At this point the Jews him, “Now we know you’re crazy. Abraham died. The prophets died. And you show up saying, ‘If you practice what I’m telling you, you’ll never have to face death, not even a taste.’ Are you greater than Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you think you are!”

Jesus said, “If I turned the spotlight on myself, it wouldn’t amount to anything. But my Father, the same One you say is your Father, put me here at this time and place of splendor. You haven’t recognized him in this. But I have. If I, in false modesty, said I didn’t know what was going on, I would be as much of a liar as you are. But I do know, and I am doing what he says. Abraham—your ‘father’—with jubilant faith looked down the corridors of history and saw my day coming. He saw it and cheered.”

The Jews said, “You’re not even fifty years old—and Abraham saw you?”

“Believe me,” said Jesus, “I am who I am long before Abraham was anything.”

That did it—pushed them over the edge. They picked up rocks to throw at him. But Jesus slipped away, getting out of the Temple. (John 8:52-59)

Jesus is not just a man.

The phrase that Jesus used and applied to himself, “I am who I am,” was a quotation of Exodus 3:14. In using it, Jesus claimed to be the God who spoke to Abraham, who met Moses at the burning bush, and who led the Jewish people out of Egyptian bondage. Moses, belonged to a polytheistic society where many gods were worshiped. When he asked God for a name, he did it so he could let the people of Israel know which god had sent him. God responded by announcing that “I am who I am.” He didn’t need a name since he was the only God.

In Hebrew, the name Yahweh simply means “He is.” God told Moses “I am.” So Moses went back to the Israelites and told them that “He is” sent me. Jewish people later decided to stop using God’s name for fear of “taking it in vain.” In place of his name, they used the word “Lord.” So when Jesus’ disciples and the authors of the New Testament call Jesus “Lord” they are identifying him as the God of the Old Testament.

The religious leaders reacted to Jesus’ claim of being their God by picking up stones to kill him as a blasphemer. In their eyes, Jesus could only be a man. But we know better.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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