Part 36 – John 8:23, 28 & 58
I AM… I AM… I AM…
No fewer than three times in this chapter John records that Jesus used the personal name of God, ‘ego eimi’ in Greek. John has them carefully lined up, two in rapid succession, then the third one later at the end of his discussion with the group of leading Jews he has been with for some time. In fact that third one brings the discussion to a rapid end.
Let me imagine something of what the reaction to what he said must have been of one of his hearers? It must have gone something like this: first he said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”
Our typical hearer will scarcely have noticed that his reply included the words I AM. As we noticed before the words he used could equally mean ‘It’s me’ or as they are translated in the NIV ‘I am he’. So all that happened was that they said to him, “Who are you?” Good question. It has been asked over and over again ever since. The answer is much the same as it has always been, I am who I have always told you I am but you are listening but not hearing.
So the conversation continues and Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.”
Again there is the phrase ‘I am he’ in the middle of that statement, a little more obviously this time. Whether our typical listener will have thought that an odd thing to say is hard to say. We might imagine him turning to his neighbour and saying something like: “did you hear what he said there? ‘lifted up’ sounds very like what Isaiah said about the servant ‘my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted’. I find that a bit much to take. He is getting well above himself. He thinks he is going to be high – does that mean sitting on a throne? – and being exalted! And then he sneaked in the phrase I AM. I don’t like it – I don’t like him. Things are getting a bit much.”
The conversation goes on for some time, another 30 verses in our Bibles, with the crowd and Jesus getting more and more at cross purposes with each other. The crowd is clearly understanding less and less of what Jesus is telling them or, perhaps, accepting less and less of what he is saying. They say he is demon possessed; he says they belong to their father the devil. They probably argued more forcefully in those days than we are prepared to do these days, but that is strong stuff. Then we are told that Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
That does it. He has quite clearly said that he was around before Abraham and then uses the critical words ‘ego eimi’, I AM, of himself so he is saying both ‘It’s me’ and I have the name of God.
Our imaginary guy is likely to have said at this point something like ‘hand me that stone!’ with the distinct intention of throwing it at Jesus to knock him down and kill him. But such is the power of the personality of Jesus that he is able to disappear in the crowd and slip away.
John has been hammering away at just one point. I used to have a colleague who liked to say good lecturing was ‘tell ‘em what you are going to tell ‘em; tell ‘em; then tell them what you have told ‘em’. John clearly had the same philosophy.
Have you got it very firmly into your head JESUS was GOD. If not read it all again, and again …
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