This article, titled: Abraham, the prophets and Jesus by Ralph A Kelly resonated with me today as I recalled this thrilling statement of Jesus, and below, you'll find our latest blog on the subject. This is indeed a thrilling encounter that Jesus had with the Jewish rulers. Maybe you remember it from your Bible, and after you read our blog, maybe you'll have a new way of looking at it. But first, here's a few snips from the article:
"Even though they are religious rulers and should be thinking from a religious viewpoint, they go directly to a physical viewpoint and tell Jesus, 'You are not yet fifty years old, and You have seen Abraham?'
"Apparently, fifty years was the time of full manhood, and at that time it had been about 2,000 years since Abraham had died. Their thought was, 'You are still a young man and you have seen Abraham who died so many years ago?'
"Jesus responded to the comment of the religious rulers saying, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I Am."
"They had to have been shocked to the core of their being at what they considered blasphemy. They had accused Him before on the basis of such straightforward statements, but this statement could not be misunderstood. Whatever Jesus had meant previously was now obviously clear that He was claiming to have eternal existence, to have been in existence long before Abraham. Jesus was saying that He was the 'I Am', the eternal existing God, the One Who existed even before the world was created. And they were correct; Jesus was claiming to have pre-existed Abraham and to have everlasting existence."
Click to read the whole article
Jesus counsels on Spiritual Freedom
Both Bible believers and Urantia Book students will be familiar with this event from Jesus' life. This meeting of Jesus with the Jewish rulers took place at a precarious time for Jesus; he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Tabernacles at a time when the authorities were threatening to have him arested. The apostles had warned the Master not to go, but he was unafraid.
You can read the entire account of this amazing trip to Jerusalem in Paper 162: The Feast of Tabernacles. It contains not only this story of Jesus declaring he is I AM, but also the story of Jesus' first temple talk, the woman taken in adultery, the sermon on the "light of the world," the discourse on the water of life, the visit with Martha and Mary, and the Bethlehem meeting of Jesus' apostles with Abner.
But back to our story: the gospel of John (Chap 8:53-58) has a good deal of the material that The Urantia Book has; this is not always the case, but here, we have two similar stories. However, the speech that Jesus delivers in The Urantia Book is somewhat different and is titled "Discourse on Spiritual Freedom," and it goes like this:
On the afternoon of the last day of the feast and after the apostles had failed in their efforts to persuade him to flee from Jerusalem, Jesus again went into the temple to teach. Finding a large company of believers assembled in Solomon's Porch, he spoke to them, saying:
"If my words abide in you and you are minded to do the will of my Father, then are you truly my disciples. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. I know how you will answer me: We are the children of Abraham, and we are in bondage to none; how then shall we be made free? Even so, I do not speak of outward subjection to another's rule; I refer to the liberties of the soul. Verily, verily, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the bond servant of sin. And you know that the bond servant is not likely to abide forever in the master's house. You also know that the son does remain in his father's house. If, therefore, the Son shall make you free, shall make you sons, you shall be free indeed.
"I know that you are Abraham's seed, yet your leaders seek to kill me because my word has not been allowed to have its transforming influence in their hearts. Their souls are sealed by prejudice and blinded by the pride of revenge. I declare to you the truth which the eternal Father shows me, while these deluded teachers seek to do the things which they have learned only from their temporal fathers. And when you reply that Abraham is your father, then do I tell you that, if you were the children of Abraham, you would do the works of Abraham. Some of you believe my teaching, but others seek to destroy me because I have told you the truth which I received from God. But Abraham did not so treat the truth of God. I perceive that some among you are determined to do the works of the evil one. If God were your Father, you would know me and love the truth which I reveal. Will you not see that I come forth from the Father, that I am sent by God, that I am not doing this work of myself? Why do you not understand my words? Is it because you have chosen to become the children of evil? If you are the children of darkness, you will hardly walk in the light of the truth which I reveal. The children of evil follow only in the ways of their father, who was a deceiver and stood not for the truth because there came to be no truth in him. But now comes the Son of Man speaking and living the truth, and many of you refuse to believe.
"Which of you convicts me of sin? If I, then, proclaim and live the truth shown me by the Father, why do you not believe? He who is of God hears gladly the words of God; for this cause many of you hear not my words, because you are not of God. Your teachers have even presumed to say that I do my works by the power of the prince of devils. One near by has just said that I have a devil, that I am a child of the devil. But all of you who deal honestly with your own souls know full well that I am not a devil. You know that I honor the Father even while you would dishonor me. I seek not my own glory, only the glory of my Paradise Father. And I do not judge you, for there is one who judges for me.
"Verily, verily, I say to you who believe the gospel that, if a man will keep this word of truth alive in his heart, he shall never taste death. And now just at my side a scribe says this statement proves that I have a devil, seeing that Abraham is dead, also the prophets. And he asks: `Are you so much greater than Abraham and the prophets that you dare to stand here and say that whoso keeps your word shall not taste death? Who do you claim to be that you dare to utter such blasphemies?' And I say to all such that, if I glorify myself, my glory is as nothing. But it is the Father who shall glorify me, even the same Father whom you call God. But you have failed to know this your God and my Father, and I have come to bring you together; to show you how to become truly the sons of God. Though you know not the Father, I truly know him. Even Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and by faith he saw it and was glad."
And then, we have the confrontation by the rulers, who challenge Jesus as if he were just an ordinary man:
When the unbelieving Jews and the agents of the Sanhedrin who had gathered about by this time heard these words, they raised a tumult, shouting: "You are not fifty years of age, and yet you talk about seeing Abraham; you are a child of the devil!" Jesus was unable to continue the discourse. He only said as he departed, "Verily, verily, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." Many of the unbelievers rushed forth for stones to cast at him, and the agents of the Sanhedrin sought to place him under arrest, but the Master quickly made his way through the temple corridors and escaped to a secret meeting place near Bethany where Martha, Mary, and Lazarus awaited him.
It might be a good exercise to compare the two accounts and decide for yourself which rings most true to you...remember, The Urantia Book is a gift to our world; and among the treasures in that gift is the restatement of the Life and Teachings of Jesus - a restatement that is free from centuries of error, free from any theological misinterpretation, and free from any attempt to skew the facts in favor of any one religion about Jesus. The angels preserved the account of the Master's life that was witnessed by spiritual beings who were actually present and saved it for this time in our history when it will do the most good for the greatest number of souls. If you have not explored it before, now might be a good time to give it a sincere perusal.
Jesus declares that he is the I AM more than once
Shortly after Peter's confession that he and the apostles believe him to be God incarnate, Jesus and the twelve, while waiting for financial reinforcements, have a significant discussion; a discussion made all the more important because, from this time on, Jesus is openly declaring himself as the Son of God:
A new significance attaches to all of Jesus' teachings from this point on. Before Caesarea-Philippi he presented the gospel of the kingdom as its master teacher. After Caesarea-Philippi he appeared not merely as a teacher but as the divine representative of the eternal Father, who is the center and circumference of this spiritual kingdom, and it was required that he do all this as a human being, the Son of Man.
Jesus had sincerely endeavored to lead his followers into the spiritual kingdom as a teacher, then as a teacher-healer, but they would not have it so. He well knew that his earth mission could not possibly fulfill the Messianic expectations of the Jewish people; the olden prophets had portrayed a Messiah which he could never be. He sought to establish the Father's kingdom as the Son of Man, but his followers would not go forward in the adventure. Jesus, seeing this, then elected to meet his believers part way and in so doing prepared openly to assume the role of the bestowal Son of God.
Accordingly, the apostles heard much that was new as Jesus talked to them this day in the garden. And some of these pronouncements sounded strange even to them. Among other startling announcements they listened to such as the following:
"From this time on, if any man would have fellowship with us, let him assume the obligations of sonship and follow me. And when I am no more with you, think not that the world will treat you better than it did your Master. If you love me, prepare to prove this affection by your willingness to make the supreme sacrifice."
"And mark well my words: I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. The Son of Man came not to be ministered to, but to minister and to bestow his life as the gift for all. I declare to you that I have come to seek and to save those who are lost."
"No man in this world now sees the Father except the Son who came forth from the Father. But if the Son be lifted up, he will draw all men to himself, and whosoever believes this truth of the combined nature of the Son shall be endowed with life that is more than age-abiding."
"We may not yet proclaim openly that the Son of Man is the Son of God, but it has been revealed to you; wherefore do I speak boldly to you concerning these mysteries. Though I stand before you in this physical presence, I came forth from God the Father. Before Abraham was, I am. I did come forth from the Father into this world as you have known me, and I declare to you that I must presently leave this world and return to the work of my Father."
Read all of Jesus' startling statements to his apostles HERE
From the Rodan papers
Rodan of Alexandria and the apostles Nathaniel and Thomas had extensive discussions regarding the teachings of Jesus. Among other things, they discussed The personality of God, the Divine nature of Jesus, and Jesus' human and divine minds.
In the discussion of Jesus' divine nature, the two apostles reiterate the fact that Jesus had spoken of himself as the I AM:
He constantly talks about God as an ever-present associate in all that he does. He goes about doing good, for God seems to be in him. He makes the most astounding assertions about himself and his mission on earth, statements which would be absurd if he were not divine. He once declared, "Before Abraham was, I am." He has definitely claimed divinity; he professes to be in partnership with God. He well-nigh exhausts the possibilities of language in the reiteration of his claims of intimate association with the heavenly Father. He even dares to assert that he and the Father are one. He says that anyone who has seen him has seen the Father. And he says and does all these tremendous things with such childlike naturalness. He alludes to his association with the Father in the same manner that he refers to his association with us. He seems to be so sure about God and speaks of these relations in such a matter-of-fact way.
see Paper 160 for more about Rodan, the Greek philosopher.
Jesus earns the right to claim: I AM
Finally, soon after Jesus final prayers with his apostles before his arrest, the revelators tell us clearly how Jesus has earned this right. These "I AM" statements are some of the most thrilling and inspiring of all the declarations about Jesus in The Urantia Book:
182:1.9 The Father in heaven had sought to reveal himself to Moses, but he could proceed no further than to cause it to be said, "I AM." And when pressed for further revelation of himself, it was only disclosed, "I AM that I AM." But when Jesus had finished his earth life, this name of the Father had been so revealed that the Master, who was the Father incarnate, could truly say:
I am the bread of life.
I am the living water.
I am the light of the world.
I am the desire of all ages.
I am the open door to eternal salvation.
I am the reality of endless life.
I am the good shepherd.
I am the pathway of infinite perfection.
I am the resurrection and the life.
I am the secret of eternal survival.
I am the way, the truth, and the life.
I am the infinite Father of my finite children.
I am the true vine; you are the branches.
I am the hope of all who know the living truth.
I am the living bridge from one world to another.
I am the living link between time and eternity.
Thus did Jesus enlarge the living revelation of the name of God to all generations. As divine love reveals the nature of God, eternal truth discloses his name in ever-enlarging proportions.
We hope that you'll take the time to explore this wonderful story and the links given here. Studying the life and teachings of Jesus is probably the most important study you will ever do, and the knowledge gained will prove to be the important knowledge you'll ever receive. If we take it to heart, the Master can certainly live again through any of us who truly and sincerely endeavor to "follow Jesus."
As the revelators tell us:
196:1.3 To "follow Jesus" means to personally share his religious faith and to enter into the spirit of the Master's life of unselfish service for man. One of the most important things in human living is to find out what Jesus believed, to discover his ideals, and to strive for the achievement of his exalted life purpose. Of all human knowledge, that which is of greatest value is to know the religious life of Jesus and how he lived it.