Author’s Note: Interested readers can find all previous volumes of this series here.
One of my favorite Bible Study topics involves two words – “I AM” that profoundly connects the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) with the New Testament.
Together these passages represent a key Bible study concept that I am fond of repeating to my Jewish brothers and sisters – the New Testament fulfills the Old.
Let’s begin with Chapter 3 of the Book of Exodus when Moses and God engage in what I consider to be one of the most fascinating conversations ever recorded. God first appears to Moses in the famous “burning bush.” Then the Almighty informs Moses that he has been chosen to lead “my people” from slavery.
And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."
But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain." Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you' " (Exodus 3:9-14).
Not only has Moses been selected for a mission from God, but he is on a first-name basis with the Creator! (Exodus spoiler: This is “Mission Miraculous.”)
Now fast forward around 1,475 years. (According to BibleHub’s timeline, God appeared to Moses in approximately 1446 BC. Our next scene was around 29 AD.)
Here is the scene that begins John Chapter 8.
Jesus is teaching to “all the people gathered around him” in the Jerusalem temple court. Also milling about and intently listening are Jewish priests and leaders, “the teachers of the law and Pharisees.” The exchanges between Jesus and the teachers become testy and increasingly volatile. We begin our reading with the Pharisees asking Jesus a “hell” of a question. The arguments come to a screeching halt when Jesus stuns the leaders with the modern-day equivalent of a “mike drop.”
“The Jews answered him, "Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?"
"I am not possessed by a demon," said Jesus, "but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death."
At this they exclaimed, "Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?"
Jesus replied, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."
"You are not yet fifty years old," they said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!"
"Very truly I tell you," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"
At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds” (John 8:48-59).
The Jewish leaders knew precisely what Jesus meant by saying, “I am.” (And exactly why Jesus used the phrase.)
My NIV Study Bible explains it well, “Jesus did not say “I was” but “I am,” expressing the eternity of his being and his oneness with the Father.”
Moreover, Jesus, concluding His teaching with “I am”— and earlier, in verse 12 saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" — committed himself to a death sentence.
“I AM” is among the most dramatic examples of why the Hebrew Bible and New Testament must be studied side-by-side to fully understand the Word of God.
And to that, I say, “Amen!”
Myra Adams is a media producer and conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. She is also Executive Director of www.SignFromGod.org, a ministry dedicated to educating people about the Shroud of Turin. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com or on Twitter @MyraKAdams.