Title: Before Abraham was, “I AM”!
Text: John 8:53-59
53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
The Medal of Honor was created in 1861, and it is awarded by the President of the United States, in the name of Congress at a ceremony attended by senior military personnel, members of Congress and other leaders.
It is, the highest honor for military valor and is awarded for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty" by a member of the U.S. Armed Forces during combat against an enemy.
On Sept. 29, 2006 in an extraordinary act of courage, Michael Anthony Monsoor 25, petty officer of the U.S. Navy's Special Operations Command, shielded three of his U.S colleagues and three other Iraqi soldiers from the imminent blast by throwing himself onto the grenade. The resultant blast killed him.
President Bush praised Monsoor for his valor and selfless service to the nation at the ceremony. "Michael had two options," said the president, "save his life or those who were with him, but he chose to lay down his life for them."
On this Memorial Day weekend we remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice laying down their life for their fellow man and for the freedom we so cherish and enjoy.
I am reminded of what John says in his Gospel in chapter 15 verse 13:
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
And on this Trinity Sunday (Weekend) we look to our one true God who has revealed himself as one divine essence, but also as three unique and coequal persons … Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And to this divine essence Jesus claimed Sonship, for the work He came to do and was to accomplish, in only what God could do in Christ by taking on human flesh and laying down His life for the sins of the world, paying the price that you and I could never pay and to this work and revelation Jesus claimed:
Before Abraham was, “I AM”!
The question that the Jews ask Jesus and the question that is asked many times over about Him; are you God?
The Jews first say that Jesus is a Samaritan and accuse Him of having a Demon! To which Jesus replies:
49 … “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
Well, this really gets under their skin because they are now convinced more than ever that Jesus has a Demon because they know that:
‘Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’
Unbelief really has them messed up. So they press the issue:
53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! (… and here comes the big question …) Who do you make yourself out to be?”
The question that the Jews want to know is the same question that human reason can never grasp. How can this man be God? Their reason tells them that this man Jesus is not yet fifty years old so how can he say that:
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. (and that) He saw it and was glad.” Then Jesus makes one more statement that really causes grief and anger among the Jews. He says:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
Truly, Christ Jesus got their attention with this statement; claiming to be God and using God’s divine name!
In Genesis Chapter 15 God’s word says:
“… the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” (Gen 15:1b) And then He says:
“I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” (Gen 15:7b)
To claim God’s name was an offense for the Jews. For many in our day as well, the divine name of Jesus is an offense. In the gospel of John Jesus uses the divine name seven times.
1. I AM the Bread of Life (6:35, 41, 48)
2. I AM the Light of the World (8:12; cf. 9:5)
3. I AM the Gate (10:7, 9)
4. I AM the Good Shepherd (10:11, 14)
5. I AM the Resurrection and the Life (11:25)
6. I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life (14:6)
7. I AM the True Vine (15:1)
On the Feast of the Holy Trinity we understand that I AM is one God and that this one God is revealed as Father Son and Holy Spirit. The Athanasian Creed is long, has a strange name, is repetitive and may even appear confusing. We as LCMS Lutheran’s hold to the three Ecumenical Creeds but recite the Apostles Creed on non-communion weekends and the Nicene Creed on communion weekends but the Athanasian Creed is recited traditionally on Trinity weekend so we can be reminded of what the catholic (small “c” universal) faith is.
To know the true God is to know who he is and to know what He has done.
Our Creeds help us know God and confess what we believe.
Martin Luther thought highly of the Athanasian Creed. He said of it: I
doubt whether, since the time of the Apostles in the New Testament
Church, a more important and glorious creed has been written.
(W 6:2315) JMK
So why is it important? Well, is it important to know the truth? Is Jesus truly God, the great I AM or is He an impostor? Is the Holy Spirit God? Is the Father God? The first commandment says: You shall have no other Gods before me. So if one claims to be what they aren’t … they are a fraud!
The tale of Fred Renz is truly awe-inspiring -- a fighter pilot in the Korean War, he swooped into enemy territory under intense, hostile fire to save the lives of 152 Marines and soldiers.
And then, 40 years later, his heroism finally appreciated by a grateful nation, a Medal of Honor is awarded by the president in the name of Congress, and the Menlo Park real estate executive is written up in the local weekly paper.
The only problem is that “this hero'' is a fake, and his medals were lie.
It’s a fabrication of war-story imagination by a man who let the farce drag on for years, deceiving his family, friends and even high-ranking military officers who warmly welcomed them to countless Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades.
Now, though, some real Medal of Honor recipients are going after the frauds and exposing them.
Fred Renz was sentenced after pleading guilty to unauthorized wearing of the medal, fined $2,500 and was given a year's probation and ordered him into drug, alcohol and psychiatric counseling.
After his prosecution and conviction Renz's said:
"I proclaimed I was a recipient based on my war record, but I admittedly wasn't. This is not me. Why oh why did I do this thing?''
To claim to be what you are not can be a crime. To claim to be God, if you are not, is blasphemy.
Before Abraham was, “I AM”!
49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
The glory that God seeks as Father is to honor the Son. This honor is pointed to as we heard last weekend by the Holy Spirit who is coequal with the father and the Son.
54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’
The glory that Jesus has is given because He is God in the flesh and truly worthy. Not a glory that Jesus gives himself but a glory that is bestowed because he is truly God.
The Athanasian Creed declares the truth of God as Trinity and the uniqueness of God in diversity of persons. God has come to stand in your place and you see the fullness of God in Christ Jesus who takes away your sin and the sins of the world. In Christ you have the fullness of God standing in your place and taking your sin upon himself, nailing it to the cross forever. In Christ the Father is well pleased and in Christ you are seen by the Father covered by Christ’s righteousness made possible by the working of the Holy Spirit who has created faith in you to believe and trust in Christ’s finished work.
This Memorial Day we honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and also honor those who have served on our behalf. Their sacrifice is truly a gift that we all benefit from. It makes the sacrifice that Christ Jesus gave for the sins of the whole world all the more special because He did what could not have been by anyone in any other way.
Because of the Fathers sending, Jesus gave of Himself and we live in Him by the power of the Holy Spirit forever forgiven.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.