In Genesis the True and Living God reveals Himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; in Exodus He reveals Himself to Moses and the people of Israel. In those early passages of Scripture God reveals who He is; at the Burning Bush He is: I AM THAT I AM. The revelation of God in Christ is the focus on John Chapter 8; the Word that became flesh is proclaiming I AM. Jesus is proclaiming: I AM; and by proclaiming that He is I AM He proclaims that He is God.
Nothing less than recognition of His Divinity is acceptable to Him; God is to be acknowledged as God, not as anything or anyone less. In verse 30 many believe in Him (to be explored in a forthcoming post) but this is not the belief of John 3:16, this is rather the belief of John 2:23 and John 6:66. The belief of John 6:66 is unconsummated belief, those who turned away from Him did so because they could not accept Him as the Living Bread, the sole source of life; Jesus says, “I AM the Bread of Life” and it is too much for them. They can follow Him as a rabbi, as a teacher, they cannot follow Him as God.
John 8:12 – 59 is an inclusio, it begins and ends with the same words, the same thought. The first words of Jesus in this passage are I AM. The last words of Jesus in this passage are I AM. “I am the light of the world” begins His teaching, “I am” concludes His teaching.
This passage consists of two interchanges, the first 8:12 – 30, the second 8:31 – 59. Both are similar in focus for the focus is the proclamation of Jesus that He is God. Jesus interacts with a broad audience in the first section and a narrow audience in the second. Yet even the first audience is narrow in the sense that it represents those worshipping in the Tempe, those professing belief in God, those identifying with the Torah, with Moses, with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Those in the second section are those who profess belief in Jesus…but what is the nature of that belief?
To assemble in buildings, such as the Temple, and to profess belief in a Deity is well and good as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. To assemble in buildings and acknowledge Jesus as a teacher, even as the preeminent teacher, is well and good, but it is not acknowledgment enough. Jesus presses home these points in John Chapter 8 – He insists that we acknowledge Him as God and He will accept nothing less. Will we confess anything less? Will we live in any other way? Will there be any other confession on our lips or any other testimony in our actions? As Jesus makes clear in this passage, He will not allow anything less in a disciple than a confession that the One at the Burning Bush is the One born at Bethlehem.