The Rev. Dr. Wesley Hill
When I lived in the UK several years ago, it seemed as if every one of my British friends was obsessed with the show Doctor Who about an extraterrestrial being who travels around the universe in a time-traveling space ship. In one season, the Doctor — a so-called Time Lord — says, “People assume that time is a strict progression from cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.”
We might think of a statement like this when we hear Jesus say in our Gospel reading for today, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” If we think of time as a strictly linear unfolding of one moment to the next, Jesus’ words don’t make sense. Jesus lived in the first century of what some now call the Common Era, whereas Abraham, according to the Old Testament book of Genesis, was born two millennia before Jesus was. So how can Jesus say that he existed before Abraham?
What he seems to be teasing his audience to recognize is that he is more than just a distant descendant of Abraham. In a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey sort of way, he also is Abraham’s maker… because he is the Lord of all times, the embodiment of the eternal Creator himself. As we say in the Creeds, Jesus isn’t only a human being (though he certainly was and is that). He is God in the flesh, come to rescue and redeem us. Praise him!
The Rev. Dr. Wesley Hill is an assisting priest at Trinity Cathedral and an associate professor of New Testament at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. He is the author most recently of The Lord’s Prayer: A Guide to Praying to Our Father (Lexham Press, 2019).