TODAY’S READING: JOHN 7-8
“So they said to him, ‘Who are you?'” – John 8:25
The Jews asked Jesus, “Who are you?”
Who is Jesus? is the question that dominates John 8:12-59.
Jesus definitively answers this question in John 8:58 when he says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
Who is Jesus?
Jesus declares that he is the God who revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush. Further, Jesus says he was I am before Abraham.
Sadly, it does not come through in the English translations, but Jesus’ definitive answer to the Jews’ question of who he was is not the first time that Jesus declares “I am” in John 8:12-59.
In John 8:24, Jesus said, “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”
There is no Greek word for he in the original text. And, supplying the “he” takes away from the force of what Jesus is saying.
What Jesus really said was, “For unless you believe that I am you will die in your sins.”
I checked numerous English translations. All of them add the “he” or something else after “I am,” detracting from the force of Jesus’ statement about who he is.
It’s important to leave Jesus’ statement of who he is as he said it – “For unless you believe that I am” – because this is what leads to the Jews’ question. It is immediately after Jesus says “I am” that the Jews ask “Who are you?” It’s as if the Jews are saying, “Wait a minute. Who did you just say you are?”
In John 8:28, Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he.” But, again the “he” is not in the original text.
Jesus actually said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am.”
Therefore, in John 8:58. Jesus’ definitive answer to who he is starts “Truly, truly.” He’s already told the Jews several times, but they can’t hear the answer.
In John 8:12-59, Jesus says “I am” (ego eimi) seven times. The seventh time is Jesus’ definitive statement of who he is in John 8:58. John is a very symbolic writer. Therefore, this should catch our attention. Seven is the number of spiritual perfection.
Why is the answer “I am” to the question of who Jesus is so important?
Knowing that Jesus is “I am” is the word and the truth that sets us free, leading to our spiritual perfection.
Jesus’ reply when the Jews ask Jesus, “Who are you?” after his first “I am” declaration is interesting. Jesus said, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning.”
What beginning is Jesus referring to?
Perhaps he is alluding to the beginning in Genesis.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:1, 3)
The first act of God’s creating was to call forth light. This is fascinating in light of (pun intended) how the whole conversation of who Jesus is started.
John 8:12 says, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
“I am the light of the world.”
This is the second of Jesus’ “I am” statements in John. Altogether, he makes seven “I am” statements in the gospel of John.
- “I am the bread of life.” – John 6:48
- “I am the light of the world.” – John 8:12
- “I am the door of the sheep.” – John 10:7
- “I am the good shepherd.” – John 10:11
- “I am the resurrection and the life.” – John 11:25
- “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” – John 14:6
- “I am the true vine.” – John 15:1
All of these “I am” statements have to do with life.
As the bread of life, Jesus is that which gives and sustains life.
As the light of the world, it is Jesus’ life (“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”) that lights the world, shining in the darkness, taking the world from death to life.
As the door, Jesus is the entry point to life and where life is protected.
As the good shepherd, Jesus lays down his life to protect life.
As the resurrection and the life, Jesus is the making all things new, taking those that were dead in their trespasses and making them alive to God.
As the way, truth, and life, Jesus is light, love, and life, which are the three invisible attributes of God clearly perceived since the creation of the world. (See my post Creation: A Witness to Jesus.)
As the true vine, Jesus is our connection to life, the vehicle through whom life passes from God to us.
The whole passage is about who Jesus is.
Jesus is I am.
Jesus is life.
In John 12:49-50, Jesus said, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment – what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life.”
1 John 5:10-12 says, “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
God’s testimony is that he gave us eternal life and that life is in Jesus.
God commanded Jesus what to say and what to speak. God’s commandment to Jesus was to speak life.
This is what Jesus did.
He spoke life.
This is Jesus’ word.
Four times in John 8:12-59 Jesus says “my word.” (The fifth time is the Jews repeating what Jesus said as a question.)
In John 8:31, Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
We are to abide in Jesus’ word – life.
If we are abide in Jesus’ word – life – then we are truly his disciples.
We will know the truth – that Jesus speaks and gives life.
Knowing that Jesus speaks and gives life, the truth, will set us free.
Free from what?
Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
The fear of death has had all of us in lifelong slavery.
But, Jesus’ word, the truth, that Jesus speaks and gives life, set us free from the fear of death.
Therefore, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”
Because of our fear of death we have been in lifelong slavery. Because of our fear of death, we go about bringing death to others in order to stave off our own death that we are so afraid of. We practice sin, meaning we bring death to others. Because we practice sin, bringing death to others to protect our own life, we have become a slave to sin and the fear of death. So, we continually, over and and over, resort to death as a way to protect ourselves.
However, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” If you abide in Jesus’ word, the truth, which is that Jesus speaks and gives life, then you will be truly free. The word free literally means a free person, not a slave. When Jesus sets you free, you are free from slavery to sin brought about by the fear of death. You no longer need to resort to death – war, murder, oppression, injustice, covetousness, etc. – to protect your own life. Instead, you are free to die to bring the same life that Jesus spoke and gave to you to others.
But, Jesus said, “Yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.”
When the word of life that Jesus speaks to us does not abide in us, we seek to kill. We first seek to kill God. Then, we seek to kill others. All because we are enslaved to sin due to our fear of death. We are trapped in an endless spiral of death if Jesus’ word of life does not abide in us.
The Jews did not know Jesus as I am. Therefore, while they Abraham’s physical offspring, their true father, their spiritual father, was the devil. Therefore, they did their father’s desires. The devil is a murdered and a liar. So, that Jews murdered and lied. This is in complete contrast to what one does when they know Jesus as “I am.”
So, Jesus asks, “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear to my word.”
If you cannot understand Jesus because it because you cannot hear his word, which is life. If you cannot hear life it is because you are of your father the devil. These are sobering words from Jesus.
“If I tell you the truth, why do you not believe me?”
If Jesus speaks and gives life, following the commandment his Father gave him, then why do we not believe Jesus’ word?
“Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
Why do you not believe Jesus’ word of life?
You are not of God.
Again, this is a very sobering word from Jesus. It should cause us to stop and think hard about what we believe about God.
For we hear life from Jesus, his word, the word from God, if we are of God.
How are we of God?
We know the answer to the question “Who is Jesus?”
The I Am.
The resurrection and the life.
The way, and the truth, and the life.