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I AM - John 8

"God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"" - Exodus 3:14 (NIV)

This week we continue our study of John's gospel in chapter 8.  This chapter is crazy full and a whole lot to chew on at once.  Let's break it into 4 key sections.  

1.) Jesus was teaching in the temple and some of the leaders brought a woman they had caught in the act of adultery.  They wanted to see if Jesus would follow the law of Moses and sentence her to death.  Interestingly they had not also brought the man, who would also be guilty and deserving of death.  According to that law a witness to the act would be the one to stone them.  Jesus began writing something on the ground.  We don't know what, but it seemed to have a powerful impact.  He told the leaders that they were correct and encouraged the one among them without sin to throw the first stone.  They left one by one until he alone was left with the woman.  He asked her who was left to condemn her, and she said no one.  He said he would not condemn her either, and told her to go, but to stop her life of sin. 

2.) After this he addressed the crowd and claimed to be the light of the world.  This was likely a reference to a Sukkot tradition at the end of the Festival of Booths. Every year at the end of the festival they would light 4 golden lamps that stood in the Court of Women.  These lamps were extremely bright and they would light up that portion of the city and they could be seen from outside of the city.  They reminded the Jewish people of the time God had guided them through the wilderness in the form of a Pillar of Fire.  They looked forward to the promised Messiah, who would be the light of the world and guide the people to freedom once again.  Since they had just brought a woman before him, we know that he was in the Court of Women, and the lamps were probably still burning as he made a clear, obvious, and unmistakable claim to being the Messiah.    

3.) This claim was not lost on the crowd and the leaders started questioning his origins and even claimed that he had a demon.  Jesus explained that he came from God and used his works as the proof of his origin from God.  He used the same logic to point out that those questioning him, the leaders, were from the devil.  He demonstrated that he was doing the work of Abraham and they were doing the work of their father, the devil.  He concluded that their way of life led to death while his way led to life.

4.) The leaders escalated and attempted to defend themselves as heirs of Abraham to which Jesus doubled down and claimed to be God.  When they asked him how he could have possibly known Abraham when he was less than 50 years old, Jesus' said "before Abraham was, I AM".  As you can see from our scripture quote from Exodus 3:14, this was the highest name of God to the Jewish people.  This was the name that God had given to Moses when asked what to say to the Israelites.  To his audience there was no mistaking what he had just claimed.  They picked up stones to kill Jesus, but he hid and left the temple.  

In this chapter we can see a complete reversal from earlier chapters when Jesus was avoiding making a stir.  Previously he kept saying "it is not my time", but here he was clearly saying, now is the time.  He claimed to be the master of the law, he claimed to be the son of God, he claimed to be the Messiah, and finally he claimed to be God!  This is where all statements of Jesus being just a good teacher or a prophet go out the window.  C.S. Lewis worded this "trilemma" well:

"Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was Divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma. It is inexorable."

May we accept the forgiveness of Christ as the woman in this story.  May we accept the rule of Christ as judge as those who walked away from their judgement seats.  May we follow the light of Christ as the people of God once followed the pillar of fire.  May we do the works of Abraham and leave behind the way of the devil. And may we see Christ is all of his glory as the great I AM.  Thank you for loving us enough to put on the face of humanity so that we might be free in you!  Amen


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