Nicholas Wolterstorff, former professor of philosophical theology at Yale University, once wrote the following heart-wrenching words while reflecting on the death of his son:
“I do not try to put it behind me, to get over it, to forget it. If someone asks, ‘Who are you? Tell me about yourself,’ I say—not immediately, but shortly—’I am one who lost a son.’”
Only those who have lost a child know the depth of such a loss. Imagine how Abraham must have felt when God commanded him to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Yet, there was divine purpose in God’s seemingly tragic command—a foreshadowing of what the Father and the Son had planned to do for our redemption. As the Apostle Paul captures it in Romans 8:32, “He did not even spare His own Son but offered him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything?”
The foretaste of the cross echoed out from Mt. Moriah when Isaac asked his father, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” and Abraham immediately responded assuring him, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:7–8). This is the language of substitution, a principle which is then symbolized in the ram caught in the thicket. All of this was a foreshadowing of the Son crowned with thorns, the symbol of our sin and rebellion in Adam. Jesus is the sacrificial lamb who stands in the place of His people on the cross. He was the Son who would willingly sacrifice Himself at the command of His Father for the sin of His people (John 10:17).
The comfort of the gospel comes to us in the most powerful way when we consider that “God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). Jesus stood in our place for our sin. The Father gave up His only begotten Son so that he might bring many sons and daughters to glory. For all of eternity, God the Father will forever be praised for giving up His Son for the redemption of His people. And the Son will forever be praised for giving Himself in the place of His people.
Written by Nick Batzig