We often talk about sacrifice in regards to Remembrance Day or Memorial Day. Those who made the “ultimate sacrifice” is often referred to. Sacrifice is the surrendering of something of value to you on behalf of others or for a cause. If the thing surrendered (a life, etc) has no value to you, it is not sacrifice. Placing a pound or dollar into a beggar’s cup or charity bowl, for most of us, is not sacrifice.
Jesus showed this in the Temple with the widow’s mites.
“And He [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had (Luke 21: 1-4).”
Jesus in noting this, was discounting the offerings of the rich. No, they were not worthless, or without merit, but they were not sacrificial. The widow’s offering was. Would the world have understood if she gave one mite? Probably so. But God saw her sacrificial heart. She didn’t hold back.
Abraham showed a similar spirit. He had spent years learning to trust in God. He had obeyed, but often with a parachute plan of his own in place (taking Lot, etc). But he had come to see as God called him to see. That is why God’s call for the sacrifice of Isaac was so profound. He was asked to surrender what he saw as his reward for previous obedience. Yet, he was prepared to do it. Not joyfully, but obediently. Sacrifice was a choice, and he chose God’s path. The end result was that it was not required of him, and Isaac was spared.
Jesus likewise chose to go the path of sacrifice. The temptations of Luke 4 illustrate this. Jesus is first challenged as a man. His human need for food is focused on by Satan. Jesus chooses to focus on His spiritual rather than his physical. A minor sacrifice, but a sacrifice all the same.
“And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread. But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written,‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God (verses 3-4).’ ”
The devil then offers Jesus a shortcut in His mission.
“Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,’ and ‘In their hands they shall bear you up Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God (verses 9-12).’ ”
Surely, such a spectacle would have made believers of those who doubted Him. But was that as important as the groundwork He was to lay in His ministry to uneducated fishermen, and tax-collectors? He was to spend three years on the road, facing a life in which, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head (Luke 9:58).” He again chose the path of sacrifice.
The greatest temptation seems to be a way out of His coming death.
“Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve (Luke 4: 5-8).’ ”
The devil essentially says, “all those on Earth are mine. They have followed the path of sin. Worship me, and I will give them to you. No death required.” Jesus again chooses sacrifice, rather than self. “I will go to the cross rather than worship evil.”
But the path sacrifice is not easy. Look at Abraham, on the way to sacrifice he saddled the donkey, then cut wood. He was a bit all over the place. It is like us today starting the engine, then packing the suitcase. Stress, and the expectation of sacrifice can do that. Gethsemane shows this as well. Jesus despite His triumph over Satan in the wilderness, still sought an alternative. “Father, if there is any other way!” But in the end it was “Your will be done.” He chose sacrifice.
Sacrifice is a choice. What choices will you make today?