Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish faith, lived roughly as long BEFORE the life of Christ as our generation does AFTER it. So what possible connection could Easter have to Abraham?
More than you might think. It all goes back t that one story of Abraham and his son that leaves most readers scratching their heads.
Famously, God had promised Abraham a son — an heir — who would be born to him by his barren wife. She was old enough that even if she had been able to have kids, they could qualify for social security by the time she got this promise.
But God came through, and the child, Issac, was born. When the child was an adolescent, God made a demand of Abraham that has shocked readers for centuries. Sacrifice your son. The full description is Genesis 22.
Here are some highlights.
“Take your 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.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
…Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 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 a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
The short version of the story is that Abraham obediently prepares the altar, lays Issac down on it, raises the knife, and prepares to slay his son, but with the kife posed to strike a killing blow, God stays his hand and provides a ram in his place. Abraham named the place ‘the Lord will provide’.
Roughly 1000 years later, during the days of David and Solomon, that location is again featured in the biblical narrative.
First, is the account involving David.
Therefore, the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say to David that David should go and erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 1 Chronicles 21:22
And Solomon building on that same spot.
Now Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan[b] the Jebusite. — 2 Chron 3:1
The site where Abraham sacrificed his son was the future site of the Temple.
What does this have to do with Easter? The temple is the place where sinful men approached a holy God with a sacrifice that would atone for their sin. But, as Hebrews explains, those animal sacrifices were at best, a stopgap measure. They had to be performed again and again, year after year.
Then, another thousand years passed after Solomon.
Another son ascended that same mountain or another part of the same range. Like Issac, he, carried the wood that would be an instrument of the sacrifice on his back.
Like Issac, he obediently yielded to the will of the father and did not resist his father’s will. This Son successfully fought that battle within himself while praying in the garden the night before.
But no ram appeared in a thicket to rescue this son. Nor should there have been… because the whole point of that story was not just that God would provide a sacrifice. The point of that story was that God would provide the sacrifice of … a beloved only Son.
Christ’s climb up Calvary with the cross upon his back, being slain for our trespasses was nothing less than a promise being fulfilled. The ram in that thicket was a miracle in Abraham’s eyes… but it was merely a promissory note in God’s. He had a much bigger plan, one that hinged on redemption.
There is one more very important similarity we might want to highlight between these two sacrifices, one mentioned in the great ‘Faith chapter’ of the book of Hebrews.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. — Heb 11:17-19
Abraham had resigned himself to the death of his son, and yet, he still held tight to the promise God made that he would have heirs beyond counting. When God stayed his hand, his son was ‘redeemed from death’ so to speak. Another sacrifice had taken his place.
In the short term, that was the ram in the thicket. In the broader sense, it was Christ.
He too, returned from the dead. The difference being, Christ’s resurrection was physical, not metaphorical.
Oh, one last thing… the ‘providing a sacrifice’ isn’t the only promise to Abraham that was kept with Christ’s death and resurrection.
As Paul said in his letter to the Galatians:
Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.
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