Jesus said to the Jews, "Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am!" Was it a grammatical mistake or something else?
John 8:54-59 — I Am — Aneel Aranha
Hello and welcome to the Bite-Sized Gospel with Aneel Aranha. Today we will reflect on John 8:54-59. Listen.
Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
“You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
In his continuing conversation with the Jews, Jesus said to them, "Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." They mocked: "You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham!" Jesus replied: "Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am!"
Shouldn't it have been "I was"? However, Jesus wasn't making a grammatical error. He was proclaiming his identity, and to his Jewish listeners, who knew Scripture, even if they didn't understand it, it was scandalous. They picked up stones to stone him. Why?
Many years earlier, God called out to Moses from a burning bush on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 3). When Moses asked God for his name, God didn't give a name in the way we understand it. Instead, he said: "I am who I am" (Exodus 3:14). It was a declaration of God's self-sufficiency, his eternality, and his unchanging nature.
By saying, "I am," Jesus was identifying himself with the God of Israel, the eternal and self-existent one. This was not just a claim to divinity; it was a claim to be the very God who revealed himself to Moses, the God who led Israel out of Egypt and made a covenant with them at Sinai.
It's no wonder that the Jews wanted to stone him. From their perspective, this was blasphemy of the highest order. Yet, for those with ears to hear, it was a *revelation* of the highest order. Jesus was not just a prophet, not just a messiah figure, but Yahweh himself, come in the flesh.
The modern world grapples with the identity of Jesus. Is he merely a historical figure? A wise teacher? Or is he, as he claimed to be, the eternal God in human form? It's a claim that demands a response. As C.S. Lewis famously put it, Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. Given the evidence of his life, death, and resurrection, many, including myself, have come to the conclusion that he is indeed Lord, the great "I am." What is your conclusion?
God bless you.