Some thinkers will argue that if you took five people and asked them questions about you, one of them would love and understand you regardless of what you do, one will dislike you and misunderstand you whatever you do, and the other three will weigh you up, and take a balanced view.
Other thinkers will advise you that the most important journey is to know and understand yourself.
The Son of Man spent much time and energy learning and growing (according to Luke the doctor), and in his early thirties he was able to say: “I know where I am come from”, “I know where I am going” and “I know who I am”.
You can find all these statements in the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel, culminating in the proclamation we have been examining: “before Abraham was born, I am”. Jesus’ understanding of himself is clear. He had come from God, he was going to God, and is God.
In this revelation of himself, he is showing you the importance of knowing where you come from, where you are going, and who you are. It’s one of life’s greatest tasks, to gain clarity on all these matters, because your work, your relationships, and your entire life will be shaped by that clarity.
So how do people react to a person who has clarity in these three areas? You will find that some are drawn to you, some are repelled by you, and others weigh you up with a sense of balance.
But in the world of the Son of Man, we are not just exploring identity in isolation. We are looking at an identity in relation to God.
Gaining clarity, for you, will mean becoming clear about your origination in God the creator, your destiny towards God your Father, and your status now as a follower of the Son. These clarities will shape all that you do and say.
They also will run the risk of provoking strong reactions. At the end of the eighth chapter of John, the audience picked up stones to stone him.
They liked neither the content, nor the fact of his clarity. It clashed severely with their views.
Nothing has changed.
If you believe that you are created, then scientists and atheists will pick up stones. If you believe that you are heading for heaven, others will pick up stones. If you are sure that you are a follower of the Son of Man, someone will wish you harm.
Interestingly, Jesus did not always handle these moments in an identical way. In the one we are looking at here, he hid himself, and slipped away. At another time, he faced them down and walked right through them (Luke 4:29), a third time, he engaged them in an assertive conversation (John 10).
There was a fourth time, when he did not run, face them down, or engage them in conversation; he just took it, and it killed him.
Being clear is not always easy.
57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
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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