In John 8:58, Jesus spoke to the Jews who were present when he silenced the Pharisees, telling them, “Before Abraham was, I am.”
Prejudiced by their religious leaders, they failed to recognize the Messiah. In his teaching to them, Jesus said he was not of the world. In their blindness to the truth, they turned their backs on his offering of salvation. They asked him who he was. His explanation — that he had been sent by the Father — went unheeded by many of them, but some believed.
To those, Jesus’ attempts to bolster the fledgling faith exhibited by them told them to abide in his word in order to know truth and be set free — not from men, but from sin, its guilt and the fear of death itself.
The misunderstanding and lack of knowledge was apparent as they referred to their ancestry. “They answered him, ‘We be Abraham’s seed and were never in bondage to any man, how sayest thou, ye shall be made free?’” (John 8:33).
They seem to have forgotten their history, which included bondage to Babylon, Persia, the Greeks, the Scythians and, at the time they were speaking, Rome. Their relationship to Abraham, they believed, was their salvation.
Jesus continued this dialogue, telling them he was the Son of God. Yet, they were blinded to the teachings and even accused him of being possessed of a demon (John 8:52). They continued to try to entrap and discredit Jesus before the crowd.
Jesus told the Jews that Abraham rejoiced to see his day (John 8:56). Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham, and the patriarch longed for the day when the Messiah would come. All this could have been known by the Jews, had they paid attention to the prophets’ teaching. Their lack of understanding is seen in their questioning Jesus’ having seen Abraham. Their hardened hearts didn’t allow them to understand that Jesus was not speaking of the physical.
When Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am,” this answer was so blasphemous to their ears, they determined to kill him.
This Jews’ spiritual blindness kept them from knowing the one from whom salvation was to come. Today, many still are blinded from knowing Jesus. He is the answer to man’s sinful condition.
Man must believe in the Christ, that he is God’s Son and be obedient to his word. Jesus left heaven to come and give himself for man’s sin. This was God’s plan from the beginning.
Jesus is the “I am.”
(Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series.)