- \\ I AM*
This passage is the end of a bitter argument between Jesus and the Pharisees. It is interesting for several reasons:
· Unlike all others with whom Jesus debates, these men claim to be the authorities on God. Jesus says they're wrong, taking God's name in vain, hypocrites—and does so sternly. To no other sinners does Jesus react like this.
· The argument does not wander about—Jesus leads them by degrees to his ultimate statement: "I AM."
· Is it not curious how some will not see? Like Pharaoh in Egypt, their hearts are continually hardened.
· Unlike the gentle Lord of forgiveness, you can see here that Jesus is the one escalating the argument. He's the one who's forcing them to deal with his claims.
Just what are those claims?
· He very clearly implies that he is superior to the common victor over mankind: death. If you keep his commandments you will not see death, he says. That he is referring to the second death at his return is not clear—but his power over death is definitely claimed here.
· He says that God the Father glorifies him. No one is superior to God; how then could God glorify this Jesus?
· He also says that he knows God the Father—personally, if you will—and keeps his commandments. In other words, he is sinless, perfect.
· He ends the argument with the stunning statement that before Abraham was (meaning, came into being) "I AM." It is the name of God, given to Moses. It is the statement that only God can make. It is a clear claim: this Jesus of Nazareth is claiming to be none other than God Almighty.
Many today think of "gentle Jesus" as the good teacher, the fellow who said some marvelous things, but otherwise just a man. You cannot read this section and come anywhere close to that conclusion. As C. S. Lewis once put it, he is either liar, lunatic or Lord. If one of the first two, he should be cast into the dustbin of history. Man has often tried to toss him there, but it seems the dustbin just isn't big enough to hold him. The choice is not optional: just who do you say that Jesus is?