When I was in kindergarten, I told all of my friends that my dad was a train conductor.
In reality, he worked for IBM as a computer programmer. But my dad did take the train every morning from our home on Long Island to his office in Manhattan. And I had heard him called an “engineer” more than once. So, without really understanding what my dad did every day at work, I put two and two together and imagined my dad was a train engineer. I pictured him wearing overalls and a conductor’s hat, pulling on the cord that makes the whistle blow. “All aboard!” (I guess I assumed he changed out of the pinstripe suit that he left our house in every morning once he got to the station.)
Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed when I discovered the truth. There was, of course, nothing wrong with his job—it was a good job, and he provided well for our family—but at recess, it wasn’t the kind of job that impressed other kindergarteners. Race car driver, astronaut, cowboy, and superhero were the best dad jobs—even if they were made up.
The conversation Jesus has with a group of Jews in John 8 sounds a lot like a playground argument over who has the coolest dad. Jesus talked about His Father. Then the Jews talked about their father, Abraham. Jesus countered by saying their father was, in fact, not Abraham or God, but the devil. That didn’t go over too well. “If you were Abraham’s children,” Jesus told them, “you would do what Abraham did. But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You’re doing what your father does” (vv.39–41). Burn.
This back and forth was never really about dads though—it was about Jesus’s identity. To the casual observer, it must have seemed that Jesus was out of His mind. He was saying truly outrageous things: that He was sent by the Father (v.16); that He had come down from heaven (v.23); and that whoever believes in Him will never die (v.51). With each statement, the Jews grew more upset. But Jesus saved the best for last: “Before Abraham was, I am” (v.58). The Greek words translated “I am” here are the same words used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament when God revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). Jesus was openly claiming to be Yahweh. And that was just too much for the Jews who heard. That’s why, in that very moment, “they picked up stones to throw at him” (John 8:59).
When people come face to face with Jesus as He truly is, there’s often a strong reaction. Some fall down in worship, while others beg for mercy. And still others, like this group of Jews in John 8, look for rocks. Make no mistake though—how you respond to Jesus is really all that counts.
What matters is not whether you can trace your lineage back to Abraham. It’s not about your family, race, or nationality. It’s always about Jesus. He was there before Abraham. He was there before Adam. He was there before time itself. The only thing that matters in this life and the next is whether or not we belong to Him. He’s better than all the race car drivers, astronauts, cowboys, and superheroes combined. (Oh—and train conductors, too.)
Written by John Greco