BY Caleb Faires
This is part of a 10-day series on the person of Christ in the 2016 Lent study.
Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that He would see my day. He saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).
However, when the religious people heard Jesus’ thunderous proclamation, “before Abraham was, I AM,” they were far from glad. The truth is, if we understand exactly what Jesus was saying here, there are only two possible responses. Either we bow our hearts in reverence before Christ, or we rage against Him, as did many of the people of Israel on that day.
What did Jesus mean when He claimed, “before Abraham was, I AM”? I am sure we will never fully unpack its weight in this life, but here Jesus declares not only His divinity, but also His supreme authority and His redemptive purpose over all creation.
Christ was “before” Abraham in two profound ways: as Creator and as Messiah.
First, as Creator, Jesus was “the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15), and “without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3).
Second, as Messiah, Jesus was appointed to save us from our sins (Isaiah 61:1), and He performs His role as the perfect mediator between God and man (Hebrews 8:6).
In many ways, these two truths about Christ are learned early on for those of us who have grown up in the church. But these are precisely the two declarations that most confront our sinful hearts.
That Christ is our Creator, and therefore has all authority over us, means that we owe Him our whole lives and our obedience. He, not our lineage or our talents or any other human system of merit, defines us. He has made us for Himself, and therefore, we cannot live unto ourselves. We owe Him everything.
That Christ is our Messiah opposes our inclination to try to save ourselves. We are wired to invent our own systems of salvation based upon our accomplishments, our winning personality, our intellectual prowess, our philanthropic magnanimity, or some other convoluted system of works. We like to be able to take at least a little credit, even if we have to concede that God did “most” of the work.
But Christ is the only Savior. He alone is the appointed One. No man comes to the Father but by Him (John 14:6).
I like to think that I am immune from certain kinds of disbelief. But I am struck by the context of Christ’s declaration. John 8:31 reveals that Jesus’ divine claim was delivered to “the Jews who had believed Him.” I do not know what kind of belief these men had, for “even the demons believe—and shudder” (James 2:19). Nevertheless, this is a stark reminder that Christ’s preeminence is not comfortable to our sinful hearts. These truths can only be received by faith, as they were by Abraham.
In light of this, I cannot help but pray, Lord, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
Abraham Kuyper once declared, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” Does this make your heart glad? Christ is greater than Abraham because He is before him, and because He is the very Hope in which Abraham put his faith.
Jesus is the life that was made manifest, that we have seen (I John 1:2). He has proclaimed His divinity to us, saying “I Am!”, so that we might have fellowship in Him and see our joy made complete (I John 1:4). Thanks be to God.
Written By Caleb Faires