Proverbs 8:1–4, 22–31; Psalm 8; Acts 2:14a, 22–36; John 8:48–59
Grace, Mercy, and Peace be multiplied to you all from God the great “I Am” and Jesus Christ who said, “I Am.” Amen.
Sermon Text: “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”” (John 8:58, ESV)
Sermon Title/Theme: “Jesus said, “I am!”
Growing up in a Christian home and going to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School in my childhood was not all that memorable to me. I mean, that’s the reality of it. I don’t remember people, names, or what we had for snacks or projects. What I do remember however, were those special encounters with the divine, (I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time), but they were times that my heart would kind-a melt and my mind go searching for more answers about things I was hearing about people and stories from the bible. That’s what I remember. One of those times is when the story of Moses at the burning bush was told. I thought, “How can a bush burn and not be consumed (burned up)?” Over the years more information about all of that was added to my understanding. Then I realized that the story is about how God is revealing Himself to Moses and preparing Moses for some works of faith. Moses would go to Pharaoh in Egypt and lead the people of God (Israel) out of their cruel enslavement under Egyptian task-masters. I also learned how the sinful nature is less than gleeful with God’s call to faith and obedience. Moses’ response is less than receptive to what must have seemed grandiose, even superhuman plans. Moses replies to God, as any of us might,
“Who am I that I should go …?”” (Exodus 3:11, ESV) Moses apparently is thinking about that Egyptian task-master he had murdered so many years before. An act that caused him to flee the land of Egypt. “Who am I” indeed! Nevertheless, God, in turn, tells Moses,
“But I will be with you.”” (Exodus 3:12, ESV) God promises to be with Moses for this assignment. But, still unconvinced that God’s assuring presence is of value, or will be of any help. Moses says:
“If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”” (Exodus 3:13, ESV) Now, it is right here, that the rubber meets the road so-to-speak for us. Who is God? Isn’t that the question of our own day?
Today we hear so many saying “God is One,” like the Jews Jesus was speaking to. Even so, like then, even now, so many, although they profess to know God, do not know who He is. They live in utter darkness and sin and are being reserved for that which has been prepared for them. And that is not heaven.
So what does this mean for us? Is not God calling to us to make His great name known among the nations to bring them out of their slavery to sin and darkness? There are more and more people choosing Islam today who once professed to be Christian. Expect that to increase. The eternal lie of Satan has never gone away or changed. Just listening to the publicity of such converts screams the words Satan used against Eve in the Garden of Eden, “Hast God truly said?”
Even so, God is not hampered by such enticements. What He Himself has determined to do, will be done. He is the potter. We are the clay. So, like He did with Moses He also does with us. He not only assures us of His abiding presence, but of His eternal name to carry with us.
“I am who I am.” … “Say this to the people …, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ”” (Exodus 3:14, ESV) In other words, He is the One who exists. He is the One without beginning or ending. He is the One by whom and through whom all things exist. He is the only One to whom worship and adoration is owed and from whom life exists. We owe no religion anything! We owe God our faithful obedience and worship. To Him be all glory and praise and honor due His Holy name.
Now, why is this important to my message for today, and how does it play out in real life? Well, think about this; All religious behavior is manmade. Worship of the true God is not. In order to worship God, a person must know who the true God is. According to our sinful human nature, we humans derive for ourselves many gods, that are really no gods at all, including any other gods named by any other name than the one revealed to Moses.
Even so, that reality is missed by the very people Jesus comes to save. Yes, I did use the present tense, and for good reason. Jesus is not in some far off land as though He is out of reach and out of touch with our humanity today. That’s the point the Lord God conveyed to Moses when: “He said, “But I will be with you, (and He even gave Moses the sign that would be given that the God had sent him): when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”” (Mt. Horeb). (Exodus 3:12, ESV)
You see, when God says He is present, that He exists, then we can litereally count on His existence “with us!” God with us will make things happen, just as He has said, specific to His Word. We can trust it. We can trust the Word that has come forth from His voice and Spirit.
It is the presence of the Lord God that is with Moses.
It is the presence of the Lord God that is with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
And it is the very visible presence of the Lord God Almighty that the Jews dismissing Jesus as a half-breed Samaritan are rejecting.
It is the very presence of the Lord in the water and the word of Holy Baptism, and in the Bread and Wine of the Holy Supper, not because men have said so in so many doctrines and teachings, but only because Jesus said, “I Am!”
Jesus is the one who sets His presence in these things. How very comforting and assuring this can be to needy souls. And, who has more need than a person blinded by the darkness of sin? Such a person needs to be enabled to break their bonds of slavery to sin. And who, other than God, is the true enabler for breaking the bonds of sin, death and hell, in the truest sense of the word enable? There is no other!
This is clearly revealed when Jesus tells the Jews: “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. (then get this; Jesus says) He (Abraham) saw it and was glad.”” (John 8:56, ESV) That is true enabling. The great “I Am” enabled Abraham to see the day of God’s vengeance and justice, the great and glorious day of the Lord, long before Jesus was even born. Even so, the language Jesus uses says, Abraham saw it, that is, he saw Jesus’ day that we know as the life and times when Jesus walked this earth. Amazing! What, exactly, Abraham was given to see is a matter of divine revelation! It is by divine revelation that you and I also are given to see Jesus as Lord and God, as the “I am” who spoke also to Moses.
But, for unbelieving ears, this just sounds like WAH, WAH, WAH. Thus, the unbelieving respond to what Jesus is saying with this, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”” (John 8:57, ESV) Hardened, unbelieving hearts bear their own guilt. God is never responsible for that guilt, or its result, which is eternal death and separation from “I am.” I find it interesting that the Jews don’t question how Abraham could have seen Jesus’ day?
When the presence, and the person and work of “I Am” is not believed it is never the fault of God who has done all things necessary for a person to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. You see, God’s Word always does that for which it is appointed. It all rests with Him, not with us. That is so reassuring and emboldens the trusting heart.
“I Am” gives us new life. That new life by its very nature cannot remain inactive. It has been called by to be alive in living worship in and to Him.
That reality comes most assuredly in the written Word which is God’s revelation of Himself and His relationship with mankind. From Proverbs we learn that “When he established the heavens, I was there; (“I Am”) when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.” (Proverbs 8:27–31, ESV)
Is it any wonder that “Jesus said, ‘I Am,” to the blind Pharisees? Was it to condemn? Not at all! It was to lead them in a most profound way to the truth. God desires that all be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Even so, unbelief only sees the human Jesus, not the God-man who reconciled mankind to God through His own flesh and blood. Many religious people only see the human Jesus. Even so God still reveals His name in the whole person and work of Jesus. As a human being He truly is, the great “I Am” of the Holy Scriptures who spoke to Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Prophets and Evangelist, and still calls people to be His messengers today. God is truly with us.
This is what POBLO International is all about; making God’s name known. This Christian organization has made it their goal to be friends with those who do not yet know the name of God. It reaches out to immigrants and refugees especially from the Middle East, India, and Persia; the Hindi, and Muslim. POBLO International dwells on the need of people coming to make a new home, a new life among us. Like Jesus who is “I Am,” the heart that motivates POBLO is this: It wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.
So let me share with you how Jesus, the great “I Am” is still at work among these foreigners today. Karim Musa is an Iraqi refugee who came to United States in 2005. Prior to arriving in the U.S., he served as an Islamic leader in Syria and Jordan. It wasn’t until three years after being in the U.S. that Karim started questioning his Islamic faith and wanted to learn more about Christianity. He called an Arabic Christian television station and explained that he was searching for truth. Over the course of several months, he read the Bible eight times and corresponded with the individual he had spoken with from the Christian TV station. Through his reading of the Bible, Karim came to believe in Jesus as His Lord and God, which is the point of knowing His name. Now, he serves as a POBLO missionary in Dearborn Michigan, where he shares the Gospel with Muslims. He also hosts a globally-broadcasted television and radio show, where he discusses Islam, the Qur’an, Christianity, and the Bible, sharing the Gospel message and answering questions from Muslims wanting to learn more about Christianity.
Karim is just one of many being led by God’s Spirit to the truth of who Jesus Christ truly is. Things like this happen only because “Jesus said, “I am!”
Then there is Joy Markus and Sarah Christian. You will be able to meet and hear the testimony of these two women next week at the pot-luck. Both are educated women. Joy was a teacher and lawyer in Sharia law from Kuwait. When it was found out that she was being educated by a Christian pastor in Kuwait, she was nearly beaten to death before being smuggled out of the country to the safety of POBLO’s open arms.
Sarah, was a primary school teacher in Saudi Arabia. When her mother caught her viewing Christian material, she was severely beaten. Now both are in protected refugee status being trained for missionary work at POBLO International.
These women will share their stories of how their belief changed and faith in Jesus Christ was enjoined in the heart through friends and people like you who were bold and willing to see a need, be a friend, and reach out. May God, the eternal three in one be forever praised. Amen!?
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will keep our hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus the Great “I Am” now and unto life everlasting. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet