As we march through these various “I Am” encounters with Jesus in the book of John, we are brought face to face with the character of the One who came to save a desperate people. These passages are of tremendous comfort for God’s people as we are invited to throw ourselves on One who is strong, compassionate, full of life, and good. However, these self revelations are also challenging because they confirm that God is so different than we are. He is the Creator, we are the creature. He is the Source, we are derivative. And what we see in many of these interactions is that human hearts are not easy with the fact that we are not God. The human heart constantly wants to elevate itself to throne status.
In John 8:31-59, our passage for Sunday, Jesus reminds his listeners that “before Abraham was, I am” (vs 58). In saying this Jesus preempts any claims that his listeners have to truth or identity apart from Him. The claim of Jesus to be the source of absolute truth is one that we have seen before and we will certainly see again (John 20:31;14:6). It also happens to be absolutely central to our engagement with the world today. As we will see Sunday, the Jews wanted to redefine their reality in terms they decided, even to the point of absurdly claiming that they had never been enslaved to anyone (John 8:33). (Hint: they were under Roman occupation at that very moment!) Jesus however wasn’t allowing them to choose their own truth. Jesus plainly called them to believe the words that he spoke. It is only in his words that they would find truth, and it is only in finding truth that they would be truly free! (John 8:31,32).
Almost daily our struggle to submit to God’s truth grabs the headlines. From refugees to the unborn, from gender to marriage, to a whole host of other issues, we seek answers to these questions from the perspective of “us". What are my rights? How does this affect our country? How do I feel about my body? Through it all we hear Jesus saying, "Believe me. Abide in my Word. It is only as you abide in my Word that you will know the truth. It is only as you abide in my Word that you will be truly free.” What a comfort these words are as the Source invites us to such intimacy! But let’s be real, this invitation to true life comes with a difficult call to die to self. But our God is patient with us and, as we will see Sunday, never demands of us something that he does not embrace himself.