Are You greater than our father Abraham who died? Even the prophets died. Who do You pretend to be?”
“If I glorify Myself,” Jesus answered, “My glory is nothing. My Father — you say about Him, ‘He is our God’ — He is the One who glorifies Me. You’ve never known Him, but I know Him. If I were to say I don’t know Him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know Him, and I keep His word. Your father Abraham was overjoyed that he would see My day; he saw it and rejoiced.”
The Jews replied, “You aren’t 50 years old yet, and You’ve seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am.”
At that, they picked up stones to throw at Him. But Jesus was hidden and went out of the temple complex.
‘Who do you pretend to be?’ What a loaded, misguided question to which they do not really want an answer. Lord Jesus surely knows this and refuses to answer them directly. Some questions are better left dangling in space. Jesus has never claimed to be a prophet. This was intentional simply because He was not a prophet. John the Baptist was a prophet but Jesus was much more than simply a prophet. Many referred to Him as such but He never referred to Himself as such. Here He spells out His claim very clearly without directly answering this wrongheaded question. Many over the years have debated who exactly Jesus claimed to be but here He makes it clear.
‘Before Abraham was, I am.’
He was there in the garden. He was there at the covenant. He was there at the Red Sea crossing. He was there as the people of God entered Canaan. He was there when the glory of the Lord descended upon the Temple. He Was. He Is. He always Will Be. This is His clear claim. He is the Image of the invisible God.
‘I am the Way the Truth the Life…’
You may call Him crazy as His own family did. You may call Him a liar as His own religious leaders assumed. Or, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, “You may call Him Lord. But let us put away this silly nonsense about Him being a great human prophet. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to.”
He is so much more than a prophet. He is God. The Great I Am. He and the Father are One. Without this great truth and the sacrifice that He endured, we frail, sinful, doubting humans have no hope. Jesus makes His claim perfectly clear here to those who will listen. Obviously, the Jews understood this claim for they started gathering up rocks in order to pummel Him to death for blasphemy.
Lead us to faith in who you truly are, Christ Jesus. Reveal yourself to us daily that we might be moved to obedience by Your Presence and Your Power for your Glory. You are the great I Am.