“‘Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I AM!’”
-John 8:58 (NIV)
The Gospel of John is a fascinating inclusion for our biblical canon. This gospel places a high degree of emphasis on the divinity of Christ, making it clear that this human man is no ordinary prophet, but rather the savior, the Messiah of the whole world. One of the ways the gospel writer chooses to clue the reader into this incredible identity of Jesus is through the use of “I AM” statements.
Now, there are two different types of “I am” statements in the Gospel of John and they serve very different purposes. The first is that of the lowercase “I am.” These occur when Jesus says things like “I am the good shepherd,” or “I am the bread of life,” and typically, he is in the midst of performing a sign which always points to something greater.
The “I am” statement in today’s scripture however, is a capital, “I AM.” The capitalization is meant to draw your attention because this statement is different. This “I AM” is what fancy theologians call a theophany. A theophany is a revelation of the true nature of Christ, Jesus makes these statements when he is revealing his true nature as the Messiah.
In the chapter from which today’s verse originates, Jesus is revealing his true nature to the Jewish people who are questioning his identity. Verse 58 shows us that essentially, Jesus is telling the crowd that before their ancestor Abraham, the patriarch of Israel was even born, Jesus was already at work as God. This is huge! This tells us that Jesus has been at work in the world since the beginning of time, loving humanity and showing us how we are called to love one another.
This is the great gift of this verse! We know the true nature of Jesus as the incarnation, God in flesh, that “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Philippians 2:6-11
The God of all creation became like us in order to redeem and restore us, because of God’s great love for us. Thanks be to God.