Before Abraham Was, I AM

Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. 50 And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges. 51 Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”

52 Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ 53 Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?”

54 Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. 55 Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”

58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

59 Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. — John 8:48-59.

Jesus refutes their false and cynical accusation that He is possessed by a demon. He always follows His Father and seeks His glory. Those who keep His word have eternal life. To show that His eternal existence predated Abraham’s life He says, ‘Before Abraham was, I AM.’ (‘I AM’ is an Old Testament title of God.) Jesus passes through them, unharmed, despite their attempt to stone Him to death for blasphemy. Jesus is not just a prophet but the eternal Son of God.

“a Samaritan” (v.48). — A term of insult, possibly implying that Jesus was born out of wedlock.

“have a demon.” — When cornered by the truth, Jesus’ enemies turn to blasphemy (Matt. 12:24, 31).

“I do not have a demon” (v.49). — Jesus’ conduct, in honoring the Father and not seeking self-glory, is the opposite of what a demon-possessed person would do. Jesus is not afraid to refer the matter to God’s judgment (cf. 17:4).

“if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” (v.51). — Death, as eternal separation from fellowship with God, is the judicial punishment for sin (Rom. 6:23). Since Jesus died on behalf of His people, those who belong to Him are freed from the penalty of sin because Christ endured it for them.

“never.” — In extending the promise beyond this life, Jesus lays claim to a divine prerogative. The Jews understood the statement as promising avoidance of physical death (v. 52). Earlier statements made clear what Jesus meant (5:24–29).

“Are you greater than our father Abraham” (v.53). — Abraham and the prophets, great as they were in the history of redemption, could not take away death. Only Christ has triumphed over the grave.

“My honor” (v.54). — In the days of His earthly ministry, Jesus did not seek honor even though it belonged to Him as the Son of God. Christ’s glory was visible to those who had eyes to see it (1:14). It was apparent in His resurrection and ascension (1 Tim. 3:16), and will be seen fully at His Second Coming.

“Abraham . . . saw it and was glad” (v.56). — Abraham saw Christ’s day as he embraced in faith many promises given to him by God, promises that demanded the coming of Christ to be fulfilled. Since the context of the discussion has been Satan as a murderer and Jesus as one whose death delivers from death, it may have special reference to God’s providing the ram as a substitute when Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Isaac. This statement shows clearly that even in Old Testament times, believers were saved through faith in Christ presented to them in the foreshadowing given by God to reveal His redemptive plan (cf. Acts 4:12).

“fifty years old” (v.57). — Jesus was closer to thirty (Luke 3:23).

“before Abraham was, I AM” (v.58). — This is a clear reference to Jesus’ eternal preexistence. Since this is an attribute of God alone, this text is a forceful statement of Jesus’ deity. The present tense of the verb suggests the eternal present of God’s eternity. “I am” is also reminiscent of God’s name in Exodus 3:14.

“they took up stones” (v.59). — The Jews would not accept Christ’s claim to be God, but treated it as blasphemy, for which stoning was required in the law (Leviticus 24:16; cf. John 10:31; Matthew 26:65).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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