While on this earth Jesus made some radical claims, which either meant he was the promised Messiah or a lunatic. He claimed he was sent by God. He also said he was the Son, the Messiah, and in John 8:48-59, he claimed that before Abraham he was.
In John 8 the Jews found Jesus’s claims so crazy that they were convinced he was demon-possessed. Despite all their jabs at Jesus, he did not falter. He didn’t lose his cool and start trying to prove himself by performing miracles in front of them. Instead, he remained true to his identity and purpose and responded, “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” (vs. 49-51).
Do you know how the Jews responded? They say, “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?” (vs. 52-53).
Then there was some more back and forth specifically around Abraham and then Jesus made the ultimate claim. He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (vs. 58).
As we read those words in English, their implications don’t really hit us, but they were huge. According to David Guzik, “This is the third time in this chapter Jesus uses the phrase I Am (John 8:24, 8:28), and here in John 8:58. The ancient Greek phrase is ego emi, which was the same term used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in Jesus’ day to describe the Voice from the burning bush.” The Voice from the burning bush that spoke to Moses was God, and it is then that God revealed himself as I Am. So now, as Jesus was telling the Jews, “before Abraham was, I am” he was claiming his deity. He was making himself equal to God. If God is I Am and Jesus is I Am then they must be one.
This made the Jews so mad that the picked up stones to kill Jesus. To them what he said was blasphemous.
Jesus knew that making that claim would enrage the Jews who refused to see their Messiah had come, and it would give them the ammunition they needed to finally kill him and be rid of him. Yet, that did not stop him because it’s true. It’s who he is. He’s not a lunatic. He’s the long-awaited Messiah who came so that we might be saved.