What is God calling you to give up for Lent? Is it chocolate, or social media? Perhaps watching television? Is God calling you to do something, like placing an item of clothing for each day of Lent then donating the bag?
God called Abraham to sacrifice his beloved and much-prayed-for son, Isaac. Isaac was a child of promise: all of Abraham’s God-given promises lay on this boy, and God called Abraham to sacrifice him upon an altar of sticks in Moriah. Reading this makes giving up chocolate irreverent.
The passage in Genesis 22 is heartbreaking: “Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about,” [verse 3 NIV].
God told Abraham to go the region of Moriah. Israelite tradition indicate that God showed Abraham to sacrifice his son on the tallest point of the Moriah range—a place that, hundreds of years later, would be called Golgotha.
Abraham told the servants to wait. He placed the wood for the altar upon Isaac’s shoulders and “he himself carried the fire and the knife,”[verse 6]. Seeing that there was wood, and a knife, and fire to light the altar, Isaac asked where is the lamb for the burnt offering.
I cannot imagine what emotional turmoil Abraham was feeling as he replied, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son,” [verse 8]. What faith! Abraham knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, based on God’s promises that had already been fulfilled (hello, Isaac!) that God would provide.
As Abraham raised the knife to sacrifice his son, an angel stopped him. Abraham looked up, Scripture says, “and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son, [Genesis 22:13]. The ram, which was caught by its head in a thorn bush, was sacrificed in the place of Isaac.
Abraham called that place “The Lord will Provide.” Scripture says, “And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided,” [verse 14].
Listen: Jesus, the Lamb of God, wearing a crown of thorns, carried the wooden cross up to Golgotha to be sacrificed as God’s only Son, instead of us. God provided the ultimate and last Lamb to be sacrificed on the very place Abraham named “The Lord will Provide.” The Lord God provided the sacrifice—His only Son—in our place.
We are all Isaac.
Right before Jesus was to be crucified, Pilate gave the people a choice: release Jesus or release Barabbas, a known terrorist and murderer. It is interesting to note that in the Jewish culture, the surname Bar- meant “son of.” “Abba” means “God.” Barabbas means “son of God.”
So here we have two men: Jesus, the Son of God, perfect and without sin, and Barabbas, or “son of God,” who, like Adam was also called “son of God” was wicked and sinful. Romans 5:12 and 14 state, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—…Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.”
Certainly Barabbas, walking down to Pilate, couldn’t hear Pilate’s loan voice asking the people who he should release to them. All Barabbas heard was the screams of the people yelling his name. He couldn’t hear Pilate asking the crowd what he should do with Jesus; all Barabbas heard was “Crucify him!” [Matthew 27:11-28]. So all Barabbas heard was “Barabbas…crucify him!”
Imagine his confusion when, upon arriving before Pilate and this horridly-beaten and bloody Man, he was released, and the bloodied and thorn-crowned Man was sentenced to die in his place. Barabbas was deserving of crucifixion: a sinner among sinners.
We are all Barabbas.
This is what Lent is about: acknowledging our sin and our deeply-seeded need for a Savior. Understanding that Jesus did not die in place of Barabbas, but in our place as well. Understanding that the Lamb of God, like the ram caught in the thorn bush, was a substitution: Instead of Isaac, the ram; Instead of Barabbas, Jesus.
Lent is so much more than acknowledgement of our personal debt we cannot possibly repay to Christ; like Advent, it is a time of preparation for Passover, when we remember when the Israelite slaves adorned their door posts with the blood of a perfect lamb to prevent the Angel of Death from killing their first-born sons. It is a time of preparation to remember that God Himself gave the Cup and the Cross to His only Son to bear.
Lent is a time to remember and reflect on the great love God had for us, that He sent His only Son to die a horrific death so that we may be cleansed of sin, and to celebrate the empty tomb three days later.
© 2018 Terrie McKee
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