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.
It is the season of church passion plays, and there are several movies that deal with the final week of Jesus’ life. The chief priests and Pharisees are normally portrayed as the bad guys, or at least as the leaders of Israel who lack understanding. The Gospel of John suggests that Caiaphas understood more than we realize. When the Pharisees gathered the council in John 11, they worried that the whole nation of Israel would follow Jesus, resulting in the Romans taking Israel from their rule. Look what Caiaphas has to say in response:
But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. (John 11:49-53 ESV)
It is amazing that he perceives one man should die instead of the whole nation. He could be thinking about killing Jesus to save their nation from the Romans; but John actually says that he prophesied Jesus would die not only for the nation but for all the children of God. Could Caiaphas have been aware of what he was really saying? Whether intentional or not his statement was truly prophetic, and what he said about Jesus did indeed come to pass.
God will provide himself a lamb.
It is better that one man should die than the whole nation.
I find both of these stories interesting. Abraham was a great man of faith, even before the sacrificing Isaac story. He was not, however, a prophet. Caiaphas was the high priest, and usually portrayed as the bad guy in the crucifixion story. Pilate wanted to let Jesus go, and tried to talk the Hebrews out of killing him. God ordains the events of history, so there is no coincidence or stroke of luck in how his plan of salvation was carried out. It is still fascinating that both of these men spoke great truths, though neither understood the scope of what they were saying.