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September 12, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’”— John 8:58 (NKJV, emphasis added)
The Oxford dictionary defines mic drop as an expression “used to emphasize that a discussion is at an end after a definitive or particularly impressive point has been made.” In John chapter 8, we see Jesus put this expression into practice with one of the most powerful, definitive, and mind-blowing statements recorded in the gospels.
In the midst of a heated exchange with the Jews and the religious leaders following the incident with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1–11)—an exchange that saw Jesus call them children of the devil and the Pharisees call Jesus a Samaritan possessed by a demon—they asked Him in John 8:53 (NKJV), “Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead?” To this, Jesus responded, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56 NKJV).
Upon hearing this, the Jews, confused by Jesus’ math, asked, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” (John 8:57 NKJV). And then, Jesus dropped a bomb; a claim so profound and shocking that it caused them to pick up stones to kill Him. He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58 NKJV). Mic drop!
Theologian Albert Barnes wrote, “The expression I am, though in the present tense, is clearly designed to refer to a past time. Thus, Psalm 90:2, ‘From everlasting to everlasting thou art God,’ applies to God. It denotes continued existence without respect to time, so far as he is concerned. We divide time into the past, the present, and the future. The expression, applied to God, denotes that he does not measure his existence in this manner, but that the word by which we express the present denotes his continued and unchanging existence. Hence, he assumes it as his name, ‘I AM,’ and ‘I AM that I AM.’”
The Greek context gives us even more indication to the profundity of this statement. The word was (genesthai) essentially says, “Abraham was brought into being,” while am (eimi) means “I exist!” The statement Jesus was making was not that He came into existence before Abraham—that He was born before Abraham—but that He actually never came into being at all. Instead, Jesus, the Word incarnate, existed before Abraham had a being . . . In other words, He existed before creation (John 1:1).
The apostle Paul echoes this sentiment in Colossians 1:15–17 (NASB) when he says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created . . . all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Now, the word for firstborn (prototokos) here doesn’t actually mean firstborn as we perceive it. It’s not talking about the eldest child in a family. Remember, Jesus wasn’t born; otherwise He’d be created by God and thus wouldn’t be God. Instead, it’s saying that He is the preeminent, self-existent prototype for all humanity. He is the model, the image and likeness of God we were created in. He is God in the flesh, God incarnate.
What a beautiful and powerful statement as we approach Easter. What a blessed assurance of who Jesus is and why He is worthy of our surrender and obedience.
DIG: Read John 8:21–59.
DISCOVER: What does this statement made by Jesus tell you about Him? What does it mean for you today?
DISPLAY: Today, spend time in worship. Whether in your car, in your office, or at home . . . make time to offer up worship to the great “I AM,” the Lord who came to earth to make a way for us to be in heaven with Him.
Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.