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Here I Am

Mark 8:31-38

The Rev. Jon Roberts

8 March

2009

Good Shepherd Episcopal

Venice, FL

31 And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.” 34 And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? 37 For what can a man give in return for his life? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

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Abraham and Isaac, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1635,
Copies in St. Petersburg, USSR & Munich, AG

My father?
“Here I am son.”
I see the wood for the fire but where, is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
“God will provide, my son.”

Perhaps the most moving story in the bible is the story of a father who prepares his son for sacrifice. It’s almost unimaginable and yet, in each testament we find this story. In the Old, there is Isaac, about to be sacrificed by his earthly father, Abraham.[1] In the New, there is Jesus, about to be sacrificed by his heavenly father, Yahweh. The difference is, in the story of Isaac and Abraham, the son knew nothing, of what lied ahead. Jesus, on the other hand, knew he was to suffer many things. That he would be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and scribes. That he would surely be put to death. There is a parallel between the two stories of both Old and New Testament. Both are about sacrifice and both are about obedience.

Abraham, could not have been more obedient than at each of the several steps that led him and his son Isaac up the dreaded mountain. What a painful walk that must have been. Asking questions along the way, how was he to respond to his son’s curiosity? Dad, why are we leaving the servants behind? Where is the lamb for our sacrifice? Do you want me to help you find one when we get there? Why are you binding my hands? Father, why are you lying me on the stone? The wood; Is that intended for me? When covering his son’s eyes, he must have begged for God to intercede. This scene is captured on canvas, in great detail by the artist, Rembrandt. Abraham, stands above his son, who is bound. With one hand, he covers Isaac’s eyes, with the other, a knife is drawn. Flying in from above, at just the right moment, the Angel of the Lord seizes that hand and the knife drops. It was a close call.

In the story, we do not hear much about the internal struggle that Abraham must have felt. We can only imagine. But it must have been great, for it was his beloved son and we are able to relate our selves. The great struggles that have been placed upon us, throughout our lives. “Here am I”, are the words that brake through. In our darkest hour, this is precisely what we beg to hear. we want God to provide. We muster up the courage to sacrifice that which is most valuable, what is most dear to our hearts, yet hoping and praying for a sufficient provision of mercy.

Every Sunday, we gather at the Table. We bring offerings and come into his courts. In those familiar words, in the prayers, It’s our way of saying, “Father, take all that I have.” Take my self. Take my soul, and take my body. At just the right moment, he comes in and says to us, “Here I am.” The offering we intend to make is ourselves. At times, we feel the cold touch of death. In our blindness, we hear the steel drawn from its sheath as we await what is most certain to come. The thrust of the knife is not intended for us, for the psalmist says, “We will not be abandoned to the grave, nor will we see the Pit.”[2]

In those words, “Here I am” God calls each of us to his holy mountain. That table made of stone, and kindling all around. We are bound to the times. We are helpless to our transgressions but we are also protected by the blood of another. This is why we come each Sunday to receive the sacrament. We rebuke the world that says there is no sin. That everything will be all right on its own. We counter by being faithful to God’s message. Everything will not be all right on its own and for that reason we come ready to present the sacrifice of another father who gave his son. He must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes.[3] Do not take for granted the power of what he did for us. At the right moment, Jesus comes in and intercedes. He is the lamb, who says, “Here I am.” I will provide.

[1] Gen 22:1-14
[2] Ps 16:10
[3] Mark 8:31-38

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