Before Abraham Was, I Am

– Thursday Week 5 of Lent –

‘Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.”’  [John 8:56–58]

Once again, Jesus meets a hostile misunderstanding about his identity. Once again, the evangelist portrays Jesus as from a higher realm than his listeners. Jesus even claims to live beyond the borders of death. In all of Jesus’ conversations with the religious leaders in John’s gospel, he vehemently asserts that he not only came from God, but he is God. Jesus says, “If you want to see God, here I am!” But it seems his listeners are both enraged and ashamed that one of their number would claim to be the Son of God. This passage seems like a shouting match. There is heightened feeling on both sides.

The relentless interrogation regarding Jesus’ identity shows how important this is to both sides, both then and now. Without faith, Jesus’ claims are outrageous and likely to be rejected and scorned, both then and now.

At the end of John chapter eight, we have another rejection of Jesus by his own kind; they threw stones at him, a humiliating gesture. They believed that everything had been fulfilled and completed with the commandments. They could not connect the fulfilment of the commandments in Jesus with God’s covenant with their father, Abraham. What would have been needed for his listeners to accept that Jesus’ claims to be divine are true? Is it any different to what I myself might need to accept Jesus’ divinity now? Perhaps it is as simple as an openness of heart and mind that apprehends that God wants to free us from making the law an idol.

“It is impossible for Jesus to convince a closed mind, impossible to give a new message….These people had not listened to the prophets, and they were not listening to Jesus. [Theirs] went beyond simple stubbornness…It was the idolatry of their own thought” (Pope Francis, Morning Meditation, April 10, 2014).


by Janiene Wilson

get the daily reflections sent directly to your email

Thank you, we'll be in touch soon

You can close this page now, or if you would like to learn more about us, check out our website.