Lent 5—Judica 2023 (Jn 8, 42–59; Gen 22, 1–14)

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Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”

᛭ INI ᛭

Jesus says it plain as day. “Before Abraham was, I AM.” They want to stone Him for it. It’s also His testimony during His trial before the Sanhedrin. “The high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessèd?’ And Jesus said, ‘I AM.’” (Mk 14) No escape then, not that Jesus wanted to. Condemned to death.

On the 5th Sunday in Lent, we make the turn toward Calvary. There Jesus hides His glory, which actually magnifies His glory! “Worthy is Christ, the Lamb who was slain!” (Rev 4) Paul also says, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Gal 6) This is why we put away the Gloria Patri from Psalms and Canticles the next 14 days.

Christ’s Calvary humiliation-glory goes hand in hand with His claim. Jesus saying, “I AM,” isn’t just about who He is, but what He does. He’s going to Calvary, which is why He avoids stones in John 8 but not His stone sepulcher in John 19. (Jesus’ claim also sheds light on our Old Testament reading as well.)

Taking our Gospel and Old Testament together we see that


(I. What does it mean that Jesus is “I AM”?)

So, when Jesus says, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” what does that mean? Well, it means that Jesus, a man, is claiming to be eternal God. Jesus’ statement should have a drastic impact on what you believe about God. It should also impact how you talk about God.

Because of what Jesus says here, as Christians we shouldn’t be satisfied to just talk about “God.” “God” is just a classification, a title, for a type of being. “God” can be used correctly, but just because someone says, “god” doesn’t mean they mean the true God.

Simply put: “God” isn’t a name. “Jesus” is a name. God has a name; it’s Jesus. And so, wherever and whenever we hear or see the word “God” being tossed around, you should probably ask, “You mean, Jesus, right?” And if swapping “Jesus” in for “God” doesn’t sound right, it’s probably not talking about the true God.

And that’s what caused them to pick up stones. Jesus wasn’t just claiming to be “God” or “a god” like some crazy person. He was claiming to be the God of the Old Testament. The One who spoke to Abraham, who spoke to Moses at the burning bush, “I AM WHO I AM. Tell them ‘I AM’ has sent me to you.” (Ex 3) At face value Jesus’ claim was then blasphemy, breaking the First Commandment.

Jesus being ‘I AM’ also means something else. He reveals it in how He talks in John 8, and it’s something also hinted at in Genesis 22. Jesus says He is the Son of the Father. Being ‘I AM’ also means Jesus is the eternal, “beloved, only-begotten” Son of God. What is said of Isaac, is eternally true of Jesus and the Father—“His only Son, the one [His Father] loves.”


Jesus being “I AM” means He is “true God, begotten of His Father before all worlds.” (Nicene Creed) He is also “true man, born of the Virgin Mary.” (Small Catechism)* He is the God who comes. “I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.”

That means He is also Sacrifice. Jesus says earlier in John 8, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, you will know that I AM.” “(He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.)” (Jn 12:33) He promised this also through His prophets: “My Servant shall be high and lifted up.” (Is 52) “They will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son.” (Zech 12:10 NKJV)

Tying this to Genesis 22 means that


(II. Where and when is He the Sacrificial Ram?)

Listen to Genesis again, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac!—and go to the land of Moriah.” ** “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Jn 3:16) The Father said, “This is My beloved Son,” (Mt 3) and “it pleased [the Father] to crush Him” (Is 53), that Isaac would be saved, you too!

Jesus goes where Isaac goes. Mount Moriah is the mountain on which Jerusalem is built. (2 Chr 3:1) Jesus is the true Son who carries the wood, carries His cross. He too is bound, with nails! The Father does not stay His hand. “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?” (Mt 26) Christ cries, and there at Moriah, on Calvary Jesus dies.

He dies like He said, “Lifted up.” He also rose like He said. His death and His resurrection vindicate Him. They prove His claim true. Because of both His death and His resurrection the Introit Psalm is true: “Vindicate me, O God, And plead my cause against an ungodly nation.”

What Jesus says and does has a drastic impact on what you tell others about what you believe. You trust that Jesus is God and trust what He has done—died and risen for you, for all. For Christians, the only God we know is the God who died on the cross for everyone and came back to life. Jesus is the one who reveals His Father to us and sends the Spirit to us.

Jesus is the Sacrificial Ram, the One who died in Isaac’s place. Just like the Ram He was caught in a thicket that became a crown of thorns. The reason the ram counted in Isaac’s place was because within that death is the death of Jesus. Jesus’ blood in the Passover Lamb’s blood is why the Angel of Death passed over the Israelite houses in Egypt. That ram at Moriah, that blood in Egypt was nothing in itself—there is power only in Jesus’ blood, only in His “once for all” death. (Heb 9)


He still comes as the Ram sacrificed in your place. As the Israelites ate the Passover Lamb, so also we. “This is My body given for you; this is My blood shed for you.” This is why our first distribution song is and should be the Agnus Dei, asking Him for mercy and peace as our Lamb. For in Communion we eat and drink of the True Passover Lamb, the true Ram sacrificed instead of us. For the bread is His true body, the wine His true blood, placed into our mouths, and by faith “the forgiveness of all your sins.”


Jesus says it plain as day. “Before Abraham was, I AM.” He is the God who intervened for Isaac. He is the true only Son who would die as a sacrifice in Isaac’s place, in your place, in my place. “Jesus is the propitiation”—the appeasing sacrifice—“for our our sins and the sins of the whole world.” (1 Jn 2) His being raised from death vindicates Him.


We, too, say it plain as day. There is no other God than the One crucified and raised. That’s Jesus, the eternal Son who is one with His Father, yet not the Father, and He and the Father are one with and send the Spirit. Jesus still comes as the Ram who was slain, as the true Passover Lamb, even with His body to eat and His blood to drink, for the forgiveness of our sins. “Christ the Lamb was slain; His blood sets you free to be the people of God.” (Rev 4)

᛭ INI ᛭

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