Sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent - Judica - March 18, 2018
Luther Memorial Chape - Shorewood, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
Abraham was an old man – and Sarah was an old woman. They laughed when God told them they would have a son. That is why Isaac in Hebrew literally means laughter.
But today Abraham is not laughing. He is taking his son – his only son – up to a high mountain. Isaac is carrying on his back the wood that his father had chopped up for the sacrifice. For God had said to Abraham “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a sacrifice on the mountain of which I shall tell you.”
Abraham who delighted in his son, now leads him steadily toward the mountain. He looks down at his son, who trudges on – up toward the mountain to worship God. The father loves the son and the son loves his father. Tear drops perhaps rolled down the wrinkles on Abraham’s aging and tired face – worn down from a century of travel, trouble, and war.
This treasure of his son – was his joy – the apple of his eye. Perhaps his Son Isaac laughed along the way. But on the third day. Abraham took the wood that his son had carried. He built an altar out of the wood. And asked that his Son lay down on that altar. He did. His father tied him down and bound him to the wood. The son was bound and tied to the wooden altar. God had told Abraham to do this. And Abraham trusted God.
He knew that the Lord would provide. He raised his knife and took the fire in his hand. But he was still a man. An old man. His wrinkled hands shook violently. He would first slaughter his son and then offer him as a burnt offering to God.
At that moment of complete terror, an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and told Abraham to put down his knife, now I know that you fear God and have not withheld your son. The Lord will provide. Abraham lifted his bloodshot eyes and saw a ram caught in thicket by his horns.
Abraham took the sacrifice caught in a crown of thorns. Issac was released from the altar unharmed. And the ram was offered up instead of his son. God provided.
With knife in his hand, Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the sacrifice. He saw Good Friday 2000 years before Christ was born. He saw that another Father, on another mountain, offers up his Son. The Lord provides the sacrifice that He himself demands. God settles the debts. His Son carries his wooden altar – his wooden cross toward a better mountain. He lays down on the altar that Isaac escaped from.
You sins brought about the death of God’s son. It could be no other way…. Only in this way can we rightly understand everyone’s favorite confirmation verse “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.”
The Father offers him up as a sacrifice. The father takes a knife to his own Son. He is roasted in his father’s wrath – lifted high against the blazing sun - the punishment we sinners rightfully deserved.
Behold the lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world. He is the Passover lamb, where death passes over. He is the ram caught in the thicket. He is strapped down to the altar, and you, like Isaac, go free.
The writer to the Hebrews put it best in our epistle this morning: But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, he entered once 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.
Today Jesus says to the Jews “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” When Abraham lifted his knife high, Abraham had faith. Abraham saw Good Friday – He saw the crucified Christ when he saw the Ram caught in the thorns. He knew that God would provide the sacrifice. Abraham believed in Jesus. He knew by faith in the promise that God would provide the sacrifice. He knew that Isaac would live and Jesus would die. He knew that he would be raised from the dead.
God’s love it different than our love. He gives to us his son. The holy Son of God lays down on the altar for sinners like us. What wondrous love is this? That the same God who created the heavens and the earth, the wind the sea, keeps the sparrow in flight, lays his son in the grave, that we would spared from death.
Last week Jesus said to us, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Rejoice, dear Christian. You have passed from death to life. Jesus has come for the likes of you. The sacrifice is given. Your rest is won. Your sins are all paid for and completely satisfied.
So don’t be afraid to laugh a little more. The sun has risen and spring is here. The bright shore is coming. You will weep no more. And soon you will stand safely in your fatherland -with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. With all your blessed fathers and mothers who hoped in the promises of God. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Prayer of the Church
Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.
Heavenly Father, Abraham saw the day of Your Son when You provided the ram caught in the thicket to be sacrificed in Isaac’s stead. Give us eyes of faith to see the fulfilment of that provision when You provided Your Son to be sacrificed on Mount Calvary as the unblemished Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Fix our gaze upon Jesus, who lived and died to provide for us forgiveness, life and salvation. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Holy Father, continue to raise up for us men who preach the Gospel in its purity and administer the Sacraments according to Christ’s institution. Bless these pastors in Christ, that they would be undershepherds of the Good Shepherd, caring faithfully for the flocks under their charge. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Gracious Father, we, Your children, must contend with the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh as we make our way through this valley of the shadow of death. Send out Your light and Your truth, and let them lead us to the holy hill of Your Church, where we find sanctuary and refreshment for our troubled souls. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
We thank You, merciful Father, for our partner churches around the world who share in our blessed fellowship around font, pulpit and altar. Always keep them, and us, steadfast in the saving doctrine of the blessed apostles drawn from Your holy Word. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Almighty Father, we thank You for the gift of family and for all relations and friends You give to us. Grant Your blessing upon all families, and give to them what they need for the nourishment of their bodies. Especially do we pray for the nourishment of their souls in the gifts of forgiveness and life given in Your Holy Church. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Compassionate Father, bless all who are homebound, especially Carol, Dorothea, Betty, Doris, Cliff and Carol, Teresa, Ethel, Paul, Maude, and Lou. According to Your will, give them healing and relief, and firm trust in You, and give to each of us every good thing that we need to support us in this earthly life. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
O Lord, our God, make us ready to approach the holy altar, where we receive the most holy body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of all our sins. Fill us with His life and love and peace, and purify our conscience from dead works to serve You, the living God. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
We give You thanks, O Lord, for all who have gone before us in the faith and now rest from their labors. Keep us, we pray, in that same saving faith, that we may, together with them, enter the life of the world to come when Christ returns in great glory on the Last Day. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Into Your hands, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.