When day came, they led Jesus before the high priest Caiaphas. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together in the council of the Sanhedrin…
Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree.
And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. (Mark 14:55-64)
What was going on here? Why was this simple statement of “I Am” by Jesus before Caiaphas considered such blasphemy to the ears of the religious authorities? Maybe a little context is in order…
In a previous debate with Jewish leaders, Jesus claimed to have seen Abraham, who was considered the father of the Hebrew people from nearly 2,000 years earlier. When they challenged Jesus, he replied, “Before Abraham was, I Am.” (John 8:58)
This reference to “I Am” in the Hebrew language was specifically reserved for God himself, and therefore was considered the ultimate blasphemy. Simply uttering the words prompted the religious leaders to attempt to stone Jesus to death, though he escaped.
You see, the Hebrew word that translates as “Lord” throughout the New Testament and is sometimes rendered LORD in the Old Testament was probably pronounced “Yahweh” and came from the Hebrew verb “to be.” It is the special name that God revealed to Moses at the burning bush:
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.
In this context, “I Am” is the very name of God to the Hebrews. “I Am” declares God’s absolute being – the source of everything – without beginning and without end. Therefore, before Caiaphas the high priest and the council of elders, Jesus was not only declaring himself the Christ – the Messiah – the Savior of the world, but God himself. He was making a claim of divinity. In the Jewish context, Jesus was making himself out to be God when he declared, “I Am.”