sacrifice of Isaac was the prefiguration of the most important sacrifice of all
time that one man made for all of humanity—the Crucifixion of Jesus on Mount Calvary. Both sacrifices
happened on the same mountain, Mount Moriah, and showed similar elements in
both events. It only means one thing—it’s all a plan of God! In our Christian
life, we struggle to know God’s
plan and, even more so, to act accordingly to it. By learning the meaning of
sacrifice, we will learn how we can have the faith to surrender our own “Isaac” in the hands of God and follow the
footsteps of Abraham who is rightfully called the Father of the Faith.
Abraham, in truth, did not make a sacrifice. He received a “test” from God who told him to make a
sacrifice. God said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” From his words, we can tell Abraham’s obedience to act at God’s bidding. It was an instant response
that shows the depth of his relationship with God, the familiarity of God’s voice that he recognizes
immediately and the faithfulness he has in following His Word.
When God tells Abraham to take his “only” son Isaac, we will be reminded of his other son, Ishmael, whom he
bore through his maidservant. But God chooses Isaac, the one whom Abraham
loves and the legitimate
child, who prefigures Jesus Christ as the only begotten and beloved son of God the
Father. For us, who have the convenience of understanding that the Old
Testament is related
and revealed in the New Testament, we cannot be disturbed by God asking for a
human sacrifice. Abraham, however, didn’t have foreknowledge of God’s plan in offering His Son Jesus.
Also, human sacrifices were common among pagans during those times. Yet,
Abraham believed in God’s
command. Why? Abraham began his journey with God in his sixties or seventies
and he was 130+ during
the sacrifice of Isaac. If there’s
any reason why he listened to God, it’s
because it’s a
familiar, one that he trusts and believes in, one that he has faith in.
Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” (Galatians
3:6) Abraham believed God and acted on his belief. He rose early in the
morning, saddled his donkey, took two of his young men and his son Isaac, cut
the wood for the burnt offering and set out for the place God showed him.
Abraham was carrying many things with him but no one knows about the pain he is
carrying in his heart during this journey. The moment God told him to sacrifice
his son, he must have felt he already lost his son then. Still, we would not know what was really going on
in his mind until we heard exactly what he said.
Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy
and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” (Genesis 22:5) The word “worship” appears here for the first time in
the bible and from its context, the
true meaning of
worship is sacrifice.
Abraham himself knew this. But notice that he says something very peculiar: “we will come back to you.” Did he think God will intervene on
the way? Did he expect God to come and stop it in between? He knew his son was
going to be sacrificed but somehow he had an assurance he would get him again.
He knew his son was going to be offered as a burnt offering but somehow he had
an assurance that his son would “come
is giving us an important hint about Abraham’s faith, a faith capable of believing what was unheard of
and what was unwritten in history. Abraham is giving us an important hint about
his belief in the resurrection! Why did Abraham believe that there is a
resurrection? Why did he know that Isaac will be sacrificed and then he will
I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by
her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples
shall come from her.”
(Genesis 17:16) Remember what God promised Abraham and Sarah. The God who
promised to give them a son is the same God who told Abraham to sacrifice this
same son. Therefore, Abraham had confidence in God that even if his son will be offered as a
sacrifice, he will come back in order to fulfill the promise. That’s a clear sign that there will be a
But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the
boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she
tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you.
(Genesis 21:12) In the Old Testament, we will read Abraham was assured of God’s promise that it is through
Isaac that descendants shall be named after him. In the New Testament, we will read Abraham actually “considered the fact that God is able
even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Hebrews
11:19) Abraham’s faith
rested on his belief in resurrection so he was able to fulfill God’s command with obedience and courage.
For his readiness to sacrifice his son for the sake of his faith, he was called
of a multitude of nations.”
Isaac as the Prefiguration of Jesus
Isaac is the promised child for Abraham and Sarah. Most of
us think Isaac was only a boy when he was offered as a sacrifice. In the Jewish
religion, however, it is believed Isaac was 30 or 33, just as Jesus was 33
during his crucifixion.
On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far
away. (Genesis 22:4) It was a three-day journey reaching the mountain where
God showed the sacrifice was going to take place. Here, we can see a connection
sacrifice and Jesus’
crucifixion. We will see Abraham
getting Isaac back on the third day just as Jesus was resurrected on the third
Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it
on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of
them walked on together. (Genesis 22:6) Isaac carried the wood just like
Jesus carried the wooden cross, where they were going to be sacrificed. “Fire” is the symbol of the Holy Spirit and
the “knife” is the symbol of suffering and
passion. “The two
of them walked on together”
means the Father and Son are in communion with each other in their suffering.
Then Isaac asked his father,“The fire and the wood are here, but
where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7) Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for
a burnt offering, my son.”
So the two of them walked on together. (Genesis 22:8) Later, this lamb will be
revealed as Jesus, the “Lamb of
1:29) that the Heavenly Father himself will provide as an offering for the
salvation of the world.
When they came to the place that God had shown him,
Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son
Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. (Genesis 22:9) Isaac was about 30 years of
age, while his father was about 130. If Isaac had wanted to escape, he could’ve done it easily. But he didn’t. He submitted himself silently and
willingly to his father, out of obedience. This is the true sense of Jesus’ sacrifice. It was not forced but it was a humble and voluntary
acceptance of the father’s will.
Isaac was seen laid on top of the wood, just as Jesus was laid on top of the
Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to
kill 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, since you have not withheld
your son, your only son, from me.” (Genesis
22:10-12) Abraham showed his fear of God since he had not withheld his son as a
sacrifice. Now that he proved his love, commitment and covenant, God in turn
showed his love,
commitment and covenant by holding Isaac back and offered a ram as a sacrifice. When
God knows that we are truly willing to sacrifice, oftentimes he would no longer
require it from us. If you live as a martyr, you no
longer need to go through martyrdom. God blesses us mightily when we are
willing to make a sacrifice—to
sacrifice our pleasures, to sacrifice our joy, to sacrifice our “Isaac”—for the sake of our faith.
And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket
by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt
offering instead of his son. (Genesis 22:13) As a symbol of the covenant of God, He provided a ram
to be offered as a sacrifice in the place of Isaac. This ram prefigures Jesus
as the lamb of God, crowned with thorns. When the ram was sacrificed, Isaac was
saved. When Jesus was sacrificed, we are all saved.
When we place Abraham’s sacrifice side by side with the sacrifice of Jesus on
Mount Calvary, we will see how everything is connected. Although it happened
with an interval of
thousands of years, they are similar in nature, in purpose, and in message,
which shows how God wonderfully plans our lives.
The place chosen for the sacrifice in itself is significant.
place God intended for sacrifice and worship, as we will see in the history of
Israel. The place will become a temple. Solomon began to build the house of
the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his
father David, at the place that David had designated, on the threshing floor of
Ornan the Jebusite. (2 Chronicles 3:1)
The son chosen for the sacrifice is also significant. Abraham had two sons, Ishmael (the
illegitimate son he bore through the maidservant) and Isaac (the legitimate son
he bore through Sarah and the one whom he loves). Isaac represents Jesus
as the beloved Son, while the rest of us are accepted as the Heavenly Father’s adopted children, through Jesus
The sacrifice, too, is significant because the act of making
an offering as a sacrifice is the true meaning of worship. That’s why in the Catholic Church, we
express our worship when we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, wherein
we make present the sacrifice of Jesus on Mount Calvary. It’s not a re-enactment of Jesus’s sacrifice and it’s not a memorial of Jesus’ death. It is the sacrifice that
Jesus did and it is happening on the altar as it happened 2,000 years ago. We,
too, who hear the Mass are
in Mount Calvary witnessing the Lord’s
perfect sacrifice, made once and for all. Let’s be thankful for these divine revelations that we have received
through the Holy Bible.