Autumn is something very special. Some consider it the season of the fading away. Leaves are falling off the trees, and nature gradually prepares for winter and low temperatures. This made me reflect upon time, upon the connection between the past, the present and the future.
We human beings live in a permanent flow. We are fixed to time and cannot get away from that. Everything that we are doing right now will be past within a moment. We cannot make anything undone, we cannot erase like on a piece of paper or delete like in a computer game.
Perhaps some of you are now thinking back of summer and of a wonderful vacation. That is gone by. We can just enjoy the lovely memory and try not to forget. Perhaps some of you are already thinking of winter and of snow that might come and of Christmas time, which for some will be a wonderful time of the year, whereas for others it might be quite hectic. We can prepare for it and think of it, yet future is not here yet.
Our language is considering all these tenses very carefully, and we are able to express ourselves precisely
- I was
- I have been
- I am
- I will be
In addition there are further tenses to enable us to differentiate even more.
In the Bible in the New Testament in the Gospel of John there is a statement of Jesus which every logically thinking person with a minimum of feeling for language will consider most strange. By adding "in truth in very truth I tell you," Jesus points to the importance of his statement. He says, "Before Abraham had been, I am." (John 8, 58) If a student would write this in any essay at school, the teacher would mark it read: Mistake in tense and grammar.
What did John write there? What is Jesus saying there?
Prior to this statement there had been a discussion between the Jews and Jesus in the course of which Jesus said that Abraham would have rejoice when hearing that Jesus was to come to the earth. The Jews were disgusted and said that this would not be possible as Abraham lived centuries ago. Afterwards Jesus said precisely this sentence. What does it mean?
It show how very unique Jesus is. God, the father, and Jesus are one. God IS. God is presence when he created the Universe millions of years ago. God is presence for every human being precisely during that time that this person is alive. God also is presence for all future people.
If you have some knowledge about astrophysics and the theory of relativity then you know that time the way we experience it, is fixed to the planet earth. To us humans here on earth time is fixed, and we cannot change it. Yet outside this planet, that is out in the universe there time is relative. God, the Creator of the universe also is Master over time.
God and Jesus are one. So, all this is true for Jesus as well. He "was present tense" in the time before Abraham was born, he "was present tense" 2000 years ago in the land of the Jews, he is present tense for us today.
So the stated sentence of Jesus is not at all a grammatical error. It furthermore is the only possibility of expressing the eternal presence of Jesus.
Do you want to find out more about Jesus? Have a look at the other essays on this website, or even better read in the New Testament of the Bible.