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Why Follow Jesus?

Chapter 18: Jesus, The Great Sacrifice

I stood beside Ahmad watching his father sacrificing a lamb with a knife. It was the festival called Eid al-Adha and Muslims celebrate it every year. I wondered why Muslims sacrificed so many animals every year. That was several years ago when I did not know much about the meaning of the event. Very soon, like others, I came to know that it was in memory of when God tested Abraham by asking for the sacrifice of his son. Abraham obeyed, but at the right moment God provided a ram as a substitute for Abraham's son.

Adam & Eve

The Bible in fact tells us that sacrifice goes back before Abraham. When Adam was created, God warned him not to eat from the tree of knowledge, or he would surely die.[1] Adam and Eve disobeyed God. They realised they were naked, and felt ashamed, so they tried to cover themselves with leaves.[2] This story is also mentioned in the Qur'an.[3]

Cain & Abel

The first two sons of Adam and Eve were Cain and Abel.[4] The Bible shows that they had been taught to sacrifice to God. Abel acted accordingly and his offering was accepted, but Cain did not, and his offering was rejected. The Qur'an confirms that Cain's offering was not accepted.[5] When we look at this story in the context of the whole Bible we see that Adam's family had been taught a particular way to approach God. This was to offer sacrifice to Him. Later, God showed that we deserve to die for our sin, and so a substitute is needed, a ransom, (fidyah).

Abraham & his son

This substitution is illustrated in the case of Abraham and his son. God told Abraham to offer up his son, and Abraham obeyed. When he lifted his knife to kill his son, God told him to stop and provided a ram instead. So the ram died in place of Abraham's son.[6]

The passover lamb

Another remarkable example was the Passover Lamb. The Israelites were in cruel bondage in Egypt. The ruler, Pharaoh, wouldn't let them go free to worship God. Therefore God sent Moses to deliver them. After sending many plagues to Egypt, God said He would kill all the first born children in that land. However, God also provided a substitute for the first born of Israel. Moses commanded his people to slaughter a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their door posts. The angel of God would then pass over every door which had the blood on it, and the firstborn in that house would be spared. God fulfilled His promise and the firstborn of Israel were saved.[7]

The law of Moses

In the law of Moses, in the book of Leviticus, God revealed that the way for mankind to approach Him is through sacrifice.[8] Later He said, "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness".[9] Moses explained the method of sacrifice to the Israelites: The sinner was to take a perfect animal to the door of the temple of God. There he was to put his hands on it, symbolically transferring his sins onto the animal. Next he had to kill it and the priest would sprinkle its blood at the foot of the altar, and offer the rest to God on the altar. God would accept the animal's death in place of the death of the sinner. [10]

A question

How can an animal die for a man, when a man is of much greater value than any animal? The animal did not take away man's sin, it was merely a symbol pointing to what was to come. God permitted such a situation until the perfect sacrifice would be offered for all sin. This offering would be for the sin of all the people who had ever lived or would live.

The great sacrifice

After Moses, many prophets of God came to prophesy about this great sacrifice. One such prophet was Isaiah. He made a very astonishing prophecy which was fulfilled centuries later in Jesus who accomplished God's purpose. [Read Isaiah 52:13-15; 53:1-12]

The testimony of the John the Baptist

God sent John the Baptist, known as Hazrat Yahya, to be the last of these prophets. John was the forerunner of Jesus. He called people to repent and be baptised. One day when Jesus appeared on the shore of the Jordan river, John cried out, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.'" [11]

The testimony of Jesus

Jesus Himself declared that He had come to give His life as a ransom for many[12] and that anyone who believed in Him, would have eternal life.[13] He fulfilled His task by being crucified. On the cross He cried, "It is finished", to tell mankind that God's purpose had been completed.[14] The long awaited promise to Abraham had been fulfilled. Jesus once said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."[15] The Qur'an said that God ransomed Abraham with a great sacrifice.[16] Can there be anything greater than Jesus' sacrifice of Himself?

This is God's way and it is the only way. We see that on the third day Jesus rose victoriously from the dead to show that those who believed in Him would enjoy eternal life with God. After His resurrection, Jesus said, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms ... This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." [17]

God with us

Dear friend, God commanded Adam and Eve to leave His presence, not because He hated them, but because they had disobeyed. They had sinned. To bring them, and the whole of mankind, back into fellowship with Him, He planned to rescue them. When the good news about Jesus was given, the prophet Isaiah said, " ... they will call Him Immanuel"[18] which means, "God with us."[19] Jesus spent only about 30-35 years on this earth but before His bodily ascension He said, " ... Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."[20]

Who would refuse this Saviour who offers us an assurance such as nobody else has ever given? Let us follow His teaching.


References

  1. Genesis 2:17
  2. Genesis 3:7,8
  3. Qur'an 20:115-123
  4. Genesis 4:1-16
  5. Qur'an 5:27-32
  6. Genesis 22:1-18; Qur'an 37:102-109
  7. Exodus 12
  8. Leviticus 17:1-12
  9. Hebrew 9:22
  10. Leviticus 4
  11. John 1:29,30
  12. Matthew 20:28
  13. John 3:14-16
  14. John 19:30
  15. John 8:56
  16. Qur'an 37:102-109
  17. Luke 24:44,46,47
  18. Isaiah 7:14
  19. Matthew 1:23
  20. Matthew 28:20

 

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