Was Abraham a model of faith for Jesus?

Today I preached on Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. The text is in Genesis 22:1-18. I pointed out that the apostles Paul and James, and the writer to the Hebrews, speak of Abraham as a model of faith, because he believed the promises God made to him. Especially those recorded in Genesis 15.

I also said that the Danish philosopher-theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, wrote a book about the sacrifice of Isaac. Kierkegaard focuses on the ethical dilemma faced by Abraham, who’s held up as a model of faith, as a person who recognized the voice of God and acted upon it.

Let me outline the dilemma.

God had said to Abraham that Isaac would have loads of ancestors. Abraham believed God. Abraham knew that for Isaac to have loads of ancestors, he’d have to marry and have children. So, how could he believe that God told him to kill Isaac before he married or had children?

Why didn’t Abraham think he was being tested by Satan? Why didn’t Abraham think the voice which told him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering was the voice of Satan, not the voice of God?

Kierkegaard says the purpose of the passage is to teach us that a life of faith is a life lived in tension. Ethical tension. Tensions such as knowing it’s wrong to kill, knowing it’s wrong to disobey God, yet being convinced that God desires a killing. Of an innocent person, a child.

Today the lectionary also invites us to reflect on Mark 1:9-15.

In this passage, Mark tells us that Jesus approached John Baptist and asked to be baptized, publicly. Jesus knew everyone who watched would’ve said “there’s another sinner,” another who declares he’s done wrong things and wants to stop doing them.

Jesus knew he’d never done anything “wrong.” Why would he subject himself to baptism? Why would he open himself to questioning?

I wonder if, in the days and hours before his baptism, Jesus thought about Abraham. I wonder if he thought about Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. I wonder if he thought about Abraham’s doing what seemed wrong, because he was convinced that God had a higher purpose.

I think Jesus underwent baptism by John because he knew it was the way God had chosen for him to reveal him to John. And to cause John’s disciples to detach themselves from John and attach themselves to him.

When I think about Jesus’ baptism by John, about his openly associating with those who think themselves sinners, wrong-doers, I think of my own membership of a church. My own entering a building Sunday-by-Sunday.

My own repetition, in that building, of prayers of confession. My own sense of relief when I hear the words of absolution: “your sins are forgiven.” My own sense of being empowered by the dismissal, “go and serve.” In a world where I must distinguish God’s voice from Satan’s.

Baptism is identification. With others. As sinners. Needing forgiveness. Peace be with you.

1 thought on “Was Abraham a model of faith for Jesus?”

  1. Pingback: Faith … The trouble with the Aqedah.[1] – Bangsar Lutheran Church

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