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September 29, 2019

Sermon John 8:58 . . . “Jesus said:  ‘I Am’”

“Jesus said:  ‘I Am’”

John 8:58

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Back in June of 1837, William Chatterton Dix was born, the son of John Dix, and his wife, Susan Moore.  And after attending a small, private school in his early years, he worked for his grandfather, making soap and candles.

But it didn’t take long, and his life soon took a turn for the worse.  Though his father was a surgeon, he was also an alcoholic and couldn’t pay his debts.  So after spending a little time in jail, he left his wife and poor little William when he was only eight years old.  Later, William married when he was twenty-seven, then went on to manage an insurance company.

But two years later, when he was twenty-nine, he became desperately ill, so ill that he was confined to bed for several months.  He fell into a deep depression.

And one day, in his despair, he cried out to God for help.  And God answered his prayer.  Later, he said he “met Him in a new and real way.”  That’s when he started to write hymns.

His first one was called, Come unto Me, Ye Weary, and I Will Give You Rest.  He said:  “I was ill and depressed at the time.  My hand trembled, and I could with difficulty, hold the pen.”  And he said:  “It is a somewhat curious fact that most of my best known hymns were written when I was suffering from some bodily ailment.”

And he went on to write quite a lot of hymns, forty in all--hymns like, Alleluia, Sing to Jesus, and As with Gladness, Men of Old.

But one of his best known hymns of all is one we sing at Christmas.  You know how it goes:  “What Child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?  Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?  This, this is Christ, the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing:  Haste, haste to bring Him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary!”

That’s a good question!  What Child is this?  Who is He?  And what, really, did He come to do?

Please turn in your Bible to page 1139, as I read the words of our text.  John chapter 8, starting at verse 48:  “The Jews answered Him, ‘Are we not right in saying that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?’  Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor Me.  Yet I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks it, and He is the judge.  Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death.’  The Jews said to Him, ‘Now we know that You have a demon!  Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet You say, “If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste death.”  Are You greater than our father Abraham, who died?  And the prophets died!  Who do You make Yourself out to be?’  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.”  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.  Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see My day.  He saw it and was glad.’  So the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’  Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’  So they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.”

If you didn’t already know it, Jesus often challenged the status quo.  In Jerusalem, He attacked the moneychangers who traded Jewish money for Roman money, at a profit.  And He didn’t just chew them out.  He threw them out!

When a rich man asked, “What must I do to be saved?” He said:  “Go, sell everything you have, and give it to the poor.  Then you’ll have treasure in heaven.”

And when men condemned Him for healing on the Sabbath, He said:  “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

So it was in the words of our text.  Did you hear what they said?  Verse 48:  “Are we not right in saying that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”  And verse 53:  “Are You greater than our father Abraham, who died?  And the prophets died!  Who do You make Yourself out to be?”

So Jesus told them.  Verse 58:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

I like those words:  “Truly, truly.”  Believe it or not, they’re very important words.

You know where they come from?  In the original language, it’s “Amen, amen.”  It’s how we get the word, “Amen,” at the end of our prayers.  It means, as Luther wrote, “Yes, yes, it shall be so.”

But there’s more!  Instead of “Truly, truly,” other translations read, “I assure you,” and “Most solemnly I say to you,” and “What I’m about to tell you is true.”  The King James Version says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you.”

Now it wasn’t unusual for Jesus to say, “Truly.”  But it was unusual for Him to say, “Truly, truly.”  

In John chapter 1, for example, when Nathanael first came to follow Him, Jesus said:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

In chapter 3, when one of the rulers of the Jews, a man named Nicodemus, came to visit Him at night, Jesus said:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

And in chapter 5, when men wanted to kill Him because He made Himself equal with God, He said:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life.”

It was His way of double-underlining and using all caps, and throwing in an exclamation point for good measure.  In effect, it meant, “Listen closely, because what I’m about to say is really, really important.”

So it was in our text.  Verse 51:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death.”

And verse 58:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

“I am,” He said.  Sound familiar?  

In John chapter 6, He said:  “I am the bread of life.”  In John 8, He said:  “I am the light of the world.”  In John 10, He said:  “I am the good shepherd,” and “I am the door of the sheep.”  In John 11, He said:  “I am the resurrection and the life.”  In John 14, He said:  “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  And in John 15, He said:  “I am the true vine.”

“I am”...”I am”...”I am.”  That sounds a lot like a voice that once came from a burning bush.

Remember?  Moses asked, “Suppose I go to the people and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I tell them?”

And God answered:  “I am.”

No wonder, in verse 59, they picked up stones to stone Him!

What’s it mean?  It means that Jesus didn’t come simply to give bread.  He is the bread.  He didn’t come simply to give light.  He is the light.  He didn’t come simply to show the way.  He is the way.

As William Dix once wrote in the words of his hymn:  “What Child is this?”

It’s funny if you think about it.  All the world’s religions have to deal with Jesus Christ.

Take Islam, for example.  It calls Him, “The Word of God,” “The Word of Truth,” “The Messenger of God,” “The Prophet of God,” and “The Servant of God.”  The Qur’an tells the story of Gabriel’s visit to Mary and His virgin birth.  It calls Him, “Illustrious in this world and the next and of those nearest to God.”  It even says He’s the Messiah.

But Islam will never tell you that He’s God in human flesh, sent to save us from our sin.

Buddhists say He was a good man, a wise man, an enlightened man, a holy man.  The Dalai Lama respects everything Jesus said and did.  But he would never call Him divine.

Hindus would be more than happy to say Jesus was divine.  Mahatma Gandhi said He was “a symbol of superior ethics,” and respected His teaching.  He would even call Him a god, along with their thirty-three million other gods.  But Redeemer?  Savior?  Not a chance.

Every religion has to deal with Jesus Christ.

Did you know that Crest makes twenty-seven different kinds of toothpaste?  There’s Crest Gum and Sensitivity All Day Protection.  There’s Crest Gum Detoxify Deep Clean and Whitening.  And there’s 3D White Whitening Therapy Enamel Care, just to name a few.

And how about Campbell’s soup?  At last count, there were at least ninety-two different kinds.  (And that’s only the condensed Campbell’s soups!)

You like ice cream?  I like ice cream.  Think of Breyers ice cream.  There’s Natural, French, Half the Fat, No Sugar Added, Extra Creamy, Homemade, Lactose Free, and CarbSmart.  (And that’s just for vanilla!)

And how about Head and Shoulders shampoo?  There’s Active Sport, Deep Clean, Dry Scalp Care with Almond Oil, Classic Clean, Itchy Scalp with Eucalyptus, Smooth and Silky, Extra Strength, Clinical Strength, and seventeen more!

But out of all the men who’ve come and gone across the pages of history, there’s only one Redeemer, only one sinner’s Savior.  It’s our Lord Jesus Christ.

You can shout at the wind and the waves all you want.  You can say, “Peace!  Be still!”  But they’ll keep raging on.

You can stand in a graveyard and call out every man, woman, and child whose names are inscribed in stone.  You can even say, “Lazarus, come forth!”  But he won’t come forth.

You can smear mud on a blind man’s eyes and in a deaf man’s ears, but there’s no way he’ll ever see or hear again.

There’s only one Redeemer, only one sinner’s Savior.  It’s our Lord Jesus Christ.

He’s the Bread of life who began His ministry hungry for a loaf of bread.

He’s the Water of life who at the end of His ministry was thirsty.

He hungered as a Man, yet fed the multitudes as God.

He was weary, yet He is our rest.

He prayed, yet He hears our prayers.

He was sold for thirty pieces of silver, yet He redeems sinners by His blood.

He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, yet He is the Good Shepherd.

He died, yet by dying, He destroyed death.

He never painted a picture, yet some of the finest paintings of the finest artists found their inspiration in Him.

He never composed a song, yet Handel, Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach reached their highest perfection in songs they wrote in praise of Him.

Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle taught for a total of one hundred and forty years, while Jesus taught for three.  But today is September 29th, in the year of our Lord 2019.  And it’s all because of Him.

As William Dix once wrote:  “What Child is this?  This, this is Christ, the King.”

 

Though You are God, dear Savior, You chose to become one of us to live with us, and to die for us.  Help us to be the people You’ve called us to be, for Your sake.  Amen

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