17 April, 2024

Jan. 7 Lesson | Before Abraham Was, I AM

by | 1 January, 2024 | 0 comments

INTRODUCTION TO JANUARY LESSONS: Jesus made several claims about himself in the Gospel of John. These claims connected the dots between his name, his identity, and his mission. They all have Old Testament antecedents with additional connections to Israel. In Part 2 of this three-month study in the Gospel of John, students will learn of Jesus’ superiority to Abraham, how Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the exclusive way of salvation, and the true vine (new Israel). This LORD is the great I AM.  

Unit: John (Part 2)
Theme: I AM
Lesson Text: John 8:31-58
Supplemental Texts: John 1:1, 12; Exodus 3:13-15; Matthew 1:1; 3:7-9; Romans 9:6-8
Aim: Do the work of the Father, who has set you free and claims you as his child.
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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the study by Mark Scott, the Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions): LOOKOUT_Jan7_2024.

Send an email to [email protected] to receives PDFs of the lesson material each month.

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By Mark Scott

It is hard to overstate the significance of Abraham. Today he is looked to as the father of three religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. His name is mentioned 11 times in this lesson text. In the music department, I’ve heard people say, “It all goes back to the polka”; in the Bible, we could say, “It all goes back to Abraham” (Genesis 12:1-3). 

The controversy about Jesus continued to swirl in this “festival section” of John’s Gospel (chapters 5-10). His claims and miracles had the religious leaders nearly in a fit. Whether the festival was Passover, Tabernacles, or Dedication, Jesus was a lightning rod of controversy. Jesus finally came up to Jerusalem for the Festival of Tabernacles (John 7:10), and the dialogue there led to an aggressive and pointed confrontation. 

Abraham and Israel 
John 8:31-47 

Some Jews believed Jesus’ word and were being liberated to the freedom that only he could give (v. 31). In these verses, John clearly juxtaposed the Jewish religious leaders and Jesus. Those leaders had heard Jesus teach about his Father, so they made this bold claim intending to one-up Jesus’ Father: “We are Abraham’s descendants” (v. 33). They obviously said this in a boastful manner, and then they claimed to not have been enslaved. They had a bad case of spiritual amnesia. Can you say, “400 years in Egypt?”  

The term slavery was not always literal for Jesus, however. Slavery to sin can be a form of terrible solitary confinement. Only Jesus (not Abraham) can set those prisoners free. Jesus agreed with those debating him that they were Abraham’s “physical” descendants, but they were not living up to the spiritual legacy of Abraham. Evidence of this was their desire to kill Jesus.  

Jesus told the leaders that they had another father; this statement angered them, so they said, “Abraham is our father” (v. 39). Jesus took them to the woodshed by accusing them of being very unlike Abraham (vv. 39-41). This sounded to the Jewish leaders like a charge of spiritual illegitimacy, so they went in for the kill, “The only Father we have is God himself” (v. 41). Jesus’ logic was impeccable. If God really was their Father, they would love his Son and hear what he wanted them to hear.  

Jesus asserted that their real father was the devil. Therefore, their father was a murderer, their father was not holding to the truth, their father had no truth in him, and their father was the father of lies. Jesus was not afraid to relate the truth to anyone. He asked a question no other human would be willing to ask: “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (v. 46). Only an extremely confident or foolish person would possibly expose themselves to such potential criticism. The bottom line was that Israel’s leaders did not truly belong to God

Abraham and Jesus 
John 8:48-58 

The Jewish leaders responded to Jesus’ words with name-calling and charges. They charged Jesus with being a Samaritan and being demon-possessed. Jesus denied these accusations by saying he sought no glory for himself but only for his Father. Jesus was so “other-centered” that there was no way he was making bogus claims. If people would just obey Jesus, they would be spared from death. 

This was preposterous to the leaders, so they reminded Jesus that Abraham had died, as had the prophets.  So, they asked him two questions: (1) Was Jesus greater than Abraham, and (2) Who are you? Jesus responded by talking about how the Father and Son glorify (a key word in John’s Gospel) each other, and how he knows the Father intimately. In fact, Jesus said, if he did not know the Father, then “I would be a liar like you” (v. 55). That statement angered them.  

Jesus then verbally needled them by saying, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (v. 56). (Note: Momentarily, and for the sake of the argument, Jesus agreed that Abraham was their father; compare this with v. 39.)  

The religious leaders were thinking only on a physical plane. They could tell that Jesus was not 50 years old. How could he know Abraham? Then Jesus made one of his most stunning claims ever, “Before Abraham was born, I am” (v. 58). Critics who contend that Jesus never claimed to be God need to read this verse again. The leaders knew exactly what Jesus was claiming. It is why, a verse later, they moved to stone him. Jesus refused to be polarized, and yet he is the most polarizing figure in history. 

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