The Concept of Sacrifice

There is an unmistakable thread that connects sacrifice, to atonement, to Jesus, to salvation.
by Kathryn Cunningham | Source:
     As something primal, the concept of “sacrifice” has always been central to man’s thinking. This idea has moved from burnt offering to sacred fire to the Glory of God in the temple during the solstice, to the presence of God in the fire on the altar, to the importance of offering the “odor of sweetness” in the form of incense. Incense eventually became so important, that abuse of incense was treated as a grave mater. “Sacrifice” expands as the Israelite culture grows and eventually becomes the concept of the sin offering for atonement.  This seamlessly meshes with the idea of the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of mankind, Jesus!
     In the eyes of Jesus’ followers his sacrifice eventually made perfect sense.  Jesus Christ was the new order, the sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross for our sins, made the idea of any offering of animal or blood pale by comparison.  This was “the” open invitation to think of God in a totally different way.
       This progression is an interesting time line that helps remind us that man is always seeking to have relationship with God in some way shape or form. Implicit in these examples of “offerings to God” was imbedded the idea that God, at all times, has been free to accept or reject what man had to offer him.
Maybe he wouldn’t like your offering (i.e.: Cain and Abel).  This does not seem, however, to be a deterrent in man’s drive to offer things to God that might please him and could have the power of reparation, adoration, and/or communication.

The Ultimate Sacrifice
     Jesus’s title the Lamb of God, the One who takes away the sins of the world, as scriptures point out is for us a reminder of who Jesus actually is and how he meticulously shaped his Church. He was the sacrifice for all with no exclusions.  Clean or unclean, rich or poor, elegant or unwashed, it made no difference for Christ.   In many ways Our Lord makes us look at things with new eye, the eyes of faith, and trust in him.  Jesus used experiences common to us to explain what we had never heard of.  Whether he was host or guest, servant or the one being served, He did much of this in the context of the “Table”, the common experience that we all know. But he was constantly changing what it meant to be at table in general and at table with Him (God) in particular.   The banquet itself became icon of the Heavenly Kingdom.  Jesus makes us think of ordinary things in a new way.
     It is amazing and thought provoking that Jesus so graciously uses what we know, to teach us what we don’t know.  There is an unmistakable thread that connects sacrifice, to atonement, to Jesus, to gift from God (salvation).  We are reminded by this that God often uses familiar things to teach us unfamiliar things.  Jesus is always upsetting our fixed concepts and using what we think we know to show us how much we don’t know.  Jesus made people uncomfortable. If we’re uncomfortable with some aspect of our faith life, it might not be a negative thing!

*The above is a commentary on two scholarly articles: Origins by Daly, Chapters 2&3 and Jesus Table Fellowship by Nathan Mitchell written for Liturgy Training Publications, Chicago, Ill., 1994

Copyright  2007, All rights reserved, Kathryn M. Cunningham

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