The Editor’s Desk by Shawn McMullen
As we draw closer to Resurrection Sunday and enter a week marking Jesus’ anointing at Bethany, his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his teaching in the temple courts, the washing of the disciples’ feet and institution of the Lord’s Supper during Passover, his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, his arrest, trial, and crucifixion, I can’t help but think about the sacrifice involved.
Easter is about hope and victory over death. But it is also about sacrifice, a theme that permeates Scripture.
From the time God called a people out of all the nations to be his exclusive people, a line through which the promised Messiah would come, he emphasized the importance of sacrifice. Abraham was 100 years old when Sarah gave birth to Isaac, the son of the promise. Earlier God promised Abraham he would raise up a great nation through him, and now Abraham could see the result of the promise. But then, unexpectedly, God called upon Abraham to sacrifice his son (his only son, according to Genesis 22:2) as a burnt offering. Abraham didn’t waver. He traveled with Isaac to the region of Moriah, climbed the mountain God designated, and prepared the altar and wood for the sacrifice. Not until Abraham took the knife in his hand to slay his son did the angel of the Lord prevent him from completing the task.
Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son at God’s command proved that he feared God and set an example of faith for all who would come after him.
Many years later King David, presiding over the great nation God brought forth from Abraham, made a foolish decision to count Israel’s fighting men. His action displeased God, and as a result, God sent a plague through Israel that took 70,000 lives. As the angel who brought the plague came to Jerusalem, the Lord relented and stopped his progress. David marked the plot of ground where the angel stopped (which later became the site of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem according to 2 Chronicles 3:1), and asked to purchase the property. The landowner refused at first, offering to give the property to David as a gift, along with oxen and wood for the sacrifice. But the king responded, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24).
David understood there can be no sacrifice without cost.
A millennium later Jesus Christ, the Son of God, offered himself on a cruel cross “to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). He did this so that “by one sacrifice he [would make] perfect forever those who are being made holy” (10:14). When I think about what this sacrifice cost Christ—the physical pain of execution, the emotional pain of abandonment, the spiritual pain of feeling forsaken by God as he bore the sins of the world—I can only bow my head and thank our gracious God for the mercy he extended to us at Calvary. No suffering was too severe, no cost too great.
Thank you, Lord, for loving us with such sacrificial love!