Bethlehem Lutheran Church & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR
Fifth Sunday in Lent (Judica) + March 18, 2018
Text: Genesis 22:1-14
This past Sunday, we heard how God provides for all our needs. In the collect we prayed, “Almighty God, our heavenly Father, Your mercies are new every morning; and though we deserve only punishment, You receive us as Your children and provide for all our needs of body and soul. Grant that we may heartily acknowledge Your merciful goodness, give thanks for all Your benefits, and serve You in willing obedience.”
Yes, it is true that God gives daily bread. But that’s not all. This is how the teaching goes in John 6. Last Sunday’s Gospel left off with the people wanting to make Jesus their king by force because He filled their bellies (John 6:1-15). The conversation goes on to reveal the Incarnate God, not just as a miracle-working food bank, but the True Bread which comes down from heaven:
49Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:49–51)
God gives daily bread even to all evil people, but God will not Living Bread to them. They have no share of the Living Bread and its benefits because they do not belive in the cost of it. How much does the Living Bread cost? The flesh of God’s own Son; His very life.
In Genesis 22, God commanded to offer up his son, Isaac. It begins, “After these things.” After the strife between Sarah and Hagar after the birth of Isaac, the son of promise. God tested Abraham. The truth stands that there is a price for peace with God, for the kind of intimacy that Abraham was able to barter for Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:22-33). Nevertheless, sin is no light matter, and it demands that a just price be paid.
“2[The Lord] said, “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.”” (Genesis 22:2)
Surely anything else! Not the most precious, the beloved, the son of promise! Abraham’s own flesh and blood! But Abraham believed God and took Him at His Word.
“3So 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.” (Genesis 22:3)
Then Abraham’s beloved son, the appointed sacrifice, speaks up:
“7Isaac 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?” 8Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.” (Genesis 22:7–8)
God will provide for himself the Lamb. At this point, for all Abraham knew, this lamb was still the son God had provided not too many years ago. Somehow God would keep both His promise and command: that through Isaac, Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens, and that this son should be sacrificed.
“9When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”” (Genesis 22:9–14)
God does not deny the necessity of sacrifice, the bloodguilt of what we have done and failed to do. Our trouble with grace is that we think just because sins are paid for, it’s no big deal. Just because our sins are covered by no means makes them free.
Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
So our consciences are smitten by sins which we have committed. It was our hand which reached out to embrace someone who was not our spouse. It was our careless driving which maimed another person. It was our lips which spoke hastily and in anger.
But where is the price to be paid for those sins?
If it is left to us, the load is too great to bear. Soldiers return from combat with shellshock and guilt over what they have done in the name of freedom. Their conscience screams that it’s all wrong and someone must pay. Without meaning to, they take it out on their kids and wife, their coworkers, and sometimes even those who are trying to help—as happened just a couple weeks ago at the Veterans Home in California.
Our consciences are well aware of this cost even if we try to suppress it. If the guilt and the cost is left for us to shoulder, then we are sure to despair. Not even the death of one’s own beloved child could purchase release from guilt. But where who can bear that awful load?
Abraham’s son, Isaac was spared. God provided a ram caught in a thicket and male lamb from God saved Isaac and Abraham. But not even the blood of bulls, goats, or lambs could take away guilt. Another Lamb was foreshadowed.
Mark the sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load;
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God.
If we look at the great cost of sin, it cannot be ignored, especially not by God Himself. But it cost the Father dearly. While Abraham was spared from giving up his son, God was not. It had to be Jesus, the Son of God because no one else was worthy. No other blood could cancel man’s guilt and purchase release—only Jesus, “Son of Man and Son of God.”
On the mountain of the Lord (on the mountain of Calvary), it was be provided. God did provide the Lamb. He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all. With Jesus’ sacrifice complete, the guilt before God is removed, the conscience is cleansed, as Peter writes:
“18For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 3:18–21)
When you are laden with the cost of your sins, go to where God has appointed release from guilt. But you do not need to go to Mount Moriah, or literally travel to a hill outside Jerusalem. God has appointed the sacrifice and delivered it to you in the water of your Baptism. In your Baptism, all your guilt was borne by Christ, the Lamb of God, and you are saved. The knife of God’s wrath was stayed and put back in its sheath. As that news reaches your ears, you are also raised with Christ to live a new life!
A life free from guilt before God is a life that is unlike anything found from earthly remedies—filled with joy in the midst of sorrows, peace in the face of death, and strength to make amends with those we’ve hurt. When God gave up His own Son and spared you, this is what He gave to you.
Rejoice and give thanks for God’s Lamb, because having eaten His flesh and drunk His blood both in faith and in fact (in the Lord’s Supper), you shall live forever. Amen.
 “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” (LSB 451, st. 3)
Bethlehem Lutheran Church & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR