator. I, the Lamb of God, I AM, always as God, God the Son, I am the One appointed to save. The cross of Jesus comes from the eternal heart of God.
Who is Jesus? Jesus is eternal God, eternal God in flesh, who is Savior.
What does that mean? It means, first of all, that nothing less than eternal God in the flesh could save, could redeem us from our sins. Jesus is the God-Man and only as such could He bear away the awful, the infinite, weight of our sins. How can He be our Savior if He is not God? How could He bear away sin if He were not God in the flesh? Samson, an Old Testament judge, pulled up out of the ground the gates of Gaza and bore them away forty miles to the top of a hill. What strength! Jesus Christ heaved out of the ground your sins and the curse due to you for those sins as a child of God, and carried them up to a hill called Golgotha. No, He carried them much further than that. He carried them so far that God cannot see them any more. How far is that? All that was against us, all that would condemn us, all that we deserved as an eternity of suffering in hell, He bore that Himself. And not just ours, but all the elect of God—all of them. He did that. He could do that. And he has done that. How do I know that He could do, and indeed has succeeded in doing, this? Because this is who He is: I AM. Is there anything too hard for the Lord? The right hand of God hath gotten Him the victory.
At the cross of Jesus Christ we stand before the wonder of all wonders—that the God who did not need me, before whom I could add nothing, and against whom I have grievously sinned, nevertheless loved me and gave Himself for me.
This glorious truth is sure, that all my sins are carried away and not one is left is to be punished upon me, because He who died in the flesh was the eternal I AM. Shall we not, must we not, praise Him, lost in the mystery that He who is everything loved us who are nothing.
But consider further that you and I are then to worship Him. You must worship Him as God or perish. Jesus Christ is God. He, and He alone, must be worshiped. All other religions are to be rejected because they do not confess Jesus as Son of God. There can be no co-existence. There are many who will say that Jesus is a great prophet, a great leader, a great teacher, a great example. No, Jesus is God! And therefore the only Savior of men. If you do not honor Him as God, you will perish. Psalm 2: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way.” Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him. If you consider Jesus Christ to be only a man, a good man, a great teacher, you are guilty of the most horrible dishonor of God.
Jehovah, Jesus, sits enthroned in majesty most bright, appareled in omnipotence, and girded round with might. Bow down before Him. Serve and obey Him. Trust Him and yield to Him alone. Confess that He is the Son of God. There is no middle ground. If we do not confess Him as God, the great I AM, we stand guilty of infinite dishonor of God.
And consider, finally, that He is the way to the Father. He is the revelation of God’s mercy and of God’s covenant to us. Eternity will not be long enough. Jesus reveals God to us. He said, “No man knoweth the Father, save the Son; and he (that is, the Son) to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” Do you want to know about God? No one has seen God at any time. The only Begotten Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (John 1:18). We see God in the face of Jesus Christ. We see in Him the eternal love of God to draw us unto the Father. He does not do this, of course, to all. The context makes very plain that not all are brought to the Father by Him. The Jews tried to stone Him. His enemies today try to ignore Him. No, He is the One who brings God’s chosen, God’s own, to the Father. And Jesus, the I AM, is all of our strength and all of our salvation.
Let us go back to Moses. One day he was confident. Forty years later he had no confidence. He said to God, “Don’t ask me to do this. I can’t. They will not believe me. I am not able to do this.” But God came and said, “Moses—weak, timid, trembling Moses—look at Me. This is who I am: I AM THAT I AM. I am the eternal God, the God of all glory, the God of grace, the God of strength. I AM hath sent you. I am your strength.”
God says that to us in His Son. Jesus Christ, the great I AM, is our strength and our salvation. We say, “But I can’t. I am overcome with this grief. I can’t look up.” We say, concerning our sins: “They are too many. It can’t be true. Not if God knows my heart. How can it possibly be true that God could forgive me, such a sinner?” We say concerning the future: “I can’t face that. I cannot go on. I cannot deal with that in the future.” That is wrong. God says, “Look at Me. Look at the cross. See on the cross I AM THAT I AM, Jehovah, God mighty in grace, in our flesh to bear away your sins. I have given Myself for you so that there will never be a time when I will cast you away from Me. I will always supply you with strength and grace. For I am the eternal, faithful God. I change not.” Jesus changes not.
Therefore, let us bow in peace and in wonder that we have been brought into the bosom of God through the eternal I AM.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy precious Word and pray that it may be written upon our hearts, that we may bow in wonder and be lost in praise before Thy great and glorious Son, the Savior. Amen.