The Jews had worked very hard to create a pretty box for God. It was made up of the Temple, the laws and rituals, the priesthood, and their distinct heritage as the children of Abraham. They worked hard at keeping God in the box and not letting Him do anything ‘out of the box’.
In fact they had been so good at it, that for four hundred years before John the Baptist, God hadn’t sent a prophet or “Word of the LORD” to His people. They had kept God ‘under control’ despite the successive marches of the Persians, Greeks, Egyptians and Romans through their land.
But Jesus blew that box wide open and exposed the emptiness inside. He told them that God had NEVER been in that box. The Temple was about to be destroyed. The laws and rituals had suffocated God’s people rather than enlivening them. The priesthood wielded power ruthlessly and put down any challenge to their power (read Maccabees, and John 11:45-57). And the claim of being descendants of Abraham were genetically true, yet spiritually barren. Their faith was nothing like Abraham’s.
When the Jewish leadership pushed Jesus to tell them by what authority He taught and did deeds of power, they concluded He had a demonic power. As the argument escalated, Jesus claimed greater power, even life that never dies. The enraged Jews seized on His point and asked Him to clarify that He knew life that never died. They pointed out that faithful Abraham, their ancestor, had died, as did the prophets. They sneered at Jesus, demanding: “Who do you think you are?”
Jesus’ answer blew the Jewish box apart completely… He was not only intimate with God, but the Jews were not. In fact, Abraham knew Him and rejoiced that Jesus was the One to come, and the Jews in front of Him could not see who He was to save themselves… literally.
Then He topped it off with: “I tell you the truth… before Abraham was born, I AM!” (John 8:58) This was an outright claim of being one with the LORD God Most High, and being known even before Abraham had lived over two thousand years before.
Who could say such a thing and live? The Jews were sure they knew – and it wasn’t this middle-aged man in front of them.
How do you respond to Jesus when He blows your carefully crafted box of spirituality apart, and you find that you never had ‘control’ of God – ever?
Do you dare to ask Jesus “who do you think you are?”, and are you prepared to hear the answer?
Do you rejoice with Abraham that Jesus has come, and eagerly look forward to His return, to His resurrection and life, to eternity of full life, in full relationship, fully being known and knowing?
Jesus is greater than Abraham. That’s not a stunning idea to most people, but to His day, it was enough to get Him killed. Jesus is greater than you think. Take a peek in the box you have tried to put Him in – it’s empty. Pray that He will open your eyes to Him today.