Friday, January 9, 2009
Jesus' name: I AM
They answered him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does." They said to him, "We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself." Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word. You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God."
The Jews answered him, "Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?" Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge. Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death." The Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, 'Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.' Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?" Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, 'He is our God,' though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad." Then the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am." So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
Comments: This passage is so full of meaning that I would have to spend the whole day commenting on it to open it completely. First of all, this is classic John rather than Jesus. John’ community in the last part of the 1st century was in conflict with the synagogues in the various places in the Middle East. John was not in Jerusalem because by this point, Jerusalem had been destroyed. But the fight between the Johaninne followers and the Jewish leaders who did not follow Jesus was quite strong and followers of Jesus were being excommunicated from the synagogue.
John is trying to show how Jesus understood his authority. He called God his Father and put the emphasis not on the law but on the love of God. For Jesus to say “I am” was to invoke the unspeakable name of God. The Pharisees would have seen Jesus as blasphemous.
All too often when people of faith try to compare their religion, the rules get in the way. Jesus was trying to teach the Jewish people that God was by far more familiar than the present worship and religious laws taught. The Jewish leadership saw this as a threat to their authority and leadership. Jesus was trying to inform the people that God’s love was over-arching and not stuck in rules and rituals. We in the church often make the rules or the liturgy so important that we forget how important being loving toward each other manifests God’ desire for us. God’s love comes before Abraham, before doctrine, before ways of worship.