The title may have the name, Abraham, in it, but this ultimately is about Jesus Christ. And the characteristics that make up the concept of his sacrifice when he went to his death.
People claim, too loudly sometimes, that Jesus died FOR US! Without any real explanation of how that dying-for-us concept really works.
The first part of this series focused on Jesus’s plea for mercy for those who accused him falsely. By doing this two things happened: (1) Jesus came down off the cross, turned and faced God, and plead for us to be forgiven. To do this, Jesus used his authority as the son of God to intercede for us. To be honest, though, God is the one who can choose to forgive us or not. Mercy is a choice that the one in ultimate authority can bestow. And (2) Jesus used his own ability and authority to show mercy to those who, through his time of ministry, purposefully slandered him. They told lies about him. And in stepping by those affronts, Jesus gathered his enemies behind him and allowed them to walk him to his cross.
This part of the exploration of the sacrifice of Jesus looks back at Abraham. And Isaac.
Isaac bore a burden as he climbed that hill. But Abraham carried the burden of his mission in his heart.
The only way that Abraham could accomplish that climb was for him to have absolute trust in God.
It is the nature of Abraham’s faith in God that individualizes him. And it is this specific expression of faith that Abraham shares with Jesus Christ.
In order for Abraham to be obedient to God’s command, he must go against himself. Against his family.
For all that God promised Abraham in terms of his creating a family, now God is ordering Abraham to destroy his own destiny.
And Abraham complies.
Abraham could have questioned the voice that brought such a challenge to him. He could have thought that it was Satan, not God, who ordered him up the hill.
But Abraham believed that God – without intending to harm him – told him to kill his own son. Abraham will be the priest who sacrifices his own son to God.
God gave him this son. And Abraham will give this son back to God. Even though it meant taking a human life.
A human sacrifice.
It may appear simple to look at this scenario and note the similarities with what Jesus did.
But Jesus Christ was both Abraham and Isaac.
Jesus had to carry the wood that would be used to bring about his death. And he had to carry his trust in God, the Father, in order to have the strength to climb his own hill.
He, too, could have questioned his visions of how his life would end. He, too, could have chosen to believe that an entity other than God was bringing these ideas of his own sacrifice to him. But he didn’t. Like Abraham, Jesus believed in God. Even though it meant going against himself.
Against his family.
Against his followers.
In order to accomplish God’s mission for him, Jesus had to turn on his path of life and healing, and instead walk the path of death.
The difference between Abraham and Jesus is that for Abraham, his climb up the hill with his son by his side, was a test. It was his test of obedience. His willingness to do anything God commanded him to do. So that God could test his mind, heart, and soul. By proving his willingness to be obedient to God, he proved that he was the one that God could depend upon to found the nation of Israel. To begin God’s ordered leadership on Earth.
But Jesus needed no such test. His passion was not just an act of willingness to be obedient to God.
Jesus served as both the priest and the sacrifice on his own altar.
Jesus, as priest, offered himself, as lamb, to his father.
But he could not do this if he killed himself.
Jesus did not commit suicide.
Jesus had to position himself into the role of priest, and then turn and allow his enemies to kill him. To rip his flesh and spill his blood. To soak his altar with his own blood that was offered up to God.
A religious sacrifice involves the idea of transformation. That which is being sacrificed is actually being transformed in the ritual. Our liturgical churches, those that celebrate an Eucharistic Mass, demonstrate that for us. This is my body, which I give to you. This is my blood, which I shed for you.
We are the ones who receive the precious flesh and blood of the one who was sacrificed.
Priests on the altar are not the priests who accomplish this sacrificial act. They merely serve as Christ’s servants, serving us what he himself succeeded in doing.
Some of us light candles on the altar so that, even though Jesus was not a burnt sacrifice, the meaning of his act will continually ascend to God. Giving God at every Mass the acknowledgement that his plan was fulfilled.
There was disruption in the relationship between God and his people. As the Great Reconciler, Jesus’s self-sacrifice was his gesture of purification that would heal that breach. Through his death, he also assumed the guilt for the wrongdoings that brought about this severance between God and man. Jesus solidifies the definition of the scapegoat, becoming ultimately the one who brings atonement to God for how his people had turned away from him.
Finally, in ritual sacrifices, blood symbolizes life force. When the blood of Jesus was spilt on the ground beneath his cross, our earth became soaked with his sacred blessing that brought the life force of God down to Earth. To us.
The blood that we receive at Mass is the life force of Jesus himself. It fuels and heals our souls. It gives us divine life so that we can go forward in our lives and face our own false accusers. Our own enemies. And because we have God’s life in us, we do not have to rely on ourselves to lift the heavy weights we are faced with, or to have the knowledge of how to solves our problems.
When we now scream, Jesus Saves! perhaps we can take a breath and settle back down and accept that our salvation comes in the understanding that actual flesh and real blood goes into us so that we can be the servants of God on Earth. That we are saved because we are willing to accept the transformation of Jesus’s sacrifice.