Rethinking Lent: Instead

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He 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.” So 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. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac 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?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

When 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. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He 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.” And 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. So 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: 1-14

This week in Lent we read an absolutely outrageous story. Over the top and overwhelming. And this one word caught me, grabbed me as I passed by at the end:

Instead. 

And where we see an Instead, we see Grace. 

Instead of offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice, God provided a ram. 

Instead of Abraham's only son dying, God's only son died.

Instead of us dying because of the choices made to be our own kings and queens (to be our own gods), God provided His Son. 

Instead of an isolated story on a hill, Jesus was there from the beginning, middle and end of the narrative. 

Instead of Abraham providing the lamb, Jesus was the Lamb who was sacrificed. 

Instead of me cringing at this story, I breathe relief. I breathe thankfulness. I breathe beauty. He asked Abraham initially, but then He ultimately asked His Son. The willingness of both parties is outrageous and faith-filled. The only way one could trust a God who asks us to slaughter a son is to believe He could raise up a life that was outrageously better. This test is absurd and gorgeous. Such beauty and grace in the fulness of the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.

Faith and foreshadowing fulfilled. Amen. Instead of outrageous killing we get outrageous love.

Help us, God, to wrap our minds around this story and how it fits perfectly into the meta-narrative. How it whispers the name of your Son and the call to take the blame for our sin. Someone is to blame for our sin, and the sinless one took it all. All the blame. All the shame. All the helplessness and hopelessness. Thank God.