Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus claimed to be God. Consider Jesus’s revelation to the Pharisees in John 8. The Pharisees believed the way to have a right relationship with God was by being a physical descendant of Abraham. Jesus said, no, it’s by having the same faith Abraham did. In John 8:53, the Pharisees said, “Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died?” Jesus responded, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (v. 56). The Pharisees were really confused. Jesus was not even fifty years old. How could He have had any relationship with Abraham? Look how Jesus answered: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (v. 58). That set off alarm bells in the Pharisees’ minds. The phrase “I am” is the most holy name for God–Yahweh. It was the name God identified Himself by when He appeared in the burning bush. In Exodus 3:14, God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He continued, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” I AM. Yahweh, the most holy God. The Pharisees understood what Jesus was saying. “Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him” (John 8:59). Jesus was saying, “I am God.”
Consider also Jesus’s declaration to Caiaphas, the high priest, in Mark 14:60-65. The night before He was crucified, Jesus was arrested and tried before Caiaphas. He asked Jesus, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” (v. 61). Jesus answered, “I am” (v. 62). Jesus could have stopped there, but He went on to drive His point home. He said, “You shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Jesus was quoting Daniel 7:13, which prophesied the Messiah’s second coming. By quoting that verse about Himself, Jesus was saying to Caiaphas, “You think you’re the big cheese right now because you’re sitting on this throne of power. But one day you are going to see Me coming with power. Your authority on earth is limited, but Mine is eternal.” If you think I’m reading too much into that, look at how Caiaphas reacted. “Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, ‘What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?’ And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death” (vv. 63-64). When people say Jesus never claimed to be God, remind them Jesus didn’t get crucified for telling people to turn the other cheek. It was because He claimed to be the Son of God.
Jesus also claimed that belief in Him leads to eternal life. No other religious leader tied eternal life to what you believed about him, but Jesus did. In John 6:40, Jesus said, “Everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.” What about those who don’t believe in Him? Jesus said in John 8:24, “Unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.” Notice that Jesus didn’t offer eternal life to everyone who sincerely seeks the truth. Jesus didn’t say, “Whoever follows the god of his or her own choosing has eternal life.” No, He said, “Only those who believe in Me have eternal life.”
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Intolerant Christ” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.