Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Lent Mid-Week 4

Lent Mid-Week Four[1]

March 5, 2008

Text: Gen. 22:7-8, 13-14; John 1:29:

And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.”
He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”
So they went both of them together.

And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught
in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a
burnt offering instead of his won. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord
will provide”; as it is said to this day, “on the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God,
who takes away the sin of the world!” (ESV).

Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb of God, provided by God Himself, come to take away the sin of the world. Our hymn, “Lamb of God, Pure and Holy” (LSB 434) praises Jesus as we confess, “All sins Thou borest for us, Else had despair reigned o’er us.” In the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac, we have a type, a foreshadowing, of God the Father’s sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus Christ, on the altar of the cross for the sin of the world.

You all remember the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. God had promised Abraham that through his Seed all the nations would be blessed, that the child born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age, Isaac, would be the ancestor of the promised Messiah, the Christ, who would save His people from their sins. But now God asks an impossible thing. God asks Abraham to take this child of promise, Isaac, to the designated spot on Mount Moriah, bind him on an altar of stone, slay him, and offer him as a burnt offering. Are you ever a bit horrified when you read or hear this story? There is no question that it is meant to shock. What would you do in Abraham’s place? I can only speculate that I would refuse the Lord’s request. You want me to sacrifice my child?! Forget it!

Thus Abraham has greater faith than I do. Because Abraham does as the Lord says. Perhaps that is even more horrifying to you, that Abraham would actually take the son whom he loved more than life, the son promised to him by the Lord, born to him when he and his wife were well past the age of child bearing, and be willing to sacrifice him. But here is where Abraham’s faith leads him to do the most horrifying thing imaginable to him. Abraham offers his son as sacrifice, as the Lord commanded him. Abraham believes that God will provide another lamb in place of Isaac for sacrifice. And Abraham believes that if God does not provide another lamb, if Isaac is the lamb, God can raise the dead. Thus the writer to the Hebrews says of Abraham, “By faith, Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Heb. 11:17-19).

Abraham believes God, and it is credited to him as righteousness. Abraham believes God, so that when his beloved son Isaac asks, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for burnt offering?,” Abraham is able to answer, “God will provide for himself a burnt offering, my son” (Gen. 22:7-8). Abraham believes God, so that when he has built the altar and laid the wood, he binds up Isaac and lays him on top of the wood. Abraham believes God, so that when the sacrifice is ready, he raises the knife to slaughter his son. He must have been shaking. He must have had tears in his eyes. How his heart must have been praying, “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup from me. Yet not as I will, but Your will be done.” Abraham believes God in the face of overwhelming doubt and despair. And as unbelievable as it sounds, in faith, Abraham would have slaughtered his son. But just as he is about to bring the knife down and plunge it into the flesh of his dear child, an angel of the Lord calls from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!… Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (vv. 11-12). Oh, what relief! Praise and thanks be to God! And then, as Abraham looks up, he sees that God is ever faithful. God provides Himself with a Lamb for the sacrifice. There in the thicket is a ram, caught by its horns. Abraham unbinds his dear son, and in his place binds the ram that the Lord has provided. The ram is offered in place of Isaac, and Isaac goes free.

Beloved, God has provided for Himself a Lamb for sacrifice. What God did not finally require of Abraham, God required of Himself. He bound His only Son to the altar of the cross to be sacrificed as His own Lamb for the sin of the world. Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. No angel stayed the hands of Jesus’ executioners that fateful Friday. The Father went through with the execution of Abraham’s promised Seed. By that Seed, Jesus Christ, all the nations of the earth are blessed. For in that Seed, in His sacrifice, in His suffering and death, by His precious blood, the sins of the whole world are forgiven. That includes your sin and mine. That includes your sin of idolatry, not fearing, loving, or trusting in God above all things, not being willing to make the sacrifice Abraham made, much less sacrificing an extra five dollar bill so a poor man can eat. There was a double type, a double foreshadowing, the day that Abraham bound his son to the altar on Mount Moriah. Isaac was a type of Christ in that Abraham was called upon to sacrifice his only son, just as God sacrificed His only Son Jesus, and Abraham received Isaac back from death, just as God received His Son Jesus back from death in the resurrection. But so also the ram is a type of Christ, and Isaac is a type of you and me. God provides the ram just when Isaac is about to be slaughtered, so that the ram is sacrificed, and Isaac goes free. So also God provides His precious Lamb, Jesus Christ, just when you and I are about to be eternally slaughtered in hell, so that Jesus is sacrificed, punished, in our place, and you and I go free. In fact, we are rewarded for Jesus’ sacrifice. We get eternal life and salvation because of His sin-atoning work. All our sins are wiped out, our debt paid in full by Jesus on the cross. But we aren’t just forgiven. We’re given crowns that we might reign with Him in heaven. Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

This is the faithful God we have. He is faithful to the point of sacrificing His only Son on the cross for our sin. He richly and generously doles out the benefits of that sacrifice here in His Holy Church through His Word and Sacraments. So we can believe in Him. We can be faithful to Him. No matter what trial or temptation God allows to come upon us, we can have the faith of Abraham. We know God has already provided for himself the Lamb for sacrifice. And we know that even when it seems like He requires the impossible, He is faithful, and He will not let us fall. He will uphold us with His righteous right hand. And in the end, He will bring us into His heavenly Kingdom and bestow upon us the crown of life. All because Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, Pure and Holy, who bore all sins for us, and who continually drives away all despair, and Himself reigns over us. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] This year’s sermon series taken from Lamb of God, Pure and Holy (St. Louis: Concordia, 2008). The sermon is my own, but many of the ideas are from the authors of the book.

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