The holy Christian faith is the confession that Jesus Christ is the is the world’s Savior and Redeemer. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Saint Peter preached the truth that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” John the Evangelist put it this way: “This is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
Jesus is true God and true man in one person. He is the eternal Son of the Father, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary to be our Savior and our Lord. And this God who became flesh in the person of the Son, Jesus Christ, is the only true God, the Holy Trinity: the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
What has this God done for you? Well, He made you, and He loves His whole creation. And when our first parents fell into sin, and all humanity fell into darkness, sin, and death, God did something wonderful. He promised to send His only Son into the world to become man and to redeem and save humanity by His death and resurrection.
He has given to us His Holy Spirit and made Christians of us, by Baptism and by the power of His Word, so that we believe in Him and confess Jesus as Savior and Lord, who has brought to us forgiveness of sins, resurrection, and eternal life.
This Gospel promised first to Adam and Eve was given to Abraham in a wonderful way. That through his seed all the nations of the whole earth would be blessed – and that this glorious gift of the Gospel and God’s saving grace would go out to all nations and extend to every soul on earth.
Abraham, an old man of 100 and Sarah at 90 laughed when God told them they’d have a son and that this eternal Gospel would be realized in him. But those tears of laughter became tears of joy when God delivered on that promise with that miraculous birth. Isaac, whose name means laughter, was born.
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take you son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
I know this reading probably troubles you. To think that God would ask this. And that Abraham would be willing to do it. But here is where we’ve got to pause and think. Because you see, for the Christian, there are far worse things than death. For Abraham, the worst thing of all was not death but unbelief.
So Abraham hightailed it out of there early in the morning (probably to escape Sarah), took a donkey, and two servants, and his son Isaac. He took with him the wood for the burnt offering. And after a three-day journey they came to the mountain that God instructed them to go to.
There’s an interesting hint here about Abraham’s faith even before they climb up that mountain. Abraham says to his two servants, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come back to you.” Catch that? Abraham is announcing his intention to sacrifice his son and yet promises that both of them will come right back. “We’ll come back to you again,” says Abraham. He is confessing faith in the resurrection. Because Abraham, by faith, knows that even death itself is no barrier to God keeping every last one of His promises.
Abraham gives to Isaac, his son, the wood to carry up the mountain. And somewhere along the way, Isaac becomes curious: “Father, I see the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham prophecies right back, assuring his son, saying, “God will provide for himself the lamb, my son.”
On top of the mountain Abraham built an altar. He laid the wood in order and bound Isaac, his son. He laid him on the wood on top of the altar. He had the fire and the knife raised to slaughter his son.
But it was not to be. The angel of the Lord stopped him: “Abraham, Abraham! Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
Abraham looked up with those bloodshot eyes and he saw something beautiful - a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. And that ram, that full grown male lamb, was sacrificed instead. Abraham called the name of that place “The Lord will provide.” And provide He did. God gave the lamb, who lay down on the altar that Isaac escaped from.
It was there on top of the mountain that God repeated that glorious promise of the Gospel all over again: “Abraham, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven … and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”
Now fast forward 2000 years to the birth of Jesus. And then you’ll see it all. Saint Matthew in his Gospel, chapter 1, makes a point of going line by line, name by name, and tracing Jesus’ lineage all the way back up the family tree, to guess who!? That’s right, father Abraham, father of Isaac. It’s all right there!
John the Baptist sure did see it. He saw just what Abraham saw when he lifted his eyes at the Jordan River and saw Jesus coming: “Behold the Lamb. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
So when that promised Seed, God’s own Son, finally came, you’d think they’d all rejoice and give God thanks for the privilege of seeing that promise come to its glorious fulfilment. But sadly, not so. The Jews rage against Him in our Gospel this morning, especially when He speaks about His Father and the glory to come in His sacrificial death for the life of the world.
The Jews boasted about their father Abraham while forgetting the promise given to Abraham – and the faith that Abraham carried in his heart. Jesus explains it all so clearly, saying, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”
So what did Abraham, now dead and buried, see 2000 years before up on that mountain? Well, knife in hand, and ready to slaughter his son, the angel of the Lord spoke to him, told him “Stop,” and directed his eyes to the ram. And with those bloodshot eyes, and tear-stained face, he beheld on Mount Moriah – Good Friday.
Abraham believed the Gospel. Believed that God Himself would provide the sacrifice in His Son. Abraham saw 2000 years into the future and beheld Jesus, God’s own Son, dying on the cross for the sins of the world. The sacrifice that would prove to be a blessing to all nations as the apostles would go forth and preach the Gospel to the whole creation – with descendants and offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven.
Our epistle this morning teaches us that Christ is our High Priest, who entered the Most Holy Place and with His own blood obtained everlasting redemption for His people. He is the One who was before Abraham was, and yet is his descendant.
He is the promised Son who carries the wood up the mountain for the sacrifice, who is bound and laid upon the altar of the cross. He is the ram who is offered in our place, who is willingly caught in the thicket of our sin, and who wears the crown of thorns upon His head for our salvation.
The just sentence of God for this sinful world was this: “In the day that you sin you shall surely die.” But now, this morning in the temple, Jesus says words that should comfort and cheer our hearts: “If anyone keeps my word [that is, believes in Me!], he will never see death.” For Jesus came to taste death for us – to drink the cup of wrath down to its bitter dregs that we would be released from death’s power and so sip from a chalice of the sweetest wine, blood that forgives and satisfies, and delivers eternal life.
Finally, think again on Abraham and that dreadful request God made of him. As you prepare for a new week, you’re not exempt from suffering and trials and God asking troubling things of you too! But how comforting to remember that He who asks of you hard things is He who has given you His all, His Son. Therefore, when our crosses do come, and come they will, you may receive them cheerfully, knowing that they come from the very heart of Him who loves you and raises the dead! In the name of Jesus. Amen.
OFFERINGS TO LMC
Please remember your gifts to LMC. There are a few options for giving:
- You can mail your weekly offerings to the church.
- You can also do an online bill pay through your bank account, which can recur each month. Your bank then sends LMC a check with your offering. There is no cost to you or LMC for this.
- You can set up online giving through an App called Tithe.ly. There is a small fee associated with this transaction. You may find this option at www.lmcusc.org/give