by Tami Rudkin
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58, NIV).
Jesus was a radical, a revolutionary, a rebel — at least in the minds of the Jewish people.
Everywhere He traveled He upset the religious leaders. He infuriated them to the point of murderous thoughts. That’s pretty mad. In His early ministry the Jews were fascinated by Jesus. He was vibrant, rich in knowledge; His miracles charmed them. The uneducated of the day believed because of what they saw; the learned of society questioned because of the old teachings; and the religious mocked Him because of their ingrained intolerance.
Jesus pushed them to their limits the day He claimed to have known Abraham. They were astonished. I can see them now. With mouths dropped open, they shook their heads and looked at each other incredulously.
Who did this man think He was? Abraham had been dead hundreds of years, and here stood Jesus, at thirty-something, claiming to have known the honored father Abraham. Jesus was called many things during His ministry. That day the one slur slung in his direction was demon possesse!
‘I AM’ of the past and present
Jesus called Himself many things, but nothing so presumptuous as the I AM. Only God had claimed this description of Himself (Exodus 3:14). What Jesus said in John 8:58 was all the more astounding, then, because it connected Him with the God of Israel in the closest possible way.
Do you know what it means for Jesus to be the great I AM? It means that He painted the skies with colors to reflect His artistic mind. It means He walked the lush garden laden with fruits; He pet the animals and talked with man. It means He was there when the rainbow was first placed in the sky and when Elijah was taken by the chariot of fire.
If Jesus is the I AM, it means that He spoke to Moses from the burning bush, led the Israelites from bondage by a flame, and walked with the Hebrew children in the red-hot furnace. It means He was there when the trumpets blew and the huge walls of Jericho crumbled. If Jesus is the I AM, then He was there when the barren Sarah first felt the son kick within her, and He was there when Jonah spent some cold, wet nights wondering why he had refused God.
If Jesus is the I AM, it means that he was there when Martin Luther assaulted the injustices of the church, when Ghandi walked for freedom, and when Billy Graham preaches simple salvation. It means that He is here when the modern choirs sing praises, when young girls experience first love, and when fathers watch their sons hit that inaugural home run. If Jesus is the I AM, He is present today when our joy is beyond measure, when dreams come true, and when our hopes are finally realized.
I AM of tragedies
Jesus is the mighty I AM. He is here when life is disappointing. He is here when adversity overwhelms us, when sorrow strangles all other emotions, and when our vision is blocked with the dark cloud of cynicism. He is the I AM not only when life is right but also when life is rotten.
Jesus claimed to be the I AM that day to the Jewish people, and they picked up stones to kill Him. Today His claim is still the same. What will we throw? Stones to break His body, slurs to break His heart? Or praises to the reigning King, prayers of thanksgiving to the crucified Friend?
Jesus is who He says He is, despite what we do personally with His declaration.
I find great comfort in knowing that the One who guides my life is the same who led so many before me. He is the artist, the friend, the meek, the commander, the infinite I AM.
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