On this Second Sunday of Lent, our first reading continues from the Book of Genesis.  God tells Abraham “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah.  There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height I will point out to you.”  (Genesis 22: 2)  This seems such an unreasonable request.  Some would define the request in harsher terms.

But we must recall that God knows us better than we know ourselves. The first thing I think of is how clearly Abraham is in communication with God. How clearly God can manifest himself and his will to Abraham. Thus, Abraham is called the Father of our faith. Abraham believed in God. Abraham believed in God’s promise to make of him a great nation, even in the face of this heart-wrenching moment and confusion of God’s command to take the life of his only son, the means by which God’s promise to Abraham would be kept.

We are called to believe that God is in communication with us. 

Today’s story of Abraham recalls last Sunday’s story of Noah who walked with God.  (Genesis 6: 9)  And Noah’s righteousness in the sight of God recalls the communion Adam and Eve enjoyed with God, who walked with them in the garden.  (Genesis 3:8)

God creates each of us for communion, not only with one another, but communion first and foremost with God.  Communion requires communication – conversation.  How often do we think that the people in these biblical accounts enjoyed a special favor that we do not?  These accounts are given to us in God’s Word precisely to be formative of our own attitudes and behaviors towards God.  These Old Testament personalities and their relationship and communion with God are given us to inform us that we are called to such intimacy with God in our own lives.

Sure, sin has entered the world, but so has Jesus Christ, our salvation.  God’s covenants in the old testament eventually were symbolized ‘in the flesh’ by means of circumcision.  (Genesis 17:11)  Eventually, in Jesus Christ, the new and eternal covenant took on human flesh in the incarnation!  (John 1:14)  Thus, Jesus can instruct us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.  (Matthew 5:48)

God could command Abraham to offer up his son Isaac because he knew of Abraham’s faith and trust in God.  God could command Abraham to do what seemed unreasonable because God knew at the appropriate time, Abraham would also hear the voice of a messenger saying; “Do no harm to the boy, … Do not do the least thing to him.  For now I know that you fear God, since you did not withhold from me your son, your only one.”  (Genesis 22: 10-12)

We must have the same faith and trust in God as did Abraham.

The binding of Isaac, the willingness of Abraham to ‘offer up his only son,’ the replacement of the ram for Isaac as a sacrificial offering all point to the new covenant that would be sealed by the Father offering up his only Son. (Romans 8:32)  The covenant between God and Abraham prefigures the new and eternal covenant sealed in the blood of Jesus who offered himself in love as the one offering that could atone for the forgiveness of the sins of all humanity.

God desired to offer up His only-begotten Son for our sake.  Jesus offered up his life as an acceptable offering to the Father out of love for us.  Jesus took up his life again in the resurrection.  Abraham was willing to offer up his only son to God, and God gave him back his son that God might bless Abraham and through him, bless all his descendants, and through them bless all the nations of the earth.  (Genesis 22:18)

We must be willing to hand over everything to God, that He may give it back to us filled with grace and blessing beyond measure.

Today’s transfiguration account from Mark is another foreshadowing of the approaching passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.  In the transfiguration of the Lord, the glory of God is revealed to Peter, James and John as a means of preparing them for the Lord’s pending passion and death.  The appearance of Elijah and Moses to Jesus is the Father’s way of preparing even Jesus for the difficult mission that lies ahead.

Prior to the transfiguration, Jesus tells his disciples that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.  (Mark 8:31)  Once again, by human standards, this seems unreasonable.  So, Peter takes Jesus aside and tells him that it cannot be this way.  Jesus minces no words in telling Peter: “Get behind me, Satan.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  (Mark 8:33)

Following this, Jesus talks about the cost of discipleship.  Here, the demands of God get very personal (and unreasonable?) for each of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus.  “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.  Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”  (Mark 8: 34-35, 38)

It is in this context that Jesus is transfigured before his disciples.

In this season of Lent, God will continue to challenge and invite us to shed everything that cannot be a part of His Kingdom.  Will we be scandalized by the demands of God, thinking them unreasonable?  God commands us to listen to His Son.  (Mark 9:7)

We are called to believe that God is in communication with us.

We must have the same faith and trust in God as did Abraham.

We must be willing to hand over everything to God, that He may give it back to us filled with grace and blessing beyond measure.