"Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." Upon hearing this, the Jews took up stones to throw at Jesus, for they knew he had just confessed to be the God who confronted Moses in the Burning Bush 14 centuries earlier.
At that time, the great prophet of Israel posed this question, "When I come to the children of Israel and say to them, `The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they say to me, `What is his name?' (Or, how did he reveal himself to you?) what shall I say to them?" And God replied, "`I AM WHO I AM'... Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, `I AM has sent me to you.'"
By the use of the Hebrew verb "to be", God in accordance with Hebrew thought revealed himself as the One who is completely independent of everyone and everything. Of course, not everyone who calls himself God's child believes this. Many are they who see God more as reactionary: Satan lights fires; God puts them out. Satan brings suffering and misery into the lives of his children; God delivers them. So how do they explain those times when God doesn't deliver, or when he himself caused the suffering and pain to test his people?
Others see God as dependent on the actions of men. He blesses those who do good, punishes those who do evil. But, "We maintain that a man is justified by faith, apart from the deeds of the law." Good thing too, for if God would act according to merit, all mankind would be cast into hell on the last day. But God reveals himself as I AM, as the One who in his independence chooses to act by grace rather than merit.
This he showed Abraham in a most vivid way. He told him to sacrifice his only son, whom he loved, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son." He told the Patriarch of Israel to sacrifice Isaac on a mountain, because his Son would be sacrificed on a mount called Golgotha. As Abraham made Isaac carry the wood on which he was to be sacrificed, so the soldiers would force Jesus to carry his cross through the narrow streets of Jerusalem. When they made it up the mountain, Abraham bound his son to the wood by ropes to foreshadow how Jesus, upon reaching Golgotha, would be fastened to his cross by nails. And Isaac let his Father bind him in the faith that God would still in someway make him heir of the Promised Seed. Jesus, "who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scoring its shame." And as Abraham received his son back from the dead, figuratively speaking - for God prevented him from slaying his son, so Jesus literally rose from the dead on the third day. "For this reason," the sacred writer explains, "he is the Mediator of the new covenant by means of death..., that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance."
That is the grace God in his independence of everyone and everything chose to show all men in Christ Jesus, and thus revealed himself as I AM. And for preaching this Gospel, the Jews tried to convict Jesus of blasphemy. That's why they picked up stones to throw at him. But failing in their attempt to kill him here, they would eventually hand him over to the Romans to be crucified.
Of course the world still hates Christ with a hatred that grows stronger each passing year. But because they can no longer attack his person, they now come after his followers. Make no mistake, you and I are under attack both from within the Church and also from without: from within by the many false prophets who pervert the Word of God with their lies, and from without by those who in the name of their idol - whatever that idol may be - seek to shame, discredit, intimidate, and even kill Christians.
But do not fear. While the times are evil and the dangers very real, this is the promise of him who is the grace of God personified, "If anyone keeps - not in the sense that he obeys, but that he holds tightly to - my Word, he shall never see death."
The Jews thought that they had finally caught Jesus in a lie, for many of God's people, including Abraham and the prophets, had died. But what they did not understand is that Jesus was not speaking of the death that ends this earthly life. Listen to the words he spoke to Martha at the death of her brother Lazarus, "I AM - there's that name of God once again - I AM the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die."
The believer's body will die, unless the Lord comes first, but he will never see eternal death. Rather through the death of his body he will be delivered from this evil world and live with his gracious God in heaven's eternal bliss.
Not so the unbeliever, by walking out of the temple, Jesus showed what happens to him. He is deprive of the blessings his Savior won for him, and so, will face the wrath of God instead.
Thanks be to God, that he has not gone away from you or from this, his Church. Just the opposite is true. I AM is present here with you, and in a way that you will not only hear him, but also see him, touch him, and even taste him. He is present in the Word of God that is being preached to you and in the Blessed Bread and Wine that will be served to you, to give you his forgiveness, life and salvation; again, not because you deserve it, but because he chooses to do this for you.
Oh, and lest you fear that the power of Satan, working through this evil world, will someday overcome you the way it did these Jews of old, and as it has many today, there's one more thing you need to know about the name I AM. The tense of this Hebrew verb is not present, as it is in English, but imperfect or incomplete, which implies ongoing action. Your God, who chooses to act by grace, never stops acting by grace. On the contrary, he who was, is, and always will be loves you with a love that will never cease.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Download sermon as a text file
Find a bug or have a suggestion?