“Before Abraham Was, I AM”
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“Before Abraham Was, I AM”

John 8:52–59  (ID: 3645)

As conversations with Jesus in the temple grew more heated, His listeners wrestled with what to believe about Him and demanded to know who He was claiming to be. Jesus replied to them, “Before Abraham was, I am,” revealing that He is God the Son from all eternity. Alistair Begg examines Jesus’ words, underscoring their foundational and theological significance. Jesus is the eternal Christ, master of time, and ruler of the ages. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever—and because of who He is, He has power and authority to save all who believe in Him.

Series Containing This Sermon

“Truly, Truly, I Say to You…”

Twenty-Five Divine Declarations from John’s Gospel John 1:1–21:25 Series ID: 29001

Sermon Transcript: Print

Our reading this morning is from John chapter 8, and we’ll read from verse 48. John 8:48. We’re in the middle of this long dialogue between Jesus and the Jews, and the questions are coming, and the answers are being delivered, and so on. And from verse 48 we read:

“The Jews answered [Jesus], ‘Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?’ Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.’ The Jews said to him, ‘Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, “If anyone keeps my word, he will never [see] death.” Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, “He is our God.” But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham 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, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.”


Well, Lord, we thank you that your Word is fixed in the heavens—as we turn to it now, that we might understand your Word, that we might believe it, that we might trust in it, that we might live in the light of it, that we might gather ourselves up in it, Lord. We pray that you will save us from standing aloof from the truth that we now consider. Bring it home to our hearts in a life-changing way, we ask. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well, our “Truly, truly” this morning is there in verse 58: “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’” Everything, actually, throughout the first eight chapters has in one sense been building up to this quite amazing declaration. And in chapter 8, ever since Jesus has made the statement “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”[1]—ever since he has said that, he has been questioned; he’s been interrupted; he’s been contradicted. In fact, it’s a bit like these dreadful debates that—well, they call them debates—where we have political figures who try and say something, and immediately they try and say anything at all, they’re interrupted, they are accused, they’re contradicted, and so on. And this is exactly what’s going on here. He is accused of creating for himself a storyline about himself that isn’t true. That’s what they’re saying: “We can’t believe, Jesus, that you’re actually coming up with these various statements.”

And as the dialogue has progressed… And we can say it has progressed. It’s not that they are talking apart from one another or they’re talking beyond one another. It is a dialogue. And we’ve seen—although we haven’t worked our way through all of the chapter—we’ve seen that Jesus—can we say this?—that Jesus gives as good as he gets, that Jesus does not pull his punches. So, for example, in the section that begins with verse 39, which in my Bible has a heading, “You Are of Your Father the Devil”—it’s quite a statement. Verse 42: “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father’”—which is what they’re claiming—“‘you would love me, for I came from God and I[’m] here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.’” It’s as if the dialogue is taking place, and their mouths are working, their tongues are working, but their fingers are in their ears: “You can’t even bear to hear what it is I’m saying to you.”

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of [all who tell] lies.

Now, that is about as straightforward, I think, as a person can be.

And as a result of that, it is very clear that these [antagonists], the Jews—on the other side of this fence, as it were—it is clear to them that they are unable to keep up with him. They are being caught, if you like, in their own arguments, which are the very antithesis of being flawless. And so what do they do? They do, again, what happens, I think, in political debates: they resort to personal abuse. And so they start to call in question his identity: “You’re not a true Jew. You are a Samaritan,” they said. I think that’s what we should conclude. A Samaritan was just like a notch above being a heathen. “Not only are you a Samaritan, but we actually think that you have a demon.”

When we think about this and we realize what is actually being recorded for us here, it’s quite staggering, isn’t it? And yet, in conversation with people, that’s exactly what we discover: we want to speak to them about Jesus, and they do not believe what we tell them because they cannot bear to hear what is being said about Jesus. It is not that we are unable to articulate the claims in a reasonable way or that we stumble—although we may—but it is that they just can’t bear to hear what Jesus has to say.

Now, although they’re somewhat abusive in their approach, Jesus’ response, as we’ve seen, is actually calm. Verse 49, in responding to these accusations: “I don’t have a demon.” Jesus has to answer that question? The Son of God has to look these fellows in the face, when he has the power to command legions of angels to step down in the prospect of his death?[2] How gracious, how kind is Jesus! “I don’t have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. I don’t seek my own glory. There is One who seeks it.” You’ll notice it’s capitalized in your Bible, speaking of God: “There is One who seeks it, and he[’s] the judge.” And then, as we saw last time: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

So in other words, Jesus is calm in his explanation: “I’m not seeking my own glory.” And then he is bold in his declaration: “I’m telling you,” he says, “I’m telling you the truth: anyone who keeps my word will not see death”—an astonishing claim! We gave ourselves to it last time. If you did not manage out in the evening, I commend to you the evening study, which is online. The second half of the study last time was vital to understand what we were dealing with in the first. I don’t want to go back to it now, but I had a note in my notes that seemed very apropos, which I didn’t mention last time, but someone has said, “A wise man of seventy need not be always [fearing] (much less talking) about his approaching death: but a wise man of seventy should always take it into account.”[3] Well, enough said about that.

Once again to that amazing statement, the “Truly, truly” in 51. The Jews now come back at him again, and look at what they said: “Now we know that you have a demon!” In other words, “We thought you did, but now we’re pretty certain that you do. We’re able to conclude that that actually settles it.” In verse 48, their statement is somewhat diffident, isn’t it? “Are we not right?” They put it in the interrogative: “Are we not right in saying that you’re a Samaritan and have a demon? We’re wondering about this.” Now, in verse 52: “We’re absolutely clear about this. Now we know that you have a demon. And the reason we know is because Abraham died, the prophets died, and you are prepared to say, ‘Anyone who keeps my word will never see death.’”

Now, let me just make three observations.

First of all—and we’ll spend longer on the first two and very little on the third—first of all, let’s notice that in this entire dialogue here, these individuals, the Jews, are still wrestling with the question of Jesus’ identity. They still cannot get their heads, if you like, around the reality of what he’s saying, and when they begin to approximate to it, they recoil from it. So, verse 53, their question is straightforward: “Are you greater than our father Abraham, and along with the prophets who also died?” So they’re face-to-face with Jesus—literally face-to-face with Jesus—and their curiosity is aroused.

I don’t think it’s possible for a person to come face-to-face with Jesus, when we read the Bible and his words speak out to us, without realizing that there is a decision that has to be made. We either have to, as we said last time, bow down before him and worship him and receive him as the Lord of glory and the Savior of the world, or else we walk away from him. The curiosity of such an encounter is not unique to John chapter 8. In fact, although we didn’t study John chapter 4, it’s very much the same response as the woman at the well. When Jesus begins to speak to her in a face-to-face encounter, eventually she says to him, she asks him, “Are you greater, then, than our father Jacob, who built this well?”[4] What is she saying? “Who in the world are you? Who are you?”

Now, you may be here this morning, and that’s exactly where you are as you make your journey through life. You may have come as a result of a friend who invited you, and you, like these individuals, have as yet not fully resolved the question of Jesus’ identity.

I don’t think it’s possible for a person to come face-to-face with Jesus, when we read the Bible and his words speak out to us, without realizing that there is a decision that has to be made.

Now, they’re asking him, you will notice in 53—I hope your Bible is open—“Who do you make yourself out to be?” “Who do you make yourself out to be?” Now, the reason they’re asking that is because Jesus has made these amazing claims. He’s already told them, “I am the light of the world, and whoever follows me will never walk in darkness”; “I am the truth, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”;[5] and, most recently, “And anyone who keeps my word will never see death.” And they say, “No, this cannot possibly be.”

Now, the inference is straightforward. Jesus, they say, is making himself out to be something that he isn’t. Now, this isn’t the first time that we see this in the unfolding of John’s Gospel. You turn back for just a moment to chapter 5, and we see this happening again. The healing has taken place at the pool on the Sabbath. The paralyzed man has taken up his bed, and he’s gone off. Jesus has said to them, when they accused him of working on the Sabbath, he says, “Well, you should know that my Father is always working. I mean, he’s in charge of the sun, the moon, the waves, the tides, and everything. He never stops in the order of creation. My Father is working until now, and I’m actually working.”[6] Verse 18: “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”[7] In other words, he was making himself out to be something that he wasn’t.

Now, still in the text, Jesus then does not immediately answer their question about Abraham. You will see that. Their question is “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?” Jesus does not address that. He picks up on what he’s already said in verse 50. Remember, up there in verse 50, when they accused him of having a demon and so on, he said very straightforwardly, “I do[n’t] seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge.” Now he comes back to it, now, you see, in verse 54. “If I glorify myself,” he says, “that would mean nothing. But,” he says, “I am not without honor. And this glory is not self-given.” In other words, “I’m not glorifying myself. I’m not actually doing what you’re suggesting. I’m not making myself out to be something that I’m not.” So where, then, does this honor come from? Where does this glory come from? Well, he says: “It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’”

Now, when did they say that? Well, you have to go back up to verse, what, 41? “‘You are doing the works your father did.’ They said to him, ‘We were[n’t] born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.’” And Jesus again straightforwardly had said, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I [come] from God and I am here.” “I didn’t come on my own accord, but I was dispatched. I was sent here.” Remember that somehow, in the mystery of the purposes of God in eternity, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have set about, if you like, the business of salvation.

And we should just note what we say to our children when they ask us these big, hard questions about the mystery of God’s dealings—that very straightforwardly, we’re teaching our children and our grandchildren that Jesus Christ is God the Son from all eternity. God the Son from all eternity. When we read John’s Gospel, we find that he is also called the Word of God. “Well, how does this work?” they ask us. Well, he became a man. He was born into the world. Living in the world, he never stopped being God’s Son. He was born in the same way that anyone else is born, coming into the world according to the processes of the creative order. But he did not begin life nine months before he emerged when Mary gave birth. Why? Because he is not only the Son of God, but he is God the Son from all of eternity.

And this is foundational biblical doctrine, incidentally. This is not some strange, esoteric approach to understanding the doctrine of the Trinity. And so these individuals, these strict monotheists, are up against this dilemma: “How can it possibly be that you… We know where you came from. We knew that you worked with your father Joseph. We know about Bethlehem. We know about all these things. How can you possibly say this?”

Jesus became a man. He was born into the world. Living in the world, he never stopped being God’s Son.

Now, the words of Jesus, of course, are the words that the Father has given him. That is also very important. And it doesn’t come in this chapter, but it comes in John chapter 12—and you might want to just see that it’s there, if you turn to John 12 for just a moment. And again, in one of these great declarations of Jesus: “Jesus cried out and [he] said, ‘Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.’”[8] Now, that’s very important—very important for my Jewish friends. Some may be within earshot of my voice right now. Listen to what Jesus says:

Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I[’ve] come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does[n’t] keep them, I do[n’t] judge him; for I did[n’t] come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I[’ve] spoken will judge him on the last day.

Here we go, 49; this was what I was going to read: “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.” Jesus is saying, “I’m not giving myself an honor; the Father honors me. I am not taking glory to myself; it is the Father who glorifies me. I’m not making stuff up; I am speaking the words that the Father has given me to speak.” In other words, “If you get me, you get him. And if you get him, you get me.”

And so, it was a perplexity for them. “Unless you believe that I am he,” he said in verse 24, back in John chapter 8—remember in John 8:24, he said to them, “Unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

You see, there’s a consequence to unbelief. The people say, “Well, I just don’t believe. Doesn’t really matter.” Oh, yeah, it matters. Because you face eternal death. As soon as Jesus says that in verse 24, we’re back at the same question—verse 25. I’m looking now to see if it’s there. Yes, it is: “‘I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.’ [And] so they said to him, ‘Who are you?’” “Who are you?” They’re wrestling with the question of his identity.

I was sitting at my desk last night. As happens to me all the time, I suddenly was transported back to 1970, and I could hear in my head Mary Magdalene’s song from Superstar. Remember, it begins, “I don’t know how to love him. I don’t know” this, “I don’t know” that, that next thing.

I don’t see [how] me moves me.
He’s a man, … just a man. …

… So calm, so cool,
No lover’s fool,
Running every show.
He scares me so.[9]

Mary Magdalene, as given these words by Andrew Lloyd Webber, hasn’t really much of a clue what’s going on. And as you move around the community in these days, if there is any interest whatsoever in Jesus of Nazareth, most people that I encounter have already concluded, with Mary Magdalene, that “he’s a man, he’s just a man,” like so many others, so many different religious leaders, so many ideas out there, so many across the pages of human history. What’s the big deal about Jesus?

Now, these are the questions that we really ought to be having with our friends and neighbors. On the one occasion that is recorded when Paul Simon met in London with the late John Stott, John Stott said to him, “If our conversation is going to be profitable, why don’t we set ourself the task of asking the question, ‘Is Jesus Christ the person that he claimed to be?’” I wish I could have been able to listen in on that conversation to hear how Stott went through the material. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he didn’t turn to Matthew’s Gospel and remind Paul that Jesus had asked the question of his followers, “What’s the word on the street about me? When people are talking about me, who do they say that the Son of Man is?” And remember, they come to back to him, and they say, “Well, a number of people are suggesting that you’re kind of a reincarnation of John the Baptist. Some think you’re Elijah. Others think you’re Jeremiah. By and large, they’ve got you as just one of the prophets.” And he said to them, “Well, who do you say that I am?”[10] That’s the question—not “What’s the general consensus view of the contemporary Jewish milieu?” Or of our contemporary context: “What do people say?” Well, they say all kinds of things. But Jesus says, “But what do you say? You’re a ten-year-old boy. What do you say? You’re a successful nurse. What do you say? You’re a retired gentleman. What do you say?”

And, of course, Peter steps up, and he says, “Well, let me answer if no one else does: you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”[11] And Jesus says, “What a genius you are, Peter.” No. What did he say to him? He said, “Flesh and blood has not revealed [it] to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”[12] Remember, the Scriptures say that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” but by the work of the Holy Spirit.[13] It’s what we saw in the passage in John chapter 3, when Jesus is speaking about being born again, and as he explains… No this is actually not in John 3. This is in the prologue: “He came to his own; his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but born of God.”[14]

Flesh and blood doesn’t reveal this to you. You will never come to trust in Christ as a result of someone being able to argue you into a conclusion. Almighty God in Christ is able to speak such clarity into the life of these individuals, and they stand and look at him with their fingers in their ears. Only way that it happens! That’s why we’re going to pray tonight. When God opens blind eyes and softens hard hearts… Has he ever done that for you?

I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in him.[15]

We must move on, from the fact that they were dealing with this inquiry, unresolved, concerning Jesus’ identity, and now they find themselves confronted by Jesus’ claim to deity. “We’re not sure about your identity.” “Well,” Jesus said, “let me just make it a little harder for you: Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” “Your father”—verse 56—“your father Abraham”—“you keep on about your father Abraham; I get that”—“your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”

What is Jesus saying here? Well, he’s saying that during Abraham’s lifetime—during Abraham’s lifetime, which took place about two thousand years earlier—Abraham in that context rejoiced to see Jesus’ day. “Your question,” he says, “was: Am I greater than Abraham? The short answer: yes. Yes. That was what you wanted to know. Am I greater than Abraham, who died, and the prophets who died? Yes.” Because Abraham rejoiced in seeing the prospect of the day when the Messiah would come. And by faith he saw it from afar.

You will never come to trust in Christ as a result of someone being able to argue you into a conclusion.

Now, this is quite incredible and demanding. And one of the ways to deal with it is just to say, “How actually that happened I don’t really have much of a clue, but we know that it happened, because Jesus said that it happened; therefore, let’s move on.” But for those of you who are not satisfied with that kind of approach, let me give you a couple of angles to pursue on your own. Because there are a whole variety of ways in which we could say in Abraham’s time that he rejoiced to see Jesus’ day. For example—and I can’t turn to all of these in light of time—but, for example, in the vision of Genesis 15 where God establishes the covenant, and he walks in the mystery of that, and it says in that that Abraham, he fell into a deep sleep (it was like he was under anesthetic in Genesis 15): I think, perhaps, there in the vision. Maybe in the promise of blessing that would come in Genesis chapter 12, “Through your seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed”,[16] he looks forward with the eye of faith, as it were, and he takes God at his word, and he says, “Yeah, okay.”

Perhaps, actually, in the Lord’s appearing in Genesis 12—because one of the questions is always, about these mysterious people, Melchizedek and others, “Is this a preincarnate manifestation of the second person of the Trinity?” In Genesis—what is it, 18?—when you have the heavenly visitors, the three of them, personally, I take it that two are angels, and the other is a preincarnate arrival of the second person of the Trinity. There’s so much more in it. Did he see the day in the promise of the birth of Isaac? Did he see the day in the arrival of Isaac? Did he look at the arrival of Isaac and realize that God’s promise was true and therefore that somehow or another, this would lead eventually to that day when the Messiah would come from that line? I don’t know. We’ll have to ask him.

But what he was rejoicing in was a reality that he could only see, as it were, “through a glass, darkly.”[17] He was rejoicing when he says to Isaac—and we read that this morning, didn’t we, if we’ve done M’Cheyne this morning, in Genesis 22? That was not a [pretends to nudge]; that was just a “if you did.” I know it came across like that; it wasn’t supposed to. But… Because in Genesis 22, Isaac says to him, “Well, we’ve got all this stuff, but we don’t have a lamb.” Where in the world does Abraham come up with this? “God himself will provide a lamb.”[18] On the mountain he will do so. But there’s gotta be a sense, somehow or another, in what Jesus is saying here, you get an inkling of that at least. And what Jesus is doing here is he’s identifying the fact that all of the fulfillment of Abraham’s hopes, visions, joys, and anticipations—all of them—are fulfilled in his own person, in his own word, and in his own works.

Ryle, who’s been a help to me in these studies, at this point in his commentary, he makes a little statement. I’ll share this for what it’s worth. What he’s addressing is the fact that too many of us read our Bibles paying far too much attention to the blank page that’s in between Malachi and Matthew. Alec Motyer used to say very much along the same thing; he said, “Make sure that you take that page, and you tear it out of your Bible”—which, I’m not suggesting that you do that. I’m just having a look at mine. Yeah. Yeah, so you got that blank page in the middle. You say, “Well, once you get there, everything changes, you see. So how could Abraham know anything about the New Testament?”

This is Ryle: “The plain truth is, that we are too apt to forget that there never was but one way of salvation, one Saviour, and one hope for sinners, and that Abraham and all the Old Testament saints looked to the same Christ that we look to ourselves.” And then, quoting the Thirty-Nine Articles, which is the Anglican equivalent of the Westminster Confession, if you like, article number 7: “The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered through Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and man. Wherefore they are not to be heard”—people are not to be heard—“[who pretend] that the old Fathers”—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and so on—“[who pretend] that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises.” All they were looking for was a transitory promise. “This is [the] truth that we must never forget in reading the Old Testament. This is sound speech that cannot be condemned.”[19]

So what he’s actually saying there is, if you like, in relationship to Isaac, not only is Abraham looking to the fulfillment in a transitory way of the provision of Isaac, but he is actually looking beyond that transitory fulfillment to a fulfillment that is found in Jesus.

Now, the reaction, then—and we must stop—the reaction back in verse 57. The reaction once again on the part of these fellows is much the same: “So the Jews said to him, ‘You[’re] not … fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’” Well, he didn’t say he’d seen Abraham, right? He didn’t say that. He said, “Abraham saw my day, and he rejoiced and was glad.”

Now, what they’re doing is they’re doing what happens again and again. They respond crassly, if you like. They respond literalistically. They understand Jesus to be claiming to have been present on earth during Abraham’s lifetime. And that would then be how he could have seen his day. And that couldn’t be, because he hadn’t even reached the age of retirement. Why they chose fifty I don’t know, and I don’t think anybody else does. “Well, this couldn’t possibly be. You’re not fifty years old! How could you have seen Abraham?” And then comes the “I am.”

Here’s Calvin: “What Jesus Christ said about himself”—that he was before Abraham, before Abraham was created—“does not at all refer to his humanity. For he did not become man until many centuries after Abraham’s death.”[20] And they say, “Well, how could… You’re not even fifty! And he lived two thousand years ago. What are you talking about?” Calvin helps us out: he’s not talking about his humanity; he’s talking about his eternity. What he’s doing is he is taking to himself, and rightly so, the word that God used when Moses asked him—Exodus chapter 3—“When I go to your people to tell them what you’re telling me to tell them, who will I say sent me?” and he says, “You tell them that ‘I am’ sent you—‘I am that I am.’”[21] It’s the verb to be.

In other words, what Jesus is doing here is he’s picking up what John has given us in the prologue: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”[22] “Before Abraham came into existence, I am. He came into existence. I didn’t come into existence.” Divinity has no past. Deity has no past, no future. Deity is present: “I am.” “I am.” He doesn’t say, “Before Abraham was, I was.” He says, “Before Abraham was—a creature of time—I am.”

Now, we have to stop. But a commentator by the name of Morgan captures this, I think. He says, “That,” speaking of Jesus’ words, “is a supreme claim to Deity. … These are the words of the most impudent blasphemer that ever spoke, or the words of God incarnate.”[23] You’ve got to choose: you’ve got to decide that he is an impudent blasphemer, or it’s God incarnate.

Now, what makes this so significant—that’s why I was saying that it kind of builds to this—is in saying this, Jesus actually provides the answer to the previous questions. So, for example: How is it that he can claim to grant immortality to his followers? How could he say, “If you keep my word, you will never see death”? On what basis can he say that? Because of who he is: “I am.” It’s also the answer to the question “Who are you?”—verse 25. “I am. I’m God incarnate.” It’s also the answer to the question “How was it possible for Abraham to see his day?”

And so they said, “Well then, we’ll become your followers directly. Let’s just… Let’s just… It’s been a wonderful conversation, and we’re going to follow you.” No. So they did what was prescribed in Deuteronomy should be done to somebody claiming to be other than he was, someone claiming to be the prophet of God who wasn’t the prophet of God:[24] they picked up their stones to stone him. It’s interesting that people’s reaction to Jesus is often passionate like that. In Deuteronomy, there was a legitimate judicial process. That’s why it was put in place. This is not a judicial process. This is a passionate, arrogant response. This is like “Let’s just kill him.”

And Jesus is hidden away. “As man Jesus flees from the stones,” writes an ancient commentator, “but woe to those from whose heart of stone [Jesus] flees!”[25] “Jesus flees from the stones, but woe to those from whose heart of stone [Jesus] flees!”

Well, let’s leave it there.

Let’s pray:

Lord Jesus, thank you that you are the eternal Christ, that you share the everlasting life of the Father and of the Spirit, that you are the changeless Lord who towers over history. You’re master of time, ruler of the ages, undiminished by the passing of the centuries. You’re the same yesterday, today, and forever.[26] You are still able to save to the uttermost all who come to God through you.[27] Amen.

[1] John 8:12 (ESV).

[2] See Matthew 26:53.

[3] C. S. Lewis, “The World’s Last Night,” in The World’s Last Night and Other Essays (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1960), 110.

[4] John 4:12 (paraphrased).

[5] John 8:31–32 (paraphrased).

[6] John 5:17 (paraphrased).

[7] John 5:18 (ESV).

[8] John 12:44 (ESV).

[9] Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” (1970).

[10] Matthew 16:13–15 (paraphrased).

[11] Matthew 16:16 (paraphrased).

[12] Matthew 16:17 (ESV).

[13] See 1 Corinthians 12:3.

[14] John 1:11–13 (paraphrased).

[15] Daniel Webster Whittle, “I Know Whom I Have Believed” (1883).

[16] Genesis 12:3 (paraphrased).

[17] 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV).

[18] Genesis 22:7–8 (paraphrased).

[19] J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: St. John (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1878), 2:124.

[20] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 2.14.2. Paraphrased.

[21] Exodus 3:13–14 (paraphrased).

[22] John 1:1 (ESV).

[23] G. Campbell Morgan, The Gospel According to John (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1933), 161.

[24] See Deuteronomy 13:1–5.

[25] Augustine, Tractates on the Gospel of John 43.18, quoted in D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 358.

[26] See Hebrews 13:8.

[27] See Hebrews 7:25.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.