This Week's Focus Passage

John 8:58 ‘Before Abraham was born, I am.’

John 8:58 ‘Before Abraham was born, I am.’

In Exodus, chapter three, we are granted the privilege of witnessing a dialogue between Moses and God; an interview that impregnates the memory of every serious believer in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This interview evolves out of the circumstances of what one writer has described as ‘God Commissions Moses to Deliver Israel out of Egypt.’ In the narrative of Exodus, chapter three, Moses has been unhappily making his ‘Why me?’ case, trying to wriggle out of going to Egypt. The 13th verse finds him setting forth his last argument:

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Now here in our focus passage, we are brought into this communication between the Jews challenging Him about His relationship to Abraham. We read John 8:56-58:

Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad. The Jews therefore said unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was born, I am.

Upon this, these Jews took up stones to cast at Him, but He hid Himself. What had He done, or said, to stir them up so that would wish to harm Him? In many other places of Scripture, we read of His enemies reacting in similar fashion because He made out as though He were God; as in John 19:7, where we may read that;

The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.

Was it because He was making Himself out to be over fifty years old? Was it because He claimed to have made Abraham glad; even rejoicing in His day?

Seriously, was it not truly the same charge that the Jews made use of to execute Him? The quotation from John 19:7 asserts that they said He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God. Was He then, in John 8:58 guilty of the breach of the very same law spoken of in John 19:7? How would His enemies be able to make that charge stick? How could it be alleged from John 8:58 that He had made Himself the Son of God? The sole asseveration found in John 8:58 that is, in any way conspicuous, for readers to imagine that this charge could possibly be brought upon Him, would be when He said that before Abraham was born, I am. Is it not possible, even likely, that these Jews were quite familiar with the Older Testament; perhaps especially Exodus; and perhaps, even more especially, chapter 3 and verse 13, recounting Moses audience with God at the burning Bush, to which was alluded above. One writer offers a helpful comment:

“Not for the first time the Jews interpret Jesus literally, understanding him as claiming to have been present on earth in Abraham’s time although he is not yet fifty years old. To this, Jesus makes the majestic reply, I tell you the truth,…..before Abraham was born, I AM! A conscious reflection on the Old Testament self-design-ation of God is evident. We are again at the burning bush in Exodus 3:14, and with the prophetic vision of Isaiah 41:4, I, the Lord—with the first of them and with the last—I AM HE,’ or Isaiah 43:10, Yes, and from the ancient days, I AM HE’ This recalls an incident that is relevant here. An elderly Scotsman was in hospital, dying of cancer. His nurse came into his room, and in an attempt to cheer him up, said, ‘Malcolm, next week you will probably be out on the golf course.’ His response of precious faith was to say, ‘Ah, not so, lassie, next week I will be sitting with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ And so he was.

So sad and disappointing it was that when this account was retold, one of the hearers, an older gentleman himself, immediately replied. ‘I don’t want to be sitting with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I want to be sitting with Jesus.’ The leaning upon Dispensational teaching was readily apparent. The older gentleman was saying, in effect, ‘I don’t have anything to do with those patriarchs of the Older Testament.’ Contrariwise, what a blessing it is to know that to be sitting with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the very same thing as to be sitting with Jesus. Jesus Himself, when attempting to teach a group of Sadducces that had come to him, those that say there is no resurrection, responded with glorious truth when He spoke these grand words;

But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.—Matthew 22:31-32.

The words that ought to echo over and again in our minds and in our hearts; words which are uttered so frequently by our Savior, are those indelibly important words of instruction given to us in the form of searching question, HAVE YE NOT READ?

It is not to be supposed that there are any of us that read the Scriptures as often as we should, or even as often as we could. And Christ’s interrogatory comes strongly to us, HAVE YE NOT READ? Yet how much stronger we could wish that it would come to those that have virtually set aside the Older Testament and, indeed, have not read it; in some cases, never have read it. May we rejoice daily that we have 66 books in our Bibles and with them a God-given desire to read every one of them.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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