John 8:57-59 – 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.
Thinking only in a this-worldly way, the Jews simply point out that Jesus is not old enough to have seen Abraham. Jesus is under 50. In fact, he is likely around 32 or 33. Abraham lived approximately 2,000 years before that time. So, in the minds of the Jews, Jesus must be crazy. No way could Abraham have seen him.
Then Jesus makes a statement that carries the force of a nuclear bomb. It starts with the double truly, telling us to listen and listen good. Then Jesus says, “before Abraham was, I am.” Literally, he says that he existed before Abraham’s time. He existed more than 2,000 years before. Jesus is claiming eternal existence.
Besides claiming a long existence, the phrase “I am” carries an incredible meaning. God, in Exodus 3:14, calls himself “I Am Who I Am.” When Jesus says “I am” here in John 8:58, he uses the same phrase as In the Greek translation of the Old Testament where God calls himself “I Am.” Jesus, with this phrase, can only be claiming one thing. He can only be claiming to be God.
And, lest anyone argue that claiming to be God is not what Jesus just did, look at verse 59. The Jews immediately, without hesitation, pick up stones to stone Jesus. They are not waiting for a trial. They were not picking up stones in verse 57. But something changed with what Jesus said in verse 58 that changed what the Jews thought of him. Before, they called him crazy. Now, they think that Jesus has uttered blasphemy. Why? Because they know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Jesus has just claimed to be God. Since they assume he can not be God, they only have one alternative, and that alternative is to stone him for blasphemy. This is, by the way, an alternative they fail to carry out, because it is not yet time for Jesus to give his life.
How should you and I respond to this amazing statement from Jesus? If Jesus is God, we must worship him. Nothing else will suffice. If he is not God, we must reject him and hate him as the greatest liar or fool the world has ever known. But, if Jesus is God, we must give him our lives. What will you do?