Today’s reading: John 8:31-59
Today we read the famous passage where Jesus invokes the diving name upon himself. The situation starts with a pretty basic teaching. Jesus says,
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
As a side note, let’s pause to note that Jesus says we must “continue” in his word to be free. That implies that conversely if we do not continue then we will not be free. This again refutes the idea of “once save, always saved”.
Ever the prideful people the Jews balk at the suggestion that they are enslaved. Sure, they are temporarily under Roman rule but they are not slaves. They were freed from slavery more than once. They reject the assertion that they are slaves. As the descendants of Abraham, they insist that they have always been free.
However, Jesus explains that they are in fact slaves to sin. He points out that slaves do not stay in the house, only son’s do. The crowd insists that they are sons of Abraham but Jesus raises the stakes and calls them sons of the devil. Jesus then tells them that if they keep his word they will not die. The Jews point out that even Abraham died and want to know if Jesus is greater than Abraham.
The long dialogue leads to the culmination when Jesus states:
Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. John 8:56-59
Jesus is saying that it was revealed to Abraham that one day the Messiah would come and was, of course, happy about that. Most agree that this would have been when Abraham was going to sacrifice his son but God’s angels stayed his hand and instead provided a lamb. The Jewish people think the idea is ridiculous and Abraham had lived hundreds of years before and Jesus is approximately thirty years old. That is when Jesus really takes things to the next level. He uses the divine name to refer to himself. In effect, Jesus declares that it is not that he has lived since the time of Abraham but rather that he has been alive since before the time of Abraham because he is God. This causes the Jews to want to stone him but Jesus slips away. The passage is one of the most definitive passages in scripture where Jesus clearly identifies himself as God.