The Bible is chocked full of strange and perplexing tales.
One such story is when God tells Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. What father in his right mind would kill his son? However, Abraham is intent on obeying God regardless of the cost. Three days later we find him up on a mountain, with Son Isaac tied up and laying on the alter. With knife in hand, Abraham raises his arm, ready to plunge the dagger into Isaac. Just then, God says in effect, “Wait, don’t do it; I was just seeing if you would really obey me.” Wow, that was close. Then God provides a ram to be sacrificed instead of Isaac. Abraham proved himself faithful to God, and Isaac was spared.
Fast forward several centuries to Jesus. Jesus is himself getting ready to die; he is going to be sacrificed. Surely, he knows the story of Abraham and Isaac; every Jew knows that story. I suspect he is wondering if his loyalty and obedience to God is being tested just like Abraham, for he says, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
However, God didn’t say, “Hold on, this was just a test of your obedience”; there was no one else to take his place. It was Jesus’ job and his purpose to die for the wrongs of the world in order to make us right with God.
Jesus obeys; Jesus dies; we live.
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