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The Momentous Sacrifice

Published by Steven Masood - August 20th 2016
Momentous sacrifice, Jesus the great sacrifice

Both the Bible and the Qur’an state that God chose Abraham for a special purpose. The Bible states that God told him, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves” (Genesis 12.1-3).

The Quran too confirms that God gave the promise to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations:  “Lo: I have appointed thee a leader for mankind” (Sura 2.124).

Almost every sincere Muslim in the world celebrates the festival of Eid al-Adha with great feeling. This festival is observed in memory of the sacrifice that Abraham offered God. Muslims believe that God put Abraham to the test by asking him to sacrifice his son. At the right moment God provided a ram to be sacrificed.

In the Quran we read of Abraham that God, “gave him tidings of a gentle son. And when his son was old enough to walk with him, Abraham said: O my dear son, I have seen in a dream that I must sacrifice thee” (Surah 37.100-102).

Muslim exegetes claim it was Ishmael, not Isaac as the Bible states in Genesis 22. However, the Qur'an does not state whether that son was Ishmael or Isaac. Among early Muslims there were several key figures who believed it was Isaac and not Ishmael.[1]

Referring to this incident, the Qur'an states that it was obviously a test and that God ransomed Abraham with a great sacrifice: “For this was obviously a trial - and We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice” (Sura 37:106 -107).

Muslim commentators usually say that this “great sacrifice” refers to the ram that was provided by God to be sacrificed in place of Abraham's son. But would a ram be a truly great sacrifice in comparison to Abraham's son? Note that it was the son, not Abraham, who was ransomed by the provision of that ram. Therefore, “the great sacrifice” must refer to another sacrifice to ransom Abraham himself. This raises a question. Was God pointing forward to a Momentous Sacrifice in the future?

In the Bible, these incidents are all recorded in great detail from beginning to end. By studying it one may learn the background of Abraham’s test and what the supreme sacrifice was through whom God ransomed not only Abraham but also all who are faithful like Abraham. We learn in this book that God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ, is the one who has been made the sacrifice and ransom for the whole world. John the Baptist (known as Yahya in the Qur'an) said of Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1.29). He gave Jesus this title to emphasis his role as a sacrifice, like the lamb but with much greater worth.

When some of the Jews, arguing vehemently with Jesus, appealed to their status as the physical sons of Abraham to support their claim that they were the heirs to God's blessings, Jesus answered, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad" (John 8.56). Abraham had vested his hopes not in his immediate physical offspring by their forefather Isaac but rather in his greater son after the flesh, Jesus himself, the Son of God according to the Spirit.

Abraham looked forward to the coming of Jesus, his greater son, to redeem the world from sin. It is for this reason that one of the titles Jesus is given in the Gospel account is Ibn Ibrahim, “the Son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). He is the Redeemer, the one who was foreshadowed in the sacrifice of Isaac centuries earlier. Both Jesus and Isaac were properly descended from Abraham according to the promise. However, as Isaac was considered by God to be the only son of Abraham, the reflection shows Jesus is ultimately the Son of God, the true Father of the faithful, the reality.

God revealed to Abraham that he was to send his own Son (Jesus Christ) into the world, born of Abraham’s seed as his greater son. He did this so the blessings he had promised to all nations might take effect through the saving death of his Son on the cross and his subsequent resurrection to glory and honor at the right hand of God: “Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Galatians 3.8-9).

Abraham foresaw the crucifixion of Jesus and knew that he was to be made a sacrifice for sin so that the blessings promised to him and his descendants might become real, even to those who are not his ancestors. The Bible puts it in this simple way: “That the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3.14). Believers in Jesus are the real heirs of Abraham because of their faith in Him. They are assured of the blessings which God promised Abraham and his descendants (Galatians 3.29).

Once a year Muslims commemorate the deep, wondrous love of Abraham for God in being willing to sacrifice even his own son out of obedience to God. However, do you know that every day of the year true believers in Jesus remember the deep, magnificent love of God for people, shown through God being willing to spare not even his own Word and the Spirit, known to us as Jesus? He did this to prove once for all his eternal love for us and his desire that we should not perish but through faith obtain eternal life, by believing in Jesus as our Savior and assurance (1 Timothy 2:4; 1 John 4.14). Talking of himself, Jesus said, “ ... the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

Dear friend, you are invited to inherit the blessings with believers in Jesus, the real al-Masih (the Messiah/Christ) by turning and putting your whole faith in him, the Momentous Sacrifice of God, so that you too may have the assurance of eternal life in the paradise of God.

"Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." (Hebrews 9:28)

 


[1] For example, see Ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d. 923), Tafsir al-Tabari, vol. 10, (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyah, 1999) pp. 510-517.

 

 

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