John 8:48-59 (CSB) 48 The Jews responded to him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you’re a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 “I do not have a demon,” Jesus answered. “On the contrary, I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and judges. 51 Truly I tell you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 Then the Jews said, “Now we know you have a demon. Abraham died and so did the prophets. You say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham who died? And the prophets died. Who do you claim to be?” 54 “If I glorify myself,” Jesus answered, “my glory is nothing. My Father—about whom you say, ‘He is our God’—he is the one who glorifies me. 55 You do not know him, but I know him. If I were to say I don’t know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him, and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” 57 The Jews replied, “You aren’t fifty years old yet, and you’ve seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden and went out of the temple.
“Who do you claim to be?”, they asked. Now that’s the question.
John 8 represents a massive escalation of the confrontation between the Light of the World and the little dark kingdom. The religious elite, by and large, are pawns of that dark kingdom, and in God’s sovereign reign, causes them to ask the biggest and most important question they, or anyone for that matter, could ask. “Who do you claim to be?”
Jesus answers this most important question by telling them that Abraham longed to see his day, and he looked forward to it by faith and was exceedingly glad about Jesus’ day.
The response? How can this be? You are not yet 50, and you’ve seen Abraham? Then Jesus says it. It’s the most amazing thing in the world. “Before Abraham was, I am.”
Jesus claimed to be YHWH. How do we know that’s what he meant? The Pharisees picked up rocks to stone Jesus to death for blasphemy. They knew what Jesus meant. They are in the dark, but even that statement can’t be misunderstood.
Jesus said he is God. But not just any “god” among other little “gods”. No. Jesus said he is the God of the Old Testament who called himself YHWH, I AM, and this God claimed there were no other “gods”. This God said that he is deserving and worth all of the worship of the nations.
Now, to borrow from C.S. Lewis, that’s the kind of claim that puts one in the position of being either right or the world’s greatest deceiver or a nut case. Lord, or liar, or lunatic.
Jesus left them and us no doubt about who he claims to be. How will he prove this claim?
It’s one thing to pull of some miracles. And to be fair, Jesus has pulled off some doozies. But to claim to be the God. The Creator. The One who ate with Abraham at his tent in Genesis 18. The One who led Israel out of Egyptian slavery. The One who met Moses on the mountain. The One who answered Elijah with fire at the contest with the demon, Baal. The One who send Israel away for unfaithfulness. The One who called them back to the land with Nehemiah as his appointed leader. God.
He’s gonna have to keep his word, and his word to Jeremiah in chapter 31 of his book and to Ezekiel 36 in his book is that he is going to make a new covenant with the nations and atone for their sins and give them new hearts and put his Spirit in them. How will he do all this?
But a cross means that the fight is going to get harder, and there are some dark moments to come.
Journey with Jesus to the cross. Don’t escape the tension. Live in it. Hang on. That makes the victory of Easter sweeter.