Tuesday 7th December 2021
Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:11-16)
The words used in the last verse bring to mind one of the most troubling stories in the Old Testament:
He (God speaking to Abraham) 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 that I shall show you.’ (Gen22:2)
In Jewish tradition ‘the binding of Isaac’, although deeply disturbing and theologically perplexing, has nevertheless long been a central subject for their religious reflection and art. In a similar way, Christians have long pondered over the significance of the dark and perplexing events of the crucifixion. It should be noted, however, that right from the beginning, Jesus’ death was viewed in the New Testament not as a moment of defeat, but of victory; not so much as a display of human perversity but as a testimony to divine love. The cross was soon transformed from a symbol not of shame and reproach to one of hope.
The death of Jesus could be viewed as an act of God’s sacrificial love only because the young Jewish rabbi from Nazareth who was executed for sedition under Roman law is God’s son, the one he loves.
The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. (John 3:35)
The path that Jesus took to Golgotha is costly to the Father in a way that is analogous to the suffering Abraham experienced in taking Isaac to Moriah. The cost has to do with the depth of the relationship between father and son.
A central feature of the Christian story is that Jesus is not a servant (like Moses) but a son. And therein lies the significance of God’s gift to us and the real meaning of his sacrificial love. God gave to us his only son, whom he loved, that in believing in him we might not be condemned but enjoy life eternal.
Loving God, you have made us for yourself.
Give us hearts to respond to your desire for our love
Give us the words to worthily praise your holy name.
Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King,
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend,
In whose sweet praise
I all my days
Could gladly spend.