The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me,of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. – John 8:48-59
There are seven or eight “I am” statements in John’s Gospel – depending on how you count them. The seven are:
- And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
- Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).
- “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).
- “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
- Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).
- Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
- “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1).
The eighth “I am” statement is found here in John 8:58, and is the most profound of the bunch. Here Jesus makes two improbable claims that rocked the world of the Jews to whom he was speaking, and should give us pause. He said that he existed before Abraham who had died perhaps 2000 years prior to Jesus of Nazareth. He also equated himself to God, taking the holy name that God revealed to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:14), and which was so holy that the people of Jesus’ day would not even utter it out loud.
Their reaction? They pick up stones to throw at Jesus, but are thwarted in that attempt for Jesus’ time had not yet come (cf. John 7:6). Instead, Jesus hid himself and left the temple.
Some say that the saddest verse in the Bible is Judges 2:10. Others might suggest, “Jesus wept.” Still others might suggest Genesis 3:6. I might say that the last part of John 8:59 is the saddest: Jesus leaves the temple. The Son of God, through whom the whole universe was made, comes to his own, should have been the object of their worship. He came to fulfill the whole Law. He came to be among God’s people, and he has no place in the Temple dedicated to the God who sent him.
But Jesus is the eternal I AM. He was and is and is to come. He will leave the temple, but he will be eternally present with his people – those who call upon him in faith. This eighth “I am” statement of Jesus establishes him as our Lord and God. He is our Redeemer and Friend, the source and center of all truth.