Day 2

Before Abraham Was, I Am

from the I Am: Statements of Our Savior reading plan

John 8:31-59, Exodus 3:1-15, Isaiah 45:22-25, Philippians 2:9-11

BY Guest Writer

My sister and I hopped onto the genetic-testing train last year. For Christmas, we gave our parents test kits and joined over twelve million customers in search of our ancestry. We are a people fascinated by our origins, hungry for the past to shed light on our present.

Family heritage held deep, sacred meaning for ancient Jewish people as well. While the modern identity question is, “Who am I?”, the defining question of ancient Israel was, “Whose am I?” Just read the detailed genealogies in the Old Testament. From Abraham to Ruth to David—origins, birthrights, and family connections formed identity and destiny.

So, it’s no wonder that Jesus’s listeners confidently held out their status as Abraham’s descendants and flashed it as their badge of honor and worth. Yet this over-dependence on heritage was dangerous. It offered a false sense of security, a misguided sense of racial superiority, and spiritual blindness.

One of Jesus’s disciples, John, records how many Jews were in denial of their need for rescue. They would not accept Jesus’s controversial teaching, which told them that even they, God’s chosen people, were spiritually lost and in desperate need of a Savior. When told that the truth would set them free, they bristled and held up their heritage as proof of their right standing with God. They told Jesus, “We are Abraham’s descendants… and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’?” (John 8:33).

Jesus does more than poke holes in their heritage badges. He blasts the shaky ground they are standing on and reveals the true, firm foundation that provides the only way of salvation. Ancestry does not determine identity and destiny. But there is something—Someone—who does. And so Jesus answers them: “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am” (v.58).

Boom! His Jewish challengers are no doubt shocked by His outrageous claims. How could this man say these things? Jesus is equating Himself with Yahweh, leaving no room for misunderstanding. This man from Nazareth has the audacity to echo the words of God, who spoke to Moses through a burning bush and revealed His own name, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). They know exactly what Jesus is claiming—that He, not a bloodline from Abraham, is the way of salvation and true freedom.

We, too, should be stunned, jolted by Jesus’s words. They are scandalous. But our family tree and our connections don’t define us. What we do, where we come from, who we associate with—none of these things can make us right with God. This is personal, and this is cosmic. We need a rescue from outside of ourselves, what theologian Martin Luther called an “alien righteousness.”

“For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth—
and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9–11).

We do have a sure identity, which means we also have a sure destiny. The risen Christ defines us as beloved children of God, and we are destined to have a place around His table, dwelling with Him forever. He is our firm foundation. He is our righteousness. He sets us free.

Patti Sauls lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband Scott and daughters, Abby and Ellie, where they serve alongside the people of Christ Presbyterian Church. Prior to living in Nashville, the Sauls planted churches in Kansas City and Saint Louis and served at New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church. A trained speech therapist, Patti also enjoys serving behind the scenes, hiking with friends, and reading good books.

Post Comments (64)

64 thoughts on "Before Abraham Was, I Am"

  1. Allison Sherwood says:

    Jesus played the ultimate trump card by surpassing Abraham, and made the Israelites question the value of their claim. I love this!

  2. Tree says:

    Sometimes I forget who I belong to. This was a powerful reminder that I am not my own that without Jesus I am nothing.

  3. A Green says:

    The element of today’s reading that has truly resonated with me is the passage where God brings the children of Israel out of the wilderness and into the land flowing with milk and honey. A year ago,
    I was in a job that fed on my soul and my psyche like a cancer. Following a tumultuous period with the company’s parent company, I and a number of my colleagues were either let go or went of our own accord. At the time, I was wrapped in uncertainty, convinced I would never work in corporate Britain again, fed up with the politics and the games and the oppressive environment. God led me to start my own business, to properly go it alone. I chose a business name involving bees – the city where I live has a rich history with bees. Upon reflection, I can see where God literally plucked me out of the wilderness of that soul destroying job and not only did he put me in a land flowing with milk and honey, it is my own land. God is so good!

  4. Shirley Nuñez says:

    This resonates so much with me. We’re not defined by our ancestors or where we come from. Our blood line does not determine who we are, Jesus does!

  5. Ashley Wurtz says:

    I think that it is beautiful to know the “whose I am,” from a family standpoint. I have learned though, that there are times that family ties fray due to life and emotions, it is during those times that knowing I am a child of God has brought me great peace.

  6. Jill Bos says:

    I am concerned that you say Jesus is not a bloodline of Abraham. He was Jewish. The saying in John 8 that he was a demon possessed Samaritan was the ultimate insult for a Jew.

    1. Lori Wat says:

      I know this from a long time ago, but the author was saying that Jesus – NOT a bloodline – is the way of salvation.

  7. Lydia Irby says:

    Some days, salvation is thankfully knowing heaven is my home. To be with the I am before Abraham was. Other days, salvation is strength for my daily living. He is the I Am Why and Because. The I am When and How. The I am Here. He is the Great I Am.

  8. Allison Sherwood says:

    I find it a relief that I belong to God’s heritage more than my own! Sure, I love to know what my grandparents and super great grandparents were up to, but I love that I have the choice to break generational habits! Praise and amen!

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