Genesis 22 tells the story of the sacrifice of Issac. Well, Isaac wasn’t really sacrificed but it was a close call. The point of the story is that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, thus passing his test of faith. As they were going up the mountain, Isaac notices they have wood and fire and actually asks his dad about not having a lamb. Abraham says “God will provide himself the lamb.” (Gen 22:8) After he was stopped – at the last possible moment – from sacrificing his son, he saw a ram caught by the horns in a thicket. That lamb was slain as an offering of thanksgiving. But did Abraham really know? He reasoned that Isaac’s birth had itself been a miracle, and if God chose he could restore Isaac to life. Now think about Jesus on the cross, the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. Recall Abraham’s words: God will provide himself the lamb. Truer words were never spoken. Continue reading
The banner at the top of this page is da Vinci’s portrait of the Last Supper. Renaissance Christians knew that Jesus and his disciples were not white with brown hair and blue eyes. They would not have been sitting in chairs at a table either. Despite the cultural “anomalies” the most important things are still visible; Jesus broke bread and passed the cup. That, after all, was the point.
This is Holy Week, the final days leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. On Easter Sunday we celebrate the resurrection, but these days between Palm Sunday and Good Friday are about remembering the last precious days that Jesus had with his closest followers. This would be the last time they celebrated Passover together, and Jesus still had a lessor or two he wanted to share. During the course of the meal, he gets up from the table and removed his outer robe. He then ties a towel around his waist, kneels on the floor, and begins washing the disciples feet. We know what happens to our own feet during the summer months, going about in sandals or flops. Imagine wearing sandals everyday and walking everywhere you went. He then asks if they understand why. Jews did not wash feet; feet are unclean, both literally and religiously to the Jews. He was their Master and Lord (and maker of heaven and earth) but he was humble like a servant. If he then, he explains, is willing to wash their feet they should each be doing the same. It is not a literal command to wash feet, but a lesson about humility and service to others.
Jesus broke bread to remind his followers that his body was broken. The fruit of the vine in the cup reminds us that his blood was poured out. He said that without taking part in his body and blood we had no part in him. But if we receive the one he sends – the Holy Spirit – then we receive him. And if we receive him, we receive the one who sent him – God the Father. The Hebrews had been celebrating Passover since they were brought out of Egypt. When the death angel saw the blood of the sacrifice it “passed over” that home, sparing the first born. Jesus takes the elements of that meal, and gives them new meaning for his followers. He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. When God sees the blood of Jesus on our hearts, his judgement will pass over.
There is just so much to say about Abraham. His story runs from Genesis 12 to 25, and I’ve found it hard to summarize or skip anything. In Genesis 22, Abraham is willing to and almost does sacrifice Isaac. There are some good lessons in the story about God, and they are all about his love and mercy toward sinners, not about him being vicious, cruel or scary.
Read Abraham Sacrifices Isaac at Bible Survey.
There was a time I wondered why so much emphasis was placed on the resurrection. Jesus died on the cross as the all-sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the world. Even if there had been no resurrection, his sacrificial death would have brought salvation; what could be more important than that?
The blood of Jesus was a more excellent sacrifice than that of bulls, sheep and birds. His death on the cross brought an end to the temple sacrifice system. The entire Gospel pivots around the cross. It is the universal symbol of Christianity. But the implications of resurrection are equally powerful, a fact that I can now appreciate as well. Continue reading
The 23rd Psalm; a very familiar passage and perhaps the most quoted poetry from the Old Testament. In John 10, Jesus explains that he is the good shepherd. He is not a hireling, but loves the sheep, and would lay down his life for them. He has been entrusted by the Father to care for the sheep. And of course, we’re the sheep.
We’ve all seen pictures of Jesus holding a lamb. But it’s more than a cute analogy. Sheep must be cared for. They have few natural defenses, and are very near sighted. They need the shepherd. We too are no match for the devil, often nearsighted (or blind), and desperately need the Good Shepherd. Continue reading
The invisible sky bully; have you ever heard God referred to that way? Even worse than calling him the “invisible man in the sky” is the notion that God pushes people around because he is bigger than them. A real bully is often a coward, and throws his weight around or intimidates those smaller than himself with words. Those promoting the sky bully myth would have you to believe that God orders people to worship him, and sends to hell anyone that doesn’t. It makes it easier to not believe in a God that could be like that, or helps people to doubt there is such a God. In a way that’s good, because there isn’t a god like that. Continue reading