Sometimes you hear something so outrageous it beggars belief. Words which shock you to your core, leaving you furious and curious simultaneously. One aspect remains, you do not forget them or discard their echo.
For Jesus of Nazareth, as for you, there was a momentous task of becoming aware of his own identity. Theologians have argued over this for centuries illustrating that we are constantly exploring territory beyond our mental horizons. Jesus himself gives us clues and insights into his own journey.
Two people who knew Jesus well, and who Jesus gave to each other at the cross, were his best friend John and Mary, Jesus’ mother. You can be certain that, whenever you read the gospel called John, you have insights from both these characters who knew him intimately.
By the time we reach what we call their eighth chapter Jesus had reached his thirties. Here he says his outrageously provocative words, “Before Abraham was, born I AM!”
How many years it took Jesus to see this about himself is hard to say but it only took a second for those listening to become furious. Immediately they picked up stones to kill him. Jesus is absolutely clear that he existed before his own birth. If this was one sentence you may argue over its meaning but it comes at the end of 46 verses of sustained self awareness and self disclosure all pointing in the same direction – backwards. Jesus knows where he comes from and is not afraid to divulge it.
As he pulls the curtain back on this eternal drama he is showing you a profound theme of his life. Way back before anything, he was engaged in the creation of an architectural wonder designed in the inner landscape of the eternal triune God. Don’t take my word, engage with the Word. Stretching back to a place in time you can’t comprehend, an agreement was forged. Father, Son and Spirit formed a rescue plan you and I now know as the New Covenant.
Right in front of the eyes of first century Israelis, Romans, Greeks, Samaritans and whoever else was watching, a man in his thirties is revealing the unfolding drama of this covenant.
Every time Jesus spoke the words “I AM” he exposed his own pivotal role in the plan. He knows in his deepest being who he is and what he comes to do.
The herers thought of themselves as children of Abraham. They thought of the words “I AM” as a name of God.
Jesus is revealing his understanding of himself as before Abraham and equal with God. He is also revealing that his whole life is a working through of an ancient, timeless covenant.
Which brings you to your working week. Has it occurred to you that your life will also find its deepest meaning when you are self consciously an expression of that same covenant?
We will look at it again but here are three quick eye-openers for you.
First, Jesus came to rescue. The covenant has, at its heart, a rescue dimension. To be connected to it means being rescued.
For you to make any sense of you and your life you need to allow yourself to be rescued. It can be explained a thousand ways but let me remind you that the entrance into this deep covenant is not by activity but by surrender. It’s a gift. The only requirement is to say “yes please”. In this same section of Jesus’ words the gift is described as light, truth, freedom, life- in replacement of darkness, lies, slavery and death. Jesus himself is the gift and the gifts from a loving Father. Today, thousands of years later, it is the Spirit of God who energises and releases the outworking of that covenant in your soul by a process described elsewhere as so revolutionary it is a re-birth.
The second eye opener is simply that you, having trusted, received, engaged, enjoyed and experienced this amazing privilege will find that your life becomes meaningful in letting others see in you the outworking of this covenant. You become more and more conscious of who you really are and your own “I am” with smaller but real letters. I am a believer; I am a follower; I am a son/daughter; start to define your day.
Third, and this is crucial, everything you do is infused with rescue. Your words, your working practices, your lifestyle, your contracts, your projects, your job choices speak of rescue. You might like to remember that you will not always speak of getting it right or perfectionism for that would actually speak of self-reliance not rescue. A new covenant person promotes re-building, restoration and rescue in everything. Everything does not mean every churchy thing it means everything, every day. Then the flow of the covenant emerges from your self-awareness as it did from his. Then they can look on you and see someone else as they did with him. Then you will find joy and stones – as he did.
58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
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