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“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” John 8:58
Jeralean Talley died in June 2015 as the world’s oldest living person—116 years of age. In 1995, the city of Jerusalem celebrated its 3,000th birthday. One hundred sixteen is old for a person, and 3,000 is old for a city, but there are trees that grow even older. A bristlecone pine in California’s White Mountains has been determined to be older than 4,800 years. That precedes the patriarch Abraham by 800 years!
Jesus, when challenged by the Jewish religious leaders about His identity, also claimed to pre-date Abraham. “Very truly I tell you,” He said, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58). His bold assertion shocked those who were confronting Him, and they sought to stone Him. They knew He wasn’t referring to a chronological age but was actually claiming to be eternal by taking the ancient name of God, “I am” (see Ex. 3:14). But as a member of the Trinity, He could make that claim legitimately.
In John 17:3, Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” The timeless One entered into time so we could live forever. He accomplished that mission by dying in our place and rising again. Because of His sacrifice, we anticipate a future not bound by time, where we will spend eternity with Him. He is the timeless one.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, the sun forbear to shine; but God, who called me here below, will be forever mine. John Newton
When the Lord Jesus declared, “Before Abraham was born, I am,” in John 8:58, He was merely borrowing the unique title used of God in Exodus 3:14 (I am). What is meant by the title “I Am”? God is the self-existent and only supreme Being. If God is perpetually and permanently present, He can definitively declare, “I will be with you” (Ex. 3:12). God is not a deist—a do-nothing deity who is retired from all activity. He did not “wind up” the world like a huge watch only to let it run on its own. God is sovereign over all creation and lovingly cares for all He has made.