Tag Archives: Sacrifice

Finding the Holy Grail

Victor Borge used to hold out his wrist watch and say, “You like this watch?  My father gave it to me on his deathbed. (Then a perfectly timed pause…) Twenty five bucks!”  Hilarious, because who would try to weasel money from his son when he is just about to die?  Just as incomprehensible to us is the question James and John asked Jesus after He told them He was just about to die.  No, wait a minute… they didn’t ask Him, they got their Mother to do it!  Probably thought she could manipulate Jesus better…

” Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” (Matthew 20:20-21)

Are you kidding me?  Jesus had just told them He would be flogged and crucified and they are angling for the best seats?  It doesn’t make sense.  As Jesus points out, they really didn’t understand  what He had just told them.  They must have thought He was using symbolic terms when He said those things about being tortured and killed.  Jesus doesn’t criticize them for asking, but turns their insensitivity and ambition into an important lesson:

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”” (Matthew 20:22-23)

Jesus is going to be King, He is going to rule over a “Kingdom.”  But His path to that position for Him leads through the “cup” of suffering and sacrifice.  And absolute submission to the will of His Father.  Those who follow Jesus must understand that path and be prepared for that dynamic.  It’s not that all Christians will be crucified, or even all of the apostles (although most of them were tortured to death).  It is that following Jesus flips the idea of what it means to be influential.  

It’s not prestige and privilege, it’s humility and service.  That is the “cup,” the real Holy Grail of Jesus.  It is ironic how many stories have been written about how people, obsessed by greed, expended such effort to find the Holy Grail.  But the real “cup” of Jesus is right here to be taken up by anyone.  That is, anyone who first turns away from his own greed and ambition.

Chew on that…  More to come…

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Could God be That Cruel?

What kind of god would command a father to kill his only natural son?  In Genesis, we read how God told Abraham,

…“Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” (Genesis 22:2b)

Some say there is no way this God could be the same God described in the New Testament, the God of Jesus, the God of love.  In their opinion, there is no way a “good” God would even suggest child sacrifice.  Makes sense, unless you know the whole story…

First, we must understand that it was not unheard of for pagan gods to require child sacrifice.  Abraham’s unquestioning obedience gives a strong indication that he had been aware of such practices.  Secondly, as you read through the account, just before Abraham stabs his son, Isaac, to prepare him as a sacrifice, God puts a stop to it.  Instead, God Himself provides the sacrifice.

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:12-14)

God’s purpose, He said, was to test Abraham’s faith.  Even as a test of faith, however, this seems unnecessarily cruel.  Why would God put both Abraham and Isaac through such torment?  But there is more going on here.  God tells Abraham:

“I swear by myself, … that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you … and through your offspring [literally seed] all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:16-18, excerpts only, for clarity)

God’s plan to redeem and rescue “all nations” is reaffirmed after Abraham’s act of faith.  How will His plan be accomplished?  “Through [Abraham’s] seed.”  Who is that “seed,” that descendant?  It is  Jesus.  How do we know it is Jesus?  Because through Jesus, God fulfilled the plan.  How?  By sacrificing His One and Only Son as a sacrifice for our own sin.  Where did this happen?  On the same mountain!  Do you see the beautiful symmetry?

With that information in mind, reread this:

So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

The God of the Old and New Testament does not require sacrifice from us.  This same God provided the necessary sacrifice, for us.  (If you don’t understand why the sacrifice was necessary, click here.)  Jesus, God’s One and Only Son, went to the cross on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem, to pay for our sins.  Here’s how this was foretold by the prophet, Isaiah:

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  (Isaiah 53:5)

This profound gift of grace, given to redeem and rescue all those who will receive it by faith, is perhaps the most compelling evidence that God has not changed.  He is the same God throughout the whole Bible.

Living Love

In 1970, Stephen Stills sang, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with…”  A few years earlier, John wrote: “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7b)

Does that mean Stephen Stills is “born of God?”  Not necessarily.  Because when John uses the word “love,” he means something very different from what Stephen means.  The opposite.  Here’s the key to understanding what John means by love.  He wrote,

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  (1 John 3:16a)

“Love” is giving myself up for you – my wants, my pride, my self-interest, my needs, etc.  I set aside what I want in order to minister to what you need.  For, example If you “can’t be with the one you love,”  you will still be faithful to her.  The ultimate example of love is Jesus’ choice to die so that we could live.  It’s only in understanding what John means by love that we can make sense of the rest of what he wrote:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:7-10)

Once again, John defines what he means by love.  But notice that God’s act of love is not pointless; it produces in us a new birth (born of God) into new life (…that we might live through Him).  Everyone who accepts God’s Gift of love – Jesus and His atoning sacrifice – is given the Spirit of God.  This Spirit is “born” in the believer and “lives” in him or her.  This is God’s Spirit, the Spirit of love, because “God is love.”

Make sure you follow the logic of these thoughts.  They are not just nice valentines from John, but revolutionary truths!  Only when you comprehend what John is saying here, only when you “get it” with an “Aha!” sort of understanding, will it make sense to read:

“Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”