John 8:53-59 “Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead?  And the prophets are dead.  Who do You make Yourself out to be?  Jesus answered, if I honor Myself, My honor is nothing.  It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.  Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him.  And if I say, I do not know Him, I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.  Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.  Then the Jews said to Him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?  Jesus said to them, most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.  Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.”

“Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead?”  This question is similar to the statement that is asked by the Samaritan woman in John 4:12 “Surely you are not greater than our father Jacob, are You…?”

“Who do you claim to be?”  They might have wondered if Abraham, who received God’s covenant, himself died, and if the prophets, who spoke the prophecies of God, died, what kind of person did Jesus declare Himself to be that His word would deliver men from death?

Jesus said that if “I honor myself, my honor is nothing.  If I shall have glorified Myself, My glory is nothing.  If I, as separate from the Father, shall have glorified Myself.”

It is my Father that honors Me.  This is the answer to their question.  The characteristic of life in Himself, and the power to connect this to those who kept His word, was the gift of the Father to the Son. 

And Jesus continued, “of whom you say, that He is your God.”  Some translation read “He is our God.”  The identification of the Father with the God of Israel is important.  It may be, as some have thought, that the phrase, “He is our God,” belonged to public worship or hymns, and was frequently on their lips.

Jesus may have been saying, even though you acknowledge to worship My Father as your God, you are ignorant of Him because you do not have the right concept of Him, nor do you acknowledge Him the way you should.  So, the religious rulers gave the lie to their vocation: and though they may have thought it glory, Jesus told the religious rulers that He knew they did not think properly of His Father nor acknowledge Him as He deserved.  Jesus said that He would be a liar like the religious rulers if He said He did not know God, for He was aware of His most confidential counsel, and in everything He does His will. 

If the religious rulers would have believed Jesus, He might have explained even more about Abraham who rejoiced when he saw His day, the day Jesus entered into the world, His birth, His appearance in Israel, His death, His resurrection.  Abraham may have waited with impatience for the deliverance of the world, and, when he saw it, he was glad.  But the religious rulers did not understand that Abraham saw all of this in his spirit, for God revealed it to him.

Abraham saw the day of Jesus approaching in the birth of his son Isaac and in the deliverance of his son.  I believe that Abraham was aware of this too while in Paradise, also known as “Abraham’s Bosom.”

In this, Jesus teaches us of two things; number one, He was before Abraham and number two, the religious rulers were not true sons of Abraham.

Even though they are religious rulers and should be thinking from a religious viewpoint, they go directly to a physical viewpoint and tell Jesus, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and You have seen Abraham?’

Apparently, fifty years was the time of full manhood, and at that time it had been about 2,000 years since Abraham had died.  Their thought was, ‘You are still a young man and you have seen Abraham who died so many years ago?’

Jesus responded to the comment of the religious rulers saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I Am.”

They had to have been shocked to the core of their being at what they considered blasphemy. They had accused Him before on the basis of such straightforward statements, but this statement could not be misunderstood.  Whatever Jesus had meant previously was now obviously clear that He was claiming to have eternal existence, to have been in existence long before Abraham.  Jesus was saying that He was the ‘I Am’, the eternal existing God, the One Who existed even before the world was created.  And they were correct; Jesus was claiming to have pre-existed Abraham and to have everlasting existence. 

Unlike many people today, the religious rulers understood His meaning precisely, and in anger picked up stones to stone Him, willing to risk the wrath of the Romans, although in fact they did have certain rights to inflict the death penalty in cases of open blasphemy.  By the way they openly demonstrated their desire to kill Him, they showed their true feelings.  But Jesus was able to slip away and hide, and we are not told how, but I am sure it was through the help of the Holy Spirit.  After this Jesus left the Temple.  His hour had not yet come.  

 

Lisa DeLancey is a staff writer for The Leader, focusing on education. She is a 2016 graduate of The University of Memphis. 

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