Abraham, Isaac, and Christ

2nd Sunday of Lent
Beloved in Jesus Christ,
2000 years before the birth of Christ, Abraham obeyed a call by God to sacrifice his beloved Son, Isaac. No event of the Old Testament has been written about more by the ancient Jewish rabbis, than that one.[i] They knew that this mysterious event of Abraham offering his son, was somehow connected to the coming Messiah. But it has puzzled so-many people through history.
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It is said that this was to test Abraham’s Faith. But why would God do this, ask a father to sacrifice his son? What does it mean? Well, the events of the Old Testament are recorded for the very purpose of pointing to the Savior to come, and the Sacrifice of Isaac is no exception.
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Here are the facts: Abraham is asked to sacrifice his son. In those days, the sacrifice, usually an animal, was killed and then burned, as an offering to God. So, Abraham and Isaac go up the hill to sacrifice; Isaac carries the wood for it on his shoulders up the hill. On their way up, Isaac asks, ‘Father, where is the lamb for sacrifice?’ ‘God will provide the lamb,’ he replied.
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When they reach the top of the hill, Isaac seems to realize that HE is to be the sacrifice, but he accepts it; he is bound with rope and as Abraham raises the knife to sacrifice his son, an angel from heaven says ‘Stop, do not harm the boy.’ Nevertheless, Abraham wanted to offer something to God; he saw a ram with its head, caught in a thorn bush, and so he offers the lamb in place of his son.
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So what does this story mean? Well, Abraham is to offer his only beloved son, and this is an image of God the Father, who will offer his only Beloved Son, Jesus. As Isaac carried the wood for his own sacrifice up the hill, so did Jesus carry the wood of the cross up the hill of Calvary. Isaac is a symbol – a type of Jesus. Isaac is tied and bound with rope, and it is no coincidence, that the Gospel tells us that Jesus was also ‘bound,’ and led away to be crucified.
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Now since this was a sign of the Messiah to come, the angel stops it and says, don’t continue. Isaac gets to live. But in place of Isaac, there is this ram that Abraham offers in his place, just as the true Lamb of God, Jesus, dies for us. That lamb had it’s head caught in a thorn bush, because as we know, Jesus had a crown of thorns pressed onto his head. The meaning of this event therefore, is that it is a sign of the coming Savior, who will die for our sins.
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Now there is something more interesting here as well. It is often said that this was a test of Abraham’s Faith, But faith in what? What did Abraham believe in, that would make him do this? Well, many of the ancient rabbis actually believed that Isaac WAS sacrificed and immediately came back to life. Rabbi Eliezer was one of the greatest rabbis of the 1st century. He says: “When the knife touched Isaac, his soul departed, but when he heard the angel say ‘Stop,’ his soul returned, and Isaac arose. Isaac then believed that in the future the dead will rise.’
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So did Abraham believe, that even if he killed his son, God would raise him up again, alive, to fulfill his promise?[ii] It seems so, because before he took Isaac up the hill, he told the people, ‘Wait here, and we will return.’ ‘We’ will return. How could they both return, if he would sacrifice him? Only if God returned Isaac to life.
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St. Paul actually says the same thing in Hebrews. Heb 11:17 He says, ‘By faith Abraham reasoned that God had the power to raise up his son even from the dead, and so he received Isaac back as a sign of the resurrection to come.’
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The entire Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, was foretold in these remarkable events 4000 years ago. Abraham firmly believed that God could resurrect his son, this father, who brings his beloved son to die, this son, who carries the wood for his own death up the hill. The Lamb with head caught in the thorns; it was all a ‘dress-rehearsal’ for the events of our salvation.
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And it is perhaps a stunning fact, that where it all happened, that place, was what would become the hill of Calvary.
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Today, in the Transfiguration, Jesus, on another mountain, shows his disciples a glimpse of his glorious resurrection, and not only a glimpse of his own, but of our future as well. The faithful disciples of Christ will rise in glorified bodies; as Jesus said, ‘the just will shine like the sun, in the kingdom of their Father.’ This is our destiny, to be glorified like this in the world to come.
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It was foretold by signs, in the Old Testament, it is demonstrated by Jesus in his Resurrection, and it is promised to us, if we remain faithful. St. Paul says, the Lord will transform our lowly bodies to be like his own, glorious body.
We say it every Sunday in the Creed: I believe in the resurrection of the Body, and the life of the world to come.
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This 2nd Sunday of Lent, Mother Church has her children read this Gospel, about the Transfiguration, so that as we go through the sacrifices and challenge of Lent, we will keep our eyes fixed on the Easter joy ahead, on the glory of the life to come. If Lent is a symbol for the travails of this world, Easter is a sign of the joy of heaven.
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This life isn’t easy, but as Scripture says: ‘The sufferings of this present time are nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to us.
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The Old Testament pointed to our destiny, in the Transfiguration Jesus reveals it to us, and as if to spur us on the more, Mary has already arrived there.
In the 12th chapter of the Book of Revelation, we see in heaven, ‘a Woman clothed with the sun.’ That’s Mary; she’s clothed with the sun, with God’s divinity, and she’s praying for us and waiting for us, until we get there too.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Anthony of Padua]

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[i] The ancient manuscripts of the Talmud and Mishna call it, the ‘Binding of Isaac.’

[ii] God had promised Abraham years before, that all of his grandchildren and progeny would come through Isaac. How could this happen if he killed him? Only if he trusted that God would bring him back to life.

 

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