Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am.
With filial pride the Jew thought of "Father Abraham." So hearing of our Lord's lofty claims they asked, "Art thou greater than he?" "Yes. He rejoiced to see My day." With prophetic vision, doubtless; but surely more than this is meant. When did Christ's "day" begin? Away back at the time of the first promise it broke. God, called also "the Angel of the Lord," or Christ Himself temporarily assuming human form, appeared to Abraham more than once, and perhaps here is a reference to a revelation of Christ, brighter than the rest, but made known to none other. Then the Jews said, "Thou art not fifty years old," etc. Our Lord replied (literally), "Before Abraham was brought into being, I exist." The statement is not that Christ came into existence before Abraham, but that He never came into being at all. The Jews understood this as a Divine claim, and took up stones against Him as a blasphemer.
1. Then we think of the eternity of Christ. There never was a point when He began to be. Not so with man, angels, the universe. Go back eighteen hundred years to the time of Abraham; back further still to the time of Noah, Enoch, Adam; back before any creature existed: "In the beginning was the Word," etc. Meet Him anywhere in eternity past or in eternity to come, and He says, "I am."
2. How can we think of the eternity of Christ? What know we of eternity? Suppose the patriarchs were living now, with what awe should we listen to their words weighty with the experience of millenniums. But they had a beginning. Let the ages be reckoned back to when the world was not, and added to those which shall follow till it shall cease to be, and what shall we pay for the stupendous sum total? But this is not eternity. Call in angelic numeration, and gather into one gigantic aggregate the sands of the shore, the drops of the ocean, and the stars of the sky; what would it be? Only a spot of spray to the immeasurable ocean.
3. But the eternity of Christ is a doctrine most blessed and practical, because related to the Divinity of Christ. We need a Divine as well as human Saviour, and we have one in the "I am."
I. Is Christ eternal? THEN ASSURED IS THE LIFE OF ALL LIVING THINGS, "By Him all things consist." Because He is eternal, the stars wax not dim; they are as bright to us as they were to Abraham. Because He is eternal, the flowers of each coming spring are as fair as their blooming ancestry in the dawn of the world. Because He lives, "While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest...shall not cease." Because He lives man lives. How sweet and fresh the beauty of the newborn child! The hand of the Eternal has moulded it. And so come the successive generations of children. The years bring changes, and the man is unlike the child. Yet the soul that lives in Christ is never old; it is "renewed day by day."
II. Is Christ eternal? THERE IS HOPE, THEN, FOR EVERY MAN. Withdrawn from human sight, He ever liveth to make intercession for us. Stephen saw Him, and Paul, and John; and now He reaches forth His invisible hand to save.
III. Is Christ eternal? THEN WE HAVE ONE ABIDING FRIEND. We can lose much here; much, thank God, that it is well to lose — ignorance, bad habits, sin. But there are some bereavements that impoverish us, through injustice, misfortune, accident, loss of friends. But if Christ is ours we have an eternal possession. He loves us to the end. Lose what we may, who can be poor with Him. "Who shall separate us," etc.
IV. Is Christ eternal? THEN HIS KINGDOM THOUGH DELAYED SHALL COME. We wonder at the tardy steps of Truth. But what are the millenniums to Christ? His name shall endure forever.
(G. T. Coster.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.