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"Look Harder"

John 8:48-59

Rev. Alan Taylor

Holy Trinity, series C
St. John Lutheran Church  
Galveston, Texas

Sun, May 22, 2016 

+ In Nomine Jesu +

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Scriptures know of no God but the God who created the heaven’s and the earth and all that is within them.  Genesis 1 and 2 are, of course, the narrative of God’s creative endeavor.  He spoke and light pierced the darkness.  He spoke again and the dry ground and the seas were formed and separated one from another.  He said, “Let us make man in Our image” and Adam was formed from the dust of the ground.  He created them “both male and female.” The Scriptures know of no God but the God who created the heaven’s and the earth and all that is within them.

In this morning’s Gospel reading, Jesus stands before those who reject Him, not simply as a good man, or, even as prophet, or, as a teacher of morality.  Rather, He stands before them as the creator of the heaven’s and the earth, God in the flesh.  When those who reject Him pick up stones to throw at Him, they do so because He claimed to be more than they could accept. 

Despite the fact that there are some people today who deny that Jesus ever laid claim to being God, His enemies of old are the supreme witnesses of who He claimed to be.  The whole point of today’s Gospel reading is that Jesus claimed to be both our creator and our redeemer, the One who gives us life and breath, as well as, the One who takes our sin unto Himself that we might be set free from its guilt and its condemnation. 

I’d like to take you back for moment to a movie that was popular in the mid 90’s.  In the “The Lion King,” Rafiki, the sage animal figure who plays the seer, encounters a lost Simba, the heir to the Pride-lands throne.  At Rafiki’s bidding, Simba gazes into a pool of water looking hoping to receive a message from his dead father, Mustafa.  He looks into the pool and he sees nothing.  Rafiki leans over and says to him, “look harder.” “Look harder.”

If you look into the words of the Gospel’s, and in particular this passage before us this morning, and you don’t see Jesus’ claiming to be your creator and your redeemer, “look harder.  “Abraham (Jesus said) rejoiced that he would see my day.  He saw it and was glad.”  So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”  So they picked up stones to throw at him.”

Even without any sort of understanding of the two Biblical languages, Hebrew and Greek, it is quite clear what Jesus says of Himself.  “Before Abraham was, I am.” The “I am” of Jesus’ claim is a form of the verb to be.  Therefore, He says, before Abraham, I existed.  My days and years precede Abraham. 

How though could Jesus have existed before Abraham, a man who had been dead for more than 2,000 years?  As those who rejected Him said, “you are not yet fifty years old.” Without even looking at the original languages, it’s clear that Jesus claimed an eternal existence for Himself.  “Before Abraham was, I am.” He claimed, though, much more than an eternal existence.  The Jews who picked up stones to stone Him to death, who understood Greek and Hebrew, knew exactly what and who He claimed to be.

Moses, as you recall, brought the Israelites out of their bondage in Egypt some 1,500 years before the birth of Jesus.  God said to Moses, go to Pharoah and tell him to let my people go!  Moses, who was a reluctant leader in the first place, said, when I go and tell the Pharoah to let Your people go, who shall I tell him has sent me?  God said to Moses, “I am that I am.” Yes, in this case, the “I am” is from a Hebrew form of the verb to be.  “I am that I am.” The Hebrew word is Yahweh, the name know by the Jews as the covenant name of God.  Our English translations usually simply translate it LORD.

There is an important connection that exists between the Hebrew form of the verb and the Greek form.  Stay with me here because this is really important.  By the time Jesus was born, the Jews in and around Jerusalem no longer spoke their native language, which, of course, was Hebrew.  Since they were no longer able to speak or read Hebrew, the Old Testament had to be translated into Greek so they could read and understand it. 

As it turns out, the name that God gave Moses when Moses asked who shall I say sent me, the name Yahweh, is exactly the same name that Jesus claimed for Himself in this passage that’s before us, although in a Greek form.  Again, without even knowing any Greek or Hebrew, you can see from the passage in John’s Gospel that the Jews knew exactly who Jesus claimed to be.  He claimed to be God in the flesh and since they rejected His claim to being God, He was declared a blasphemer, which meant, He should be stoned to death.

There is more though to this passage than Jesus simply identifying Himself as God.  Certainly, that in itself, is an incredible claim, but remember, the Scriptures know of no God but the God who created the heaven’s and the earth.  When Jesus says, “Before Abraham was, I am,” He claims to be the creator and the redeemer of the world.  Yes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.   He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”

Having been “fearfully and wonderfully made,” look harder into the words of Jesus, that you might see the very One who “formed (your) inward parts; (who) knitted (you) together in (your) mother’s womb.” Contemplating the majesty and the wonder of God’s creation, I am compelled to confess with the Psalmist, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.”

Jesus, the Word made flesh, is your creator, for “without him was not anything made that was made.” As you consider the claim He made that nearly got Him stoned to death, look beyond the majesty of His creation, to the cursed cross whereby He bore in His body your sins and mine.

It so happened that when the soldiers came out to the garden to arrest Jesus, He asked them, “whom do you seek?” They said to Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” He said to them “I am He,” and when He said those words “the soldiers drew back and fell to the ground.” Look harder…the One who created you is also the One who redeemed you.  God took on human flesh and in your place He died a cursed death that you might live.

It is your creator and redeemer who comes to you today to give life and salvation.

“The infant Priest was holy born

For us unholy and forlorn;

From fleshly temple forth came He,

Anointed from eternity.

The veil is torn, our Priest we see,

As at the rail on bended knee

Our hungry mouths from Him receive

The bread of immortality.”

In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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