Jesus: “Before Abraham Was, I Am”
Jesus startles us in his declaration, “Before Abraham was, I am” (in John 8:58). Yet I find three wonderful realities in Jesus’ identification of himself as “I am”:
#1: Jesus identifies himself in connection to the God of Moses who could not be pinned down.
When Moses wanted to know the name of God, hoping to gain some power over God, God refused to be confined by a name that would minimize our understanding of God to only one aspect of his being. (God is All-Powerful, but God is also All-Compassionate; God is Holy, yet Christ involved himself in the muck and mire of this world.) God simply declared to Moses, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). When Jesus declares himself, “I am,” and leaves it at that, he is linking himself to the God who revealed himself to Moses and who transcends every attempt we make to minimize God.
#2: Jesus asserts his timeless nature.
Abraham lived on this earth in a speck of time. We can point to the dates in history in which he lived and died. It all took place in the past. Abraham was. But Jesus transcends time; he walked through our history for a time, then he stepped out of history, returning to his timeless dimension. Jesus is not constrained by time. He is with us as much today spiritually as he was with the disciples when he walked the streets of Palestine with them.
An editorial entitled “Live One Day at a Time” by an unknown author says it well: “There are two days in every week that we should not worry about. These two days should be kept free from fear and apprehension.
“Which two days? Yesterday is one, with all its mistakes and faults and pains. We have no power to change anything that has happened in the past; no amount of money or wishful thinking or anxiety can bring it back. There’s not a single act or word we can undo. Yesterday is gone.
“The other day is tomorrow, which holds its own possible adversities, problems, and promises. Tomorrow is largely beyond our immediate control. We know that tomorrow’s sun will rise; but until it does, that day lies beyond our grasp. It does not yet exist.
“This leaves only today. We are able to face this single day, with its share of good things and bad. But it’s when we add the impossible burdens of those two entities—yesterday and tomorrow—that we break down. Remorse for the past or dread of the future can drive anyone mad. But focusing our energy and attention on the present moment brings life and health; it’s the only time, in fact, that we are given to live in.
“God is timeless; he heals the past and assures us of his presence in the future. But we experience God today, in this present moment. Don’t let your preoccupation with the past or the future rob you of this gift.”
#3: Jesus focuses on the present because that’s where relationships are lived, and what Jesus wants most of all is relationship with us.
In the 2nd century Epistle of Diognetus, Diognetus writes, “May we embrace Christ as our Nurse, our Father, our Teacher, our Counselor, our Physician, our Wisdom, our Light, our Honor, our Glory, our Strength, and our Life.”
The first five have to do with relationship. May we embrace Christ as our Nurse, tenderly caring for us. May we embrace Christ as our Father, pouring his love out to us. May we embrace Christ as our Teacher, opening our eyes and our hearts to the ways of God. May we embrace Christ as our Counselor, guiding us in how we should live. May we embrace Christ as our Physician, healing the wounds and brokenness of our souls. The latter six have to do with the blessings we gain from our relationship with Christ: wisdom, light, honor, glory, strength and eternal life.