Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sermon: Judica (Lent 5) - 2018

18 March 2018

Text: John 8:42-59 (Gen 22:1-14, Heb 9:11-15)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our Old Testament passage, the non-sacrifice of Isaac, is one of the most maligned and misunderstood passages in the entire Bible.

When I was a little kid, I had science books that included records that taught various lessons.  One record told the story of Abraham and Isaac as mankind’s first rebellion against primitive superstition and believing in the supernatural, replacing those beliefs with science.  According to this child’s record, Abraham, who believed the thunder and lightning of a storm had to be appeased by human sacrifice, refused, and instead offered a goat.  Thus mankind freed himself to believe in science.  Other skeptics criticize the text based on the supposed cruelty of God, whose sadism is finally expressed by abusing and torturing His own Son to death on the cross.

Unless you have the key, the Bible remains a locked and mysterious book.  Unless you have the key, it all seems pointless.  The key is Christ, dear friends, and the shape of that key is the form of the cross.  Without connecting Abraham and Isaac to their descendant Jesus, and without understanding sin and atonement, without seeing this passage through the lens of the cross, passages like our text just sound like mythology or bad pop psychology.

In the beginning, when Adam and Eve sinned, bringing death and disorder to our world, God promised a Savior.  That Savior was also to be a descendant of Abraham, born of the line of Isaac: the miracle baby born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age.  God promised Abraham that the blessing would come through Isaac – not Isaac’s half-brother, and not from the children of one of the family’s slaves – but from Isaac.  So when God tested Abraham by ordering him to sacrifice his one and only son whom he loved, Abraham obeyed.  He loved his son, but he also trusted the promise of God.  He knew that somehow, the Lord would provide, and that his son, his one and only son whom he loved – would indeed live somehow.

So after Abraham watched his son carry the wood of his own execution and sacrifice up the hill, Isaac asked his father where the lamb for the sacrifice was.  Abraham answered, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”

Abraham then bound his son to the wood on the altar atop the hill.  Before Abraham could slay his son, the angel stopped the execution.  God praised Abraham’s faith: “Now I know that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

Abraham’s faith was rewarded by the appearance of a substitute, a ram, “caught in the thicket by his horns.”  And the son of Abraham, Isaac, lived because of the substitute that the Lord Himself provided.  Isaac and the ram both served as previews of the Son of Abraham, the Lamb of God to come: Jesus Christ, who was born two thousand years after Abraham, but who, being God, preceded Abraham.

When the Lord Jesus was still in Mary’s womb, blessed Mary called Him her God and her Savior.  He was a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of the royal line of David, born of the virgin, conceived by the word of the angel.  He was, and is, His Father’s only begotten Son, His one and only Son whom He loves eternally.  And for the sake of love, God the Father withholds nothing from us, dear brothers and sisters, even watching His own Son carry the wood of his own execution and sacrifice up the hill.  He watches His Son laid out upon the wood for the sacrifice.  And God provides for Himself the Lamb for the sacrifice: Christ, the Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world.

And upon that hill called Golgotha, where God withholds nothing from us, we see Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb, even being caught in the thicket of thorns around His head, being the burnt offering, that is, the holocaust, the atonement for the sins of the world, the substitute who dies in our place. 

For on that day, that Good Friday, the Lord provided, “on the mount of the Lord” it was indeed provided.

Abraham did not refuse to sacrifice his son because of science, nor because of rejecting the supernatural, but rather He did so because the angel told Abraham to stop.  Abraham had faith, and his faith was credited to him as righteousness.  Isaac was not the son of Abraham to be sacrificed, rather that Son of Abraham is Jesus.

As the author of Hebrews says, “He entered once and for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.  For it is the “blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God,” which purifies “our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

Jesus is the new and greater Isaac, but also the new and greater Lamb.  Jesus is the Son of Abraham, but also the God of Abraham.  Jesus appears in the flesh two thousand years after Abraham, but according to His divinity, lived eternally before Abraham.  Our Lord Jesus made it clear when He said, to the raging of the mob: “Before Abraham was, I am.” 

And indeed, Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Christ come, the day when the mystery of the lamb provided by God would be made clear, when Abraham would see His descendant, that is, his Son Jesus, offer Himself as the sacrificial Lamb provided by God Himself.  Indeed, it is Jesus Himself who dies in the place of Isaac, and in our place as well, dear friends. 

Just as Isaac lived because of God’s merciful intervention, so too do we live, dear friends, so too do we live forever.  We live forever by the blood of the Lamb, the Lamb provided by God Himself, the Lamb that is the Son of God Himself, the God who provides, who gives us life – even life eternal. 

We Christians have the key to understanding this passage, because we Christians have Christ.  Christ the crucified is the key that opens the door not only to understand the Bible, but to receive the blessings of forgiveness, life, and salvation through the sacrificial death of the Son of God, the Son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Lamb of God.

The Lord will provide.  


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.

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