Monday, December 8, 2008

The sacrifice holiday

Today the world's Muslims are celebrating their biggest holiday of the year: "Eid al-Adha," which means "Festival of the Sacrifice."

On this day they commemorate the story of Abraham and his son which the Bible also records in Genesis 22. God tested Abraham by telling him to offer his son as a sacrifice, and Abraham obediently went to the place of sacrifice and prepared to make the offering. At that moment, God intervened and spared Abraham's son, giving him a ram to offer instead. (In the Bible, the son whose life was spared is identified as Isaac. The Qur'an does not say which son it was, but Islamic tradition names him as "Isma`il" or Ishmael.) To this day, devout Muslims slaughter a sheep or goat on Eid as a reminder of Abraham's obedience and God's mercy. They then share the meat with family, friends, and the poor, and celebrate the day as a joyful festival.

If this story belongs just as much to Christians as to Muslims, why don't we celebrate Eid al-Adha too? The answer is that, in a sense, we do. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all testify that Abraham obeyed God by bringing his son to sacrifice, but God spared the son's life and substituted a ram. Now, this true story was a symbol of something greater than itself; the Christian celebration of Good Friday and Easter commemorates the reality to which this symbol points. Messiah Jesus, the Son of God, was brought like Abraham's son to the hill of sacrifice. However, He was not spared there but killed, the "Lamb of God" offered for the sins of the whole world. And so He substituted for the life of everyone who becomes a "son of Abraham" by throwing themselves on God's mercy through Him. Abraham symbolically received his son back from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19), but God brought His Son back from death in actual fact. The greatest festival of all is the Resurrection of the Son of God, that glorious watershed of human history which we celebrate on Easter Sunday.

1 comment:

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