Lesson 11: “Before Abraham Was Born, I Am!”

This Lesson is part of John’s Gospel Easy Notes Series. 

John 8:58
The Argument Begins
Jesus is speaking to the Jews who believed in him (8:31) and there begins an argument as Jesus speaks about knowing the truth and the truth setting them free. The Jews said they have never been slaves of anyone; so there is no need for them to be set free. They claimed that Abraham was their father (v. 39). Then they claimed God to be their Father (v. 41).

John uses the expression ego eimi in Greek (“I am”) thirty times when recording the statements of Jesus. The significance of this is in John’s Greek translation of Jesus’ words.

According to the rules of Greek grammar, in a statement like, “I am the bread,” it would be sufficient to say, “Am the bread” in Greek.

But if you want to emphasize the subject, then you would use the pronoun.

John does this thirty times in the “I am” statements of Jesus. We can say it was used because John wanted to give it a special emphasis.

– from The Supremacy of Christ by Ajith Fernando

Jesus said that they are not doing what their father Abraham did (v. 40) but instead they “belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire (v. 44).” The Jews could not understand the claim of Jesus that anyone who kept his word will not see death. This was because Abraham (who had kept God’s word) died and so did the prophets (v. 53).

Are You Greater Than Our Father Abraham?
Now their question is “Are you greater than our father Abraham (v. 53)? That reminds us of the Samaritan woman’s question: “Are you greater than our father Jacob . . . (John 4:12)?”

We all look up to role models in life; don’t we? That is indeed good. But a day must come in our lives when we realize that Jesus is better to me than anybody else on earth. Read the cry of the Psalmist: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:25, 26).”

Practically, it means that Jesus should become Number One in your life, the throne of your heart to him alone should belong, and your love for your most loved one on earth should feel like hatred (see Luke 14:26) compared to your love for Jesus! Can we say along with John the Baptist, “He must become greater; I must become less (John 3:30).”

Jesus Equates Himself to God
To the question of the Jews, Jesus replied: “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad (v. 56). The Jews simply couldn’t digest that. They asked: “You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham (v. 57).”

To this Jesus replied: “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am.” No wonder they picked up stones to stone Jesus. He was boldly equating himself to God.

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