When we delight in new understanding, when we stretch our imaginations, Living God, transform us by the power of your Word.
On the sixth day of Creation came Adam. He was first. He is the biological father of everyone. God gave him stewardship over all other living things and Adam named all the animals. Before sin, he walked and talked with God in perfect unity. Jesus is greater than Adam. His righteousness is greater than Adam’s sin.
And in a world that had fallen into depravity’s evil grip, Noah remained righteous. When called to build an ark, even though the world had never known rain, he faithfully obeyed God. The world around him mocked, the animals gathered, and he carried on building. Soon the entire earth was deluged. Noah and his family survived the flood. Jesus is greater than Noah. His obedience brought salvation to all.
Abraham was called to go to a land he never knew. He left home and comfort behind to be a stranger in a foreign land. The only piece of land he ever owned was a burial ground for his wife. But before that, Abraham believed God for a son even though he was nearly one hundred years old. He became the father of nations and the spiritual father of many more. Jesus is greater than Abraham.
Moses was raised in the court of the greatest empire of its time. After fleeing into the desert, he returned by the command of God to bring the Egyptian empire to its knees and lead the Hebrew slaves (two million of them) to freedom. He turned them from a group of refugees into a nation feared the world over. He stood on the holy mountain to receive the commandments of God by which all nations should still base their laws. He wrote the first five books of the Bible. Jesus is greater than Moses.
Samuel was faithful to answer the call of God even as a child. From a young age and for the rest of his life he was a prophet, priest and judge. In fact he was the only man prior to Christ that held all three offices. Although he was a king maker and a king breaker, Jesus is greater than Samuel.
David was a man after God’s own heart. Anointed to be king at a young age, he was a shepherd boy who wrote songs to God. As a king he was humble and devout enough to continue to do the same. Many of those songs we still sing today. The psalms have become some of the most famous poetry to ever be written. David was the benchmark by which all other kings, before and after were compared. Jesus is greater than David.
These and many more, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Malachi, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Peter, Paul can be named as great men of God. Jesus is greater than all the prophets and evangelists. He is greater than all the angels. He is greater than everything!
In John’s Gospel this AM, Jesus is more than a hero of faith; more than a man of God. He is God embodied. When He arrived, the new wine flowed, a new era dawned and a new kingdom began. There is no one greater. When Jesus is speaking about Himself He says:-
1) I am the bread of life (6:35)
2) I am the light of the world (8:12)
3) I am the gate (10:9)
4) I am the Good Shepherd (10:11)
5) I am the resurrection and the life (11:25)
6) I am the way, truth, and life (14:6)
7) I am the Vine (15:5)
There are 7 “I Am” statements in this Gospel. 7 is the perfect number as it represents completion and divine perfection. However, when we look at the “I am” statements in John, there are actually 8 of them and the one that gets overlooked is definitely the greatest of them all. Let’s pick up the context again:-
The people said, “Now we know you are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but you say, ‘Anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!’ Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” Jesus answered, “If I want glory for myself, it doesn’t count. But it is my Father who will glorify me. You say, ‘He is our God,’ but you don’t even know him. I know him…Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.” The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am!” At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple. (John 8:52-59)
“Before Abraham was, I AM” – there is no beating around the bush with this statement about Jesus’ divinity. Jesus knew He was God. When Moses was at the burning bush he asked God what His name was. God answered, “I AM”. Every time you see the word “LORD” in capitals in the OT, the Hebrew actually has “I AM”. Here, Jesus is making a direct claim to be God. This Gospel passage makes it clear that Jesus is more than an itinerant preacher and do-gooder. The stunned crowd pick up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus is supernaturally hidden from them and simply walks away.
The seven “I AM” statements all link to this one powerful statement. There’s no other choice. As C.S. Lewis put it, Jesus is either Lord, liar or lunatic. Then as now, Jesus invites us to believe He is the Son of God. How profound this is on Father’s Day. Did you notice how many times the word “father” appears in the text? Then Jesus says: “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn.8:31-32). He implies His enemies don’t know the truth, and despite being children of Abraham, they are slaves as a result: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” (Jn.8:34).
Earlier in this chapter, with the women caught in the act of adultery, Jesus challenged the one who was without sin to cast the first stone. His enemies didn’t dare pick up a stone because no one can claim to be free from sin. Their backs are well and truly against the wall at this stage. When Jesus adds they are children of the devil, and if you obey my teaching you will never die, they have heard just about all they can take! The cop-out answer is to say: “Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?” (to add further insult a Samaritan one at that!) – “now we know you are…even Abraham and the prophets died…Who do you think you are?”
They are not prepared for the answer they receive, but they cannot miss the implication of Jesus’ words – “Before Abraham was, I AM.” Impudent blasphemy to the Pharisees and religious leaders, as they are so dull of hearing, presumptuous and slow to understand. Jesus takes the very name of God for Himself – “I AM” – it’s the end of the discussion and, hidden from their sight, He walks away. He has spoken the truth, and they have rejected it.
The important thing in all this is they thought they were saved, that being the offspring of Abraham was their guarantee of salvation. To them, religion was a matter of race rather than of faith. Likewise, any of the religious duties we pride ourselves in, and try to justify before the Good Lord, are not the basis for our salvation either. We’re saved by the grace of God. Apart from the Gospel and the Cross we have nothing to boast about.
I cannot stress enough the importance of making sure we’re not like the people we’re looking at this AM. They accepted the scriptures, but only had cultural, historical faith in God. It was faith that cannot save. Also don’t twist the facts to deny who Jesus is. Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, liberals, agnostics, secular historians are perfectly happy to have a Jesus who is merely a wise teacher, with a heart for the outcast and downtrodden. He is much more. He is the eternal God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the only One, the greatest One, who can save people from their sins. So let’s continue to worship our Saviour who is the great “I AM.”
Love in the Messiah. Blessed be the Word.