The ultimate sacrifice

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (Joh 3:16)

Because of love

We may often reflect on what it cost Jesus to provide salvation for us, but have we ever considered what it cost the Father? The Bible says that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…. He only had one Son, and he gave him up for us all (Rom 8:32). That was a sacrifice.

We can give because we feel obliged to give, but usually our giving is motivated by love, and we give to those we love. That was how it was with the Father. The Father gave his one and only Son because of love, and he gave him to those he loved—the people of the world.

His only Son

Many events in the Old Testament illustrate New Testament truth, and a beautiful picture of God's plan to sacrifice his Son for the sins of the world is found in Gen 22:1–14.

Then God said, 'Take you son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.' (Gen 22:2)

Abraham was told to sacrifice his only son, whom he loved. Jesus was God's only Son, whom he loved. What did the voice from the cloud say to Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration? It said, 'This is my Son, whom I love (Mar 9:7).'

However Isaac wasn't Abraham's only son, he had an older son, Ishmael (Gen 16:1–16). But Isaac had been born as a result of God's promise to him (Gen 17:15–16), so Isaac was his spiritual son.

God was speaking in spiritual terms and was using Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac to test his faith (Abraham believed that God could raise him from the dead, Heb 11:17–19); to test his obedience, which is part of righteousness (Jam 2:20–24); and to foreshadow the sacrifice of his own Son.

Mount Moriah

Abraham was to take Isaac to the region of Moriah and to sacrifice him on a mountain God would tell him about. God's temple was built on Mount Moriah, as was the City of Jerusalem (2Ch 3:1); and Jesus was crucified at Golgotha (Joh 19:17–18), which was outside one of the gates of Jerusalem (Heb 13:11–12), so Jesus was crucified on that mountain.

I believe God led Abraham to the exact spot where his own Son would be crucified nineteen hundred years later. At the place where Abraham built his altar, God's Lamb would be sacrificed for the sins of the world.

The Hebrew word translated 'Moriah' is significant. It means to be seen by Jehovah, but it can mean to be seen in an approving sense as well as a visual sense. 1

And God did see what happened on that mountain, and he did approve of it. Because on that mountain he laid the sins of the whole world on the body of his Son (Isa 53:6; 1Jo 2:2)—his only Son, the Son whom he loved—so that his wrath and anger against sin, and his justice—which demands that all sin be punished—would be fully met through him.

God will provide

As they neared the place Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on Isaac (Gen 22:4,6). Similarly, after his trial before Pilate Jesus went out, carrying his cross (the wood for his sacrifice), to the place of his execution (Joh 19:16–18).

Isaac said, 'Father, the fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?' Abraham replied, 'God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son (Gen 22:7–8).'

Those words were prophetic, not only of the physical lamb God would provide for Abraham's altar of sacrifice, but also of the spiritual Lamb he would provide for his own altar of sacrifice—the cross.

Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And from then on it was said, 'On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided (Gen 22:14).' In God's time, it was.

The angel of the Lord

Abraham built an altar, placed the wood on it, bound his son and laid him on top of the wood. Then he picked up the knife to slay him, but the angel of the Lord called from heaven and stopped him. He looked up and saw a ram in a thicket caught by its horns. He took the ram and sacrificed it instead of his son (Gen 22:9–13).

Who called to Abraham from heaven? It was the angel of the Lord. That phrase is used in the Old Testament to indicate a preincarnate manifestation of Jesus Christ—Jesus appearing and/or speaking to people on earth prior to his birth at Bethlehem (eg Gen 16:7–13; Exo 3:1–6; Jud 13:1–22).

Jesus prevented Abraham from sacrificing his son. Why? Because human blood cannot take away sins; only his own blood could do that. And that, to my mind, is the most amazing aspect of salvation: that the God whom our sins offend took the punishment for our sins himself, so that we can go free.

'Amazing love,' wrote Charles Wesley, 'how can it be, that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?'

God's Lamb

So who was responsible for our Lord's death? Peter said that Jesus was handed over to the Jews by God's set purpose and foreknowledge and they, with the help of wicked men (the Gentiles), put him to death (Act 2:23). But they did what God's power and will had decided beforehand should happen (Act 4:27–28).

God is sovereign on earth and could have prevented his Son's death, but he didn't. Jesus said, 'Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me (Joh 18:11)?'

The Book of Revelation tells us that Jesus (the Lamb) was slain from the creation of the world (Rev 13:8); and 1Pe 1:18–20 tells us that Jesus, a lamb without blemish or defect, was chosen by God to provide redemption for us before the world began. Think about that.

On Mount Moriah the Father sacrificed his Son, the Lamb of God, for the sins of the world (Joh 1:29). God had told Abraham to do to his son what he was going to do to his own Son.


The principle of sacrifice runs through the whole of the Old Testament; great emphasis is placed on it. Why? Because it was through sacrifice that salvation would come to mankind. Not the sacrifice of an animal, but the sacrifice of God; God sacrificing himself for the sins of the world (Heb 9:26).

By definition, sacrificing involves a cost: the word means to give up something of value for the sake of something of greater value or importance. God understood the meaning of sacrifice. It cost him to provide salvation for us—it cost him dearly—it cost him the death of the Son he loved.

Can you think of anything more valuable to God than his Son? There was one thing—our salvation. That shows how much the Father loves us.


Grief is a painful emotion; anyone who has had a loved one die will know that. I felt intense pain when my father died, even though he knew the Lord and I will see him in heaven. Why did I feel pain? Because I loved him.

We are made in God's image (Gen 1:27); the emotions we experience have been given to us by God, and are experienced by God. If we feel pain when we watch a loved one die, then God felt pain when he watched his loved One die. It wasn't just Jesus who suffered at the cross, but his Father also.

Joh 3:16 says that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. The words 'one and only' are there for a reason. They are there to emphasize what it cost the Father to provide salvation for us. He only had one Son, and he gave him up for us all. It was the ultimate sacrifice.

Michael Graham
March 2015

1 Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. MacDonald Publishing Company.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®. NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

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