WHO IS JESUS? Conclusion

puzzle-piece.jpg

The Source of All Being.

In the greatest mysteries there is always one important piece of information absent. G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown series typifies it. Always there is the simple obvious fragment of data that has escaped our notice until finally Father Brown himself reveals it. In The Blue Cross we finally discover that Father Brown’s erratic behaviours along the course of his journey are deliberate attempts to enable the confused Inspector Valentin to arrive in time to arrest the notorious Flambeau. The famous mysteries of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also withhold necessary bits of intelligence from us until the moment when all is revealed and the riddle is solved. It is the pièce de résistance of the genre.

As recorded in Chapter Eight of the Gospel of John, Jesus has been engaging the Jewish religious leaders in a conversation. He answers their challenges by explaining things about Himself and about them, and the conflict grows. The Pharisees neither appreciate nor accept Jesus’ claims, yet they cannot seem to parley on His level. He is speaking from a perspective they cannot approach, so they resort to aspersions and imprecations. The conversation must come to an end. Jesus’ claims have fallen primarily on deaf ears. So He approaches His final claim in this discourse, and we begin to see that this is the piece of the puzzle Jesus has been waiting to place before them. This item of information unifies everything He has been claiming about Himself.

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus exclaims, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

Now that is an intriguing exclamation on several counts. The first surprise is the grammatical one. Jesus sets up his sentence in the past tense to describe a preceding historical event (“…Abraham was born…”) and then pushes back to an even earlier state of affairs (“…before Abraham…). That’s normal enough. But then He interrupts the flow of grammar by interjecting a present simple verb, “I am.” That’s not normal.

The second surprise is the existential one. In a plain and undisguised manner, Jesus affirms His existence has not been confined to the thirty-some years the Pharisees have observed of His life. He existed millennia earlier. That’s unprecedented.

The third surprise is the expository one. In using the term “I am” Jesus replicates an ancient Scriptural reference of God defining Himself to Moses. “This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you’…This is my name forever’” (Exodus 3:14,15). That’s presumptuous.

And the fourth surprise is the interactive one. The Pharisees have consistently disparaged Jesus throughout the conversation, challenging Him, insulting Him, and contradicting Him. Why does He offer them this sine qua non revelation about Himself that will simply confirm in their minds that He is a blaspheming heretic? What about not throwing one’s pearls before swine? That’s entirely unexpected.

What is no surprise is what the Apostle John records next. He observes, “At this, they picked up stones to stone him…”(John 8:59). Jesus’ words and the meaning behind them infuriated His listeners. They understood He was claiming to exist eternally and be the source of all being. This was more, far more than they wanted to hear, so they responded by trying to permanently shut Him up.

This culminating claim of Jesus has implications for us too. It’s why the words were recorded, carefully copied, and preserved for these two millennia since the conversation occurred. It’s no surprise. Jesus wants us to recognize that He is speaking those words now—to you and to me. He wants us to think about what that means, that He is the great “I AM”, the source of all being, the source of your being and of mine. What do we do with Him then? Do we pick up stones to stone Him? Do we shut Him away except perhaps on Sundays, or Christmas and Easter? Or do we fall on our knees before Him daily, admit He is the source of our being and allow Him to do something deep within us today? It might mean loving the unlovable, forgiving the unforgivable, being courageous in the face of daunting circumstances, or getting up and trying again after we’ve fallen on our faces.

Remember how we began this quest exploring who Jesus is? We observed that those who have heard of Jesus have formed opinions about Him that have run the gamut. We wanted to discover a truer picture of Him, one He sketches Himself—a kind of self-portrait. John 8:12-59 records this portrait, documents Jesus’ claims that show us His true identity. I don’t imagine we will ever fully understand what He tells us about Himself, but there is a simple take home message: Jesus’ purpose and unique position is to reconnect us with our Creator—Himself, and the Father, and the Holy Spirit—because this life is only the beginning. Step two, flip back the pages of John, and start reading at the beginning, at John Chapter One, verse one. And as you read, pray, “Jesus, show me who You are and how I should live.”

 

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