One major issue that persisted all throughout Christ’s earthly ministry was the huge confusion that surrounded His identity. The boldness of His claims literally sent His enemies into a situation into which they saw nothing else to do with Him, except getting rid of Him. It’s quite interesting that in various occasions they tried to kill Him just for revealing His true identity as the Son of God and as God in the flesh.
Before Abraham was, I am.
What’s truly amazing about God is that in the midst of intense confusion His will can still be fulfilled. So many today are denying Christ true identity while the Jews in their misunderstanding of Him knew right away that Jesus was actually claiming Himself to be equal to God in essence, in nature, and in being. Let’s analyze the great ‘I Am’ statement made by Him in this passage of Scripture below.
Then said the Jews unto Him, You are not yet fifty years old, and You have seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at Him: but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by (John 8:57-59).
This passage was one of several pivotal points in Jesus’ earthly ministry. Another occurred in John chapter 6, where He declared to His disciples that you had to eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life. Eating human flesh was cannibalism and drinking of blood was forbidden before, during and after the law. He went on to explain that His statement was not to be taken literally, but the words were meant to be taken spiritually. Despite His explanation it says that “from that time many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him.”
Another milestone occurred in our passage where He was being confronted by the Jewish leaders over His authority. To the common people of His day, He was the prophesied messiah, but the religious leaders saw Him as a threat to their authority.
He told them that He had seen Abraham, who rejoiced to see this time. When they challenged Him on how He could have possibly seen Abraham, who died centuries before He replied, “before Abraham was, I AM.”
Immediately upon His statement, the Jews took up stones to stone Him. This was not just because they were upset with Him, they had a legitimate reason for doing so. When He said I AM, it was a direct reference to Exodus chapter 3 where He first appeared unto Moses and said, I AM THAT I AM. Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”
When Jesus said “before Abraham was, I AM,” it was totally understood by the Jews that He was stating that He was the One who appeared before Moses at the burning bush. By doing so, the Jews were now faced with a choice. They could either accept what He said and admit He was their messiah, or if not then He was a blasphemer and the prescribed penalty for claiming to be God was death.
I AM HE.
Jesus revealed His divinity briefly again in the garden of Gethsemane when the mob came to take Him to be tried. When they came out against Him in John chapter 18, He asked “whom seek ye?” When they responded they were looking for Jesus of Nazareth He pulled showed His divinity for a brief moment when He said “I AM He.” As soon as He referenced Himself as being I AM again, they went backward and fell to the ground. This is the exact same thing that happened to John in Revelation chapter 1 when He saw the resurrected and glorified Christ.
It was only when He hid His divinity they were allowed to get up and take Him into custody. The Scriptures plainly declare that Jesus is God, no matter what others may say about Him.