by Pastor Matt Bishop
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‘Are you greater than our Father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?’ (John 8:53).
‘Who do you think you are?’ It’s a question you might have been asked by someone you have offended and who is having a go at you. It’s in that context that Jesus was asked the same question by his adversaries.
Who did Jesus think he was? The 11 verses of today’s text are typically dense, as is often the case for John’s Gospel. Nevertheless, three beautiful self-identifications of Jesus stand out for us in three separate verses.
Firstly, Jesus is the one whose word brings life. ‘Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death’ (verse 51). ‘Obey’ here is not in the first instance about keeping the law. To ‘obey’ Jesus in John’s Gospel is to make our home in him, to remain in him as he remains in us (John 15:4). This happens when we believe in him and his word. He is the sent word that God now stands before us with the benefits of his very death, resurrection and life eternal for us to receive.
Secondly, Jesus is the one that reminds us that those who believe rejoice. ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad’ (verse 56). Abraham believed God (made his home in God – Genesis 15:6), saw his deliverance (Genesis 15:17–21; 19:29; 21:2; 22:9–18) and laughed with surprised gladness (Genesis 17:7). Those making their home in Christ rejoice, don’t they? (Reading Abraham’s life as recorded in Genesis 12–25 won’t disappoint if you can prioritise it today.)
Thirdly, Jesus is the eternal one, greater than the head of God’s chosen – Abraham – because he is God. ‘Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am!’ (John 8:58). ‘I Am’ is God’s name. Jesus, the Word, was with God in the beginning. ‘Through him all things were made … in him was life, and that life was the light of all people’ (John 1:3,4 NRSV).
Jesus, able to back his claim entirely through his deeds, death and resurrection, declares he is our life-bringer who invites us to make his home with him. The one who brings eternal rejoicing. The one who brings God because he is God.
Who, for you, do you think Jesus is?
Lord Jesus, thank you for your invitation to make our home with you. You are God and bring life and rejoicing to match. Bear this out in my life for all people I live around. Through your Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.