Born to be sacrificed
One of the most puzzling yet pivotal moments in the Old Testament is when Abraham is asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac (see Genesis 22). In fact, it seems ludicrous. What kind of God promises a “laughable” miracle, delivers on this promise and then asks you to sacrifice this child. It confounds reason.
But Abraham’s reaction wasn’t surprise, shock, sadness or even anger. It is notable that Abraham shows … no reaction;
1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
2Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
3Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac (Genesis 22)
Perhaps Abraham did feel the gut-churning burden of this terrible day. It would be hard to imagine that he was about to sacrifice such a precious gift.
And, he comforts his son by deflecting the question of where the sacrifice is coming from. This probably changed once he bound up Isaac and put him on the altar. I’m sure Isaac was terrified.
As Abraham lifts the knife to sacrifice his son, his hand is stopped by the Lord calling his name. Another sacrifice, a ram in a thicket is provided to fulfill God’s request.
When we read the Old Testament and learn about the other nations sacrificing their children to appease their gods, we are rightly horrified. And, to a lesser degree, you and I might feel a little disgusted at the idea of an animal-based sacrificial system set up by Yahweh.
At this time of year, it is probably the last thing we want to consider. We have put up beautiful ornaments, wrapped gifts in beautiful paper, and put beautiful lights up on our homes. Even songs describe things like “winter wonderlands” at this time of year.
Nativities also look so beautiful. They display a peaceful scene of the birth of our savior. Never mind Mary’s pain in childbirth, the stench of animal feces, or the exposure to the elements. A new birth is … beautiful.
We would rather stay here. We would rather avoid the next thirty-some-odd years of anticipation of the death of Jesus. The middle part is o.k., with all the raising of the dead, forgiving of sin, and healing. We might not even mind the preachy-stuff Jesus says. But, when it comes to the cross, it just doesn’t play as well as a manger in Bethlehem.
Jesus’ birth, though, was the promise of a perfect sacrifice. He was the promise of an end to the sacrificial system. He was the end of sin, death and the devil. But only if he was sacrificed. This baby was born to be sacrificed.
It seems cruel and harsh. It seems uncaring, even heartless. To God the Father, however, this was the most compassionate act in all of human history. And, His Son had done it! He gave up his life willingly for sinful people like you and me.
Jesus knew it was coming. He knew he would be a man of sorrows who lived to die an ignoble death. He knew that people wouldn’t get it. Despite all of this, Jesus Christ, the anointed king, set aside His glory to become the offal of the universe and be sacrificed. This was the reason Jesus was born.
During this Christmas, people put up signs saying “Jesus is the reason for the season”. Sometimes they have it next to a nativity. This beautiful scene will give way to the gorgeous scene of Easter’s sacrifice on a cross. His cross is not the reason for the season, but the reason for our salvation.
Now and forever, Amen