Jesus Is the Great I Am
By Heath Jarrett
Last week, I wrote about Yahweh, the personal name of the LORD. If you missed it, take a moment to read What’s in a Name. It will help you understand the significance of this week’s article.
When Moses wanted to know God’s name, God responded, “I AM WHO I AM…the LORD [Yahweh]” (Exodus 3:14-15). The name of Yahweh is directly related to the Hebrew phrase “I AM.” That is, Yahweh is essentially a play on words of the verb “I am” in the Hebrew language. Alternately the phrase can be rendered, “I will be who I will be.” Whether we look to the past, the present, or the future, God has always existed and remains the same.
Knowing this helps us understand the significance of Jesus’ words in John 8. In this chapter, Jesus’ enemies oppose him. Claiming that Jesus was demon possessed, they ridiculed him further, sarcastically asking if he was greater than Abraham or the prophets (8:48, 53). They asked, “Who do you make yourself out to be?” (8:53).
After Jesus again pointed to his Father’s testimony for validation of his ministry, he explained that yes, in fact, he is much greater than Abraham. Rather than Jesus looking to Abraham as a leader, as these Jews claimed to do, Abraham looked to Jesus!
“’Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.’ So the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’
Once again, these guys aren’t getting the picture. It’s not whether Jesus has seen Abraham but that Abraham saw Christ. He “saw” Jesus’ day and rejoiced. This in itself is a remarkable statement about Abraham’s knowledge and faith in the coming Messiah. And then the clincher came:
“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am’” (8:58).
Jesus, by attributing “I am” to himself, was claiming to be God. He was claiming the personal name of God—the one who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. Make no mistake, his enemies understood him this time: They picked up stones in order to stone him for supposed blasphemy (8:59).
Jesus is the great “I AM WHO I AM” of Exodus 3. In the words of Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”