Text: John 8:48-59, 1 John 1:1-4
This is part of a 10-day series on the person of Christ in the 2016 Lent study.
What was so special about Abraham? Why did people throw around “sons of Abraham” like it gave them some kind of special position of privilege? It seems like you couldn’t turn around in the New Testament without stepping on a son of Abraham (Luke 13:6; 19:9).
Abraham was important because he was the initial beneficiary of God’s covenant oath. Remember when God promised him offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky (Genesis 22:17)? By the time Jesus walked the earth, Abraham’s starry offspring were everywhere, clamoring for their rightful due as inheritors of the covenant.
As soon as my husband woke up this morning I nudged him, “Hey honey, where’s that verse in Matthew where Jesus says something like, ‘If I had a nickel for every son of Abraham…’?” He rolled over, opened his eyes, and grinned, “Oh, I don’t reckon Jesus mentions nickels in the New Testament.”
After coffee and some hunting, we found it. It turns out I was mistaken—the quote was from John the Baptist. In Matthew 3, he says, “And don’t presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones! Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:9-10).
While John the Baptist doesn’t mention nickels here, he’s essentially saying they’ve placed too much importance on being a son of Abraham and missed the bigger picture. In fighting over cotton candy, they were missing the whole circus.
“Jesus said to them, ‘I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am.’”
Jesus references Abraham because He is declaring not only His divinity, but His supreme authority and redemptive purpose. He is announcing His true self and declaring that He is greater than Abraham. Indeed, Christ was “before” Abraham in two profound ways.
First, as Creator, Christ is the firstborn over all creation (Colossians 1:15), and without Him nothing would have been made (John 1:3). As Creator, He has authority over everything. And as His creation, we ought to respond to Him with every obedience. He has made us for Himself (Isaiah 43:7), and therefore, we cannot live unto ourselves. We owe Him our whole lives—we owe Him everything.
Second, Christ is before Abraham because He is the Messiah. He was anointed to save us from our sins (Isaiah 61:1). This is the same gospel truth that overjoyed father Abraham—“he saw it and rejoiced” (John 8:56). Even now, Christ performs His role as perfect mediator before God’s throne, on our behalf (Hebrews 8:6).
Believing that Christ is the Messiah runs counter to our inclination to try to save ourselves. We endeavor to invent our own system of salvation, based upon our own accomplishments and problem-solving skills. We’d like to take at least a little credit, but we can’t: Christ is the only Savior. He alone is the appointed One. No man comes to the Father, but by Him (John 14:6).
Christ is greater than Abraham both because He is before him, and because He is the very Hope in which Abraham put his faith. He has proclaimed Himself to us, saying, “I Am!” that we might have fellowship in Him, that our joy may be complete (I John 1:3-4). Thanks be to God.