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John 8:48-59 Study Guide: Before Abraham Was, \"I am\"

Community Group Study Guide — Before Abraham Was, “I Am”
John 8:48-59

Study Information:

Jesus offers his followers a father-child relationship with God. John opened the gospel with that truth when he wrote, “to all who receive him he gives the right to be children of God.” Yet throughout the gospel we see the Jews rejecting instead of receiving Jesus. Instead of becoming renewed children of God they act like their father, the devil. Jesus told us in John 8:44 that the devil was a liar and a murderer from the beginning. The Jews got offended at this, and yet they persisted in lying and desiring to kill Jesus. Our text of scripture revealed their desire to lie and kill Jesus and yet Jesus continued to speak truth to them as the eternal one who offers eternal life. Let’s explore. 

Lies and Murder
John 8:48-50, 59

Throughout John 8 Jesus challenged their conceptions and beliefs about him and the Jews’ go to response was to insult Jesus by saying “he has a demon” or was a “Samaritan.” We’ve seen both of these insults earlier on in the gospel. They claim he had a demon because they’re trying to explain his miraculous works and at the same time explain away how he disregarded their interpretation of the law. The insult of being a Samaritan comes from how Jesus grew up in the Northern part of the country (he did not grow up in Samaria) and how he spent time in the region of Samaria and showed compassion and taught the Samaritans. The Jews did not like this because the Samaritans were not ethnically or religiously pure people in their eyes and not people worthy of such compassion.

Just as the devil is ready to lie and kill, so too are the Jews when Jesus challenges their beliefs about him. 

After Jesus told them about his eternal origins when he said, “Before Abraham was I am,” they got so angry that they picked up rocks to execute him by stoning. They wanted to murder him, which was behavior they learned from their father, the devil. You’ll notice that the group that picked up stones to throw at Jesus were the same group who “believed in him” at the beginning of John 8. The thing they could not accept about Jesus was his eternality as God the Son and pre-existing their spiritual Father Abraham. 

We all have “that thing” that is hard to accept about Jesus and his demands, and someone who keeps on believing is put into a position of needing to trust when they may not fully understand.

Despite their lying and evil desires, Jesus still held out the message of grace, truth, life and reconciliation. 

The Eternal One Offers Eternal Life
John 8:51-58

Those who keeps the words of Jesus will never see death (John 8:51). This means that Jesus words invite us into a life giving, reconciled relationship with God the Father. 

Earlier in John 8:31 Jesus talked about the need to “abide” in his word (stay, remain, live). This is not to say that our eternal salvation relies on our ability to live disciplined and obedient lives on our own effort. To abide in the words of Jesus is the same thing as to abide in relationship with him. It is to live in such a way that we desire to know his will and heart and to let those things transform us. Jesus is using this phrase to demonstrate a need for true faith that believes and keeps believing. 

The Jews objected because they read his statement as literally instead of literately. They took “death” as physical death and not spiritual death or separation from God. Abraham and the prophets all died, did that mean they did not abide in the words of God? Were they somehow inferior or lacking? No. Jesus told us in John 8:56 that Abraham looked forward to Jesus and to the cross in faith, Abraham “rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad (notice the past tense here). How did Abraham see it?! Because all the promises God made to him would later be fulfilled in Christ. Abraham knew there would be an offspring from his family line who would bring blessing to the world. That was the core of the promise God made to Abraham and he believed it although at times imperfectly, but still his faith persevered. 

The Jews respond to Jesus’ literal words rather than his intended meaning. "How can you say you've seen Abraham, you’re not even 50 years old!!??” As if a 70 year old Jesus could have seen Abraham… Jesus told them one more time about his eternal nature when he said “Before Abraham was, I am.” This is a loaded expression that causes the reaction in the crowd where they want to kill him for blasphemy. The first century Jews would not have wanted to kill Jesus if he was just a good moral teacher, no, here he is claiming to be the incarnate God. To say “I am” is to go back to Exodus 3 where Moses asked God what his name was and God responded that he was Yahweh, “I am.” Jesus is saying he is their very God in flesh, standing before them. Jesus is the eternal one offering eternal life. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read John 8:48-59

How does this text of scripture speak to the eternal nature of Jesus?

What does it mean to “abide” or “keep” the words of Jesus? Is Jesus advocating for strict obedience or legalism? What do you think this looks like and what is it pointing to?

What do you think John wants us to learn by saying that these Jews “believed” in Jesus and then showing us at the end that they disagreed with him to the point of wanting to kill him (John 8:30, 59)?