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Bible Correspondence Course

18. Isa al-Masih: The Great Sacrifice

'I stood beside Ahmad watching his father sacrifice the lamb with a knife. It was Eid al-Adha, a festival Muslims celebrate every year. Being a small boy, I wondered why we sacrificed so many animals each year. Very soon I came to know that this sacrifice was in memory of when God tested Hazrat Ibrahim (Abraham) by asking for the sacrifice of his son. Hazrat Ibrahim obeyed, but at the last moment God provided a ram as a substitute for his son.'

1) Hazrat Adam and Hawa

The Bible in fact tells us that sacrifice goes back before Hazrat Ibrahim. When Hazrat Adam was created, God warned him not to eat from the tree of knowledge, or he would surely die. Hazrat Adam and Hawa (Eve) disobeyed God. Then they realised they were naked, and felt ashamed, so they tried to cover themselves with leaves. Similarly, we read in the Qur’an, “… they both ate of the tree, and so their nakedness appeared to them: they began to sew together, for their covering, leaves from the Garden: Thus did Adam disobey His Lord, and allow himself to be seduced.”

The first two sons of Hazrat Adam and Hawa were Cain and Abel, or Habil and Qabil. In Genesis 4:1-16 we read of these two sons and the sacrifices that they made to God. “In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruit of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour.”

When we look at this story in the context of the whole Bible we see that Hazrat Adam’s family had been taught a particular way to worship God. This was to offer sacrifices to Him. Later, God showed that we deserve to die for our sin, and so a substitute is needed, or a ransom (fidyah).

2) Hazrat Ibrahim and His Son

This substitution is illustrated in the case of Hazrat Ibrahim and his son. God told Ibrahim to offer up his son, and he obeyed. When he lifted his knife to kill his son, God told him to stop, and provided a ram instead. So the ram died in place of Hazrat Ibrahim’s son.

3) The Passover Lamb

Another remarkable example was the Passover Lamb. The Israelites were in cruel bondage in Egypt. The ruler, Pharaoh, wouldn't let them go free. Therefore, God sent Hazrat Musa to deliver them. After sending many plagues to Egypt, God said He would kill all the first born children in that land. However, God also provided a substitute for the first born of Israel. Hazrat Musa commanded his people to slaughter a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their door posts. The angel of God would then pass over every door which had the blood on it, and the firstborn in that house would be spared. God fulfilled His promise and the firstborn of Israel were saved.

4) The Law of Hazrat Musa

In the law of Hazrat Musa, in the book of Leviticus, God revealed that the way for humankind to approach Him was with sacrifices. For, "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" . Hazrat Musa explained the method of sacrifice to the Israelites: The sinner was to take a perfect animal to the door of the temple of God. There he was to put his hands on it, symbolically transferring his sins onto the animal. Next he had to kill it and the priest would sprinkle its blood at the foot of the altar, and offer the rest to God on the altar. God would accept the animal's death in place of the death of the sinner.

5) A Question

How can an animal die for a human, when a man or woman is of much greater value than any animal? The animal did not take away human’s sin, it was merely a symbol pointing to what was to come. God permitted such a situation until the perfect sacrifice would be offered for all sin. This offering would be for the sin of the world.

6) The Great Sacrifice

After Hazrat Musa other prophets of God prophesised about this great sacrifice that was to come. One such prophet was Hazrat Shaya, or Isaiah. He made a very astonishing prophecy which was fulfilled centuries later in Sayyidna Isa al-Masih (his peace be upon us) who accomplished God's purpose (Read Isaiah 52:13-15; 53:1-12).

7) The Testimony of Hazrat Yahya

God sent Hazrat Yahya, also known as John the Baptist, to be the last of these prophets. Hazrat Yahya was the forerunner of Sayyidna Isa al-Masih. He called people to repent and be baptised. One day when Sayyidna Isa appeared on the shore of the Jordan River, Hazrat Yahya cried out, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.'"

8) The Testimony of Isa al-Masih

Sayyidna Isa al-Masih Himself declared that He had come to give His life as a ransom for many and that anyone who believed in Him, would have eternal life. He fulfilled His mission by being crucified. On the cross He cried, "It is finished", to tell humankind that God's purpose had been completed. The long awaited promise to Hazrat Ibrahim had been fulfilled. Sayyidna Isa once said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." The Qur'an also says that God ransomed Hazrat Ibrahim with a great sacrifice. Can there be anything greater than Sayyidna Isa Kaffara'tu'llah sacrifice of Himself?

This is the way that God has paved the straight path to salvation, through Isa al-Masih. We see that on the third day Sayyidna Isa al-Masih rose victoriously from the dead to show that those who believed in Him would enjoy eternal life with God. After His resurrection, Sayyidna Isa said, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms ... This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."

9) God with Us

Dear friend, God commanded Hazrat Adam and Hawa to leave His presence, not because He hated them, but because He cannot abide with sin. To bring both Hazrat Adam and Eve, and a multitude of humankind, back into fellowship with Him, He planned to rescue them. When the good news about Sayyidna Isa bin Maryam was given, the prophet Hazrat Shaya said, " ... they will call Him Immanuel" which means, "God with us." Sayyidna Isa al-Masih spent only about 30-35 years on this earth but before His bodily ascension He said, " ... Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

References:

  1. [1] Genesis 2:17
  2. [2] Genesis 3:7,8
  3. [3] Qur’an 20:121
  4. [4] Genesis 4:4-5
  5. [5] Genesis 22:1-18, Qur’an 37: 102-109
  6. [6] Exodus 12
  7. [7] Leviticus 17:1-12
  8. [8] Hebrews 9:22
  9. [9] Leviticus 4
  10. [10] John 1:29-30
  11. [11] Matthew 20:28
  12. [12] John 3:14-16
  13. [13] John 19:30
  14. [14] John 8:56
  15. [15] Qur’an 37:102-109
  16. [16] Luke 24:44,46,47
  17. [17] Isaiah 7:14
  18. [18] Matthew 1:23
  19. [19] Matthew 28:20

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