Understanding grace begins with appreciating God.
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
As an example, I remember going cliff diving with a group of friends in college. There were a wide range of options regarding the height of the jumps, and testosterone was definitely a factor in choosing launch points. I would like to think it was more from wisdom than fear that I decided to dive from reasonable heights. If someone backed down from a diving point on the canyon, his return to a lower height was called “the walk of shame” (you can probably detect that this story is a description of my experience, not a recommendation). Some friends who were experienced divers would stand at the top of the cliff and prepare to dive. There was a buzz in the air because of their boldness.
When Jesus spoke, I think there was a similar buzz as people contemplated the meaning of His words and actions. Early in my spiritual exploration, even though I studied the life of Jesus and was impressed, I still didn’t want to follow Him. I knew it was a major decision, and I didn’t want to make the commitment. I wanted to make sure that I felt like I could really trust Jesus.
It’s possible to know He is good, yet at the same time resist Him. How is admiring Jesus from a distance different than walking closely with Him? No person could simply persuade me to follow Jesus, but the decision came after spending time reflecting on His life, teaching, and love. God changed my heart, and I realized that nothing in my life could compare to Him and what He was offering. God is the source of all grace.
Understanding grace begins with appreciating God. In the book of Exodus, chapter 3 verse 14, God introduces Himself to Moses with the personal name, “I AM WHO I AM”. The Israelites know that the name “I AM” is God’s name, but a pious Jew, in reverence, would not even write out the full name. So when Jesus makes the statement that He existed before Abraham, He is telling the crowd that He is God.
It would have been tempting to deny this fact to please the crowd, but the grace of Jesus is grounded in truth. Jesus was not created—He always existed! Grace doesn’t water down the substance of the message of Jesus. There are seven additional times in the gospel of John that Jesus makes an “I AM” statement. Why does Jesus want everyone to know that He is fully human and fully God? Notice the everyday images Jesus uses in His descriptions of Himself as He invites us to get to know Him personally.
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Excerpt republished with permission from Rooted in Grace by Jesse Bradley c. 2012