I AMFr. Barnabas Powell
Christ is risen!
Outrageous! Did you hear what he just said? Unbelievable! Completely out of bounds, provocative, and meant to offend. There is simply no justification for such rhetoric!
Unless, of course, it’s true.
They say that truth is always a defense against the charge of slander!
Where is all this coming from? Well, our Lord Jesus makes a pretty inflammatory comment in today’s Gospel Lesson. In fact, His statement is so completely outrageous that, unless it’s true, the outright blasphemy explains why they immediately took up stones to execute Him right then and there.
You see, the Lord is going to provide these religious leaders one, final, chance to be cured of their spiritual blindness, and He was going to use the strongest dose of “medicine” short of actually calling fire down from heaven. His statement was deliberate. It was calculated. And it created exactly the stir He meant for it to create. No ambiguity here. No parables. No more trying to gently lead them to the clear truth. Nope, this was an “in your face” “no holds barred” clear declaration of the basic reality to these religious leaders in a loving hope that this, final, clear statement would be enough to wake them up from the dead end path they were on.
And their response was to try to kill Him.
In John 8:51-59, we continue the dispute we read yesterday and the Lord looks at these religious leaders blinded by their own wooded obedience to the shadow of the truth rather than to the Truth Himself, and He lays it all on the line for them. The key passage is “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; and he saw it and was glad.” The Jews then said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:56-58)
Then they picked up stones to kill Him right then and there.
The reason His statement was so offensive, so provocative, and so outrageous was because the Lord, in one, clear, statement claimed to be GOD! If it isn’t true, He’s a blasphemer and that’s why they were going to stone Him. But if it is true…
You see, the Lord made two claims that meant He was God in the flesh. First, He claimed that the father of the Jewish nation, Abraham, actually rejoiced to see the day when Jesus would come to his people and redeem them. This claim meant that what Abraham heard from God all those centuries ago was fulfilled in the Lord Jesus. In other words, Jesus was saying He was greater than Abraham. Pretty outrageous claim on it’s own, but the Lord doesn’t stop there.
No, He draws in the second great figure in Jewish history. The Lord not only directly invokes Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation; He then goes on to use the same words God used to Moses, the great liberator of the Jewish nation. And not just any words. No, these words are going to be the very words God used to Moses when God called Moses to go and liberate His people from Egypt! In Exodus 3:13-15, Moses asks God to tell him what His Name is and God said “I AM WHO I AM” and “tell them “I AM” sent me to you!
In other words, our Lord Jesus states clearly to these religious leaders the uncomfortable truth that will forever upset the status quo. And it certainly did! God has come among His people as one of them, and the sickness of their souls blinded them to His true identity.
Today, what illness of your soul blinds you to the Lord’s presence in your world? What barriers do you have in your own heart and life that keep you from embracing the reality that God has loved you so much that He has taken on flesh, just like your flesh, and has done all you will ever need to heal you so completely that you will enjoy eternity in His presence? All the faith. All the practices, the liturgies, the icons, the candles, the hymns, the chanting, the architecture, the writings, the Holy Scriptures, the lives of the saints, all of this is designed by a loving God to acclimate you to His true identity and His everlasting presence. And all you are called to do is to exercise your will to embrace all these spiritual tools to shape your everyday life into a life that is already enjoying His Presence, right now.
After all, He is I AM Who knows no boundaries, no time constraints, and no lack. He is complete within Himself and humble, and He invites you to know Him so completely that you come to resemble Him. Frankly, you will never do anything in your life more important that this!