In John 8, Jesus is teaching and the religious leaders of his day confront him. This confrontation goes back and forth throughout the chapter and concludes with Jesus’ powerful declaration, “before Abraham was born, I AM.”
Jesus the Light of the World
Jesus declares himself to be the light of the world. The Pharisees challenge him that his testimony is not valid, he is his only witness. Answering them, Jesus tells them that the Father bears witness along with Jesus. He is speaking either about the Father’s verbal testimony from heaven or about his works as from the Father. They replied, “Where is your father?” Jesus answers that they do not know the Father – or they would know him!
Jesus says, “I am going away…”
Following this, Jesus tells the crowd that he is going away and they cannot follow him. What’s more – they will die in their sins. This prompts questions about what Jesus means. He speaks again and tells them that he is from heaven, and if they do not believe, they will die in their sins. At issue is whether people believe that Jesus is God. In the discussion, Jesus prophesies his own death. As a result, more people place their faith in him.
Jesus says, “… the truth will set you free.”
When Jesus says, “the truth will set you free,” it causes the religious leaders to protest that they are Abraham’s descendants. As such, they say they have never been slaves of anyone. (Conveniently they forgot that they had been slaves in Egypt and that Rome currently occupied their land.) On answering them, Jesus explains that whoever sins is a slave to sin. He further explained that if they were Abraham’s children, they would love him. Not fearing their response, Jesus tells them plainly that they belong to their father – the devil – since they were doing his work. He concludes by telling them that they do not belong to God.
The Jewish leaders insult Jesus
The Jewish leaders tell Jesus he is demon-possessed. Jesus replied that he is not demon-possessed, but seeking to honor his father. Furthermore, he tells them that whoever obeys his word will never see death. At this, they again accuse Jesus of being demon-possessed since Abraham (who followed God) died. Then they ask, “Who do you think you are?”
Jesus says, “Before Abraham was born, I AM.”
Jesus replies that Abraham “rejoiced at the thought of seeing Jesus’ day. He saw it and was glad.” The religious leaders scoff and say, “You are not yet fifty years old and you’ve seen Abraham!” Jesus replies, “Before Abraham was born, I am.” In this strange sentence, Jesus identifies himself as the “I AM” – the one who appeared to Moses at the burning bush. This is Jesus’ point in the chapter – believe that Jesus is the I AM or die in your sins.
This offer for salvation is still available today, if you will only place your trust in Jesus.