Always Lent, Never Easter (Genesis 22)
- Order of Service: Divine Service 4
- Hymns: LSB #656/657, 418, 620, 424, 594, 718
And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here am I, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together. (Genesis 22:7-8)
The looming question over the season of Lent is, "What if it were always Lent and never Easter?" It's a very similar situation to Lucy's problem with the White Witch. It was "always winter, but it never gets to Christmas."
Why was it always winter? The White Witch held the entirety of Narnia under her spell for a century. She wanted the entire land to be as cold as her heart. Her ice cold heart was reflected in the neverending winter in Narnia. She had ruled over Narnia through the "Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time." She used it to her advantage as she coveted to have complete power over everything and everyone. Aslan included.
She is the personification of St. James' warning: "Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire." The White Witch's desire was to finally defeat Aslan. With Aslan done, she would be the ultimate ruler of every realm. And she would do anything to gain that advantage.
The best advantage in centuries happened as she came across Edmund in the woods. As soon as she learned that he was a Son of Adam, she knew her best opportunity had finally presented itself. From the Dawn of Time, one prophecy held sway over all her plans. Now, she had a moment to make sure that the prophecy never happened. A prophecy set in two different rhymes:
- Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
- At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
- When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
- And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.
- When Adam's flesh and Adam's bone,
- Sits at Cair Paravel in throne,
- The evil time will be over and done.
She couldn't keep Narnia away forever, but she could make sure that "Adam's flesh and Adam's bone" never made it back into Narnia. There we have the background for the portion of the book we read earlier.
Once the White Witch knew that Edmund was human, she just had to find a weak point in his resolve. For young Edmund, as for many young men, the way into his heart was through his stomach. The treat of Turkish Delight, and the promise of an infinite supply, if he would bring his brother and sisters to her castle. All the Turkish Delight he could ever desire if he would unwittingly betray his own family. Ah, the things a young man will do for a beautiful woman and for food!
The White Witch knew that she would have to eliminate all four Penvensies so that the prophecy wouldn't come to pass. And she could do that by getting one to betray the others. And that would be the death-knell for the fourth. The "Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time" would see to that: "Every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill." As the Queen of Narnia, she had the right to demand his blood. And demand she did. All so she could get her way.
That's really no different from our world. Our world has many people like the White Witch. In fact, I'd say there are more than seven billion little White Witches running around in this world. All seeking after their own benefit and expanding their own territory without much regard for anyone else. People who are willing to use other people to get what they desire.
St. James reminds us, "Desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." Our world is filled with death because our world is also bewitched. Not under some sort of magic spell. Under the power of sin as it has taken hold in the very nature of humanity. Rewriting our DNA to condemn us who are under its power.
This bewitching makes religion extremely difficult. Our sin taints everything about us. Many ancient cultures would offer human sacrifices to try to reconcile themselves with their god. The Ammonites sacrificed their children to Molech. Others, even in the darker portions of satanic worship today, will sacrifice young virgin women. But God says of all these things, "I did not command them, nor did it enter into My mind, that they should do this abomination."
Every culture has seen the connection between sin and death. Many of them had elaborate sacrificial systems where the death of animals (or people) served as a way to atone for sins. This is the Deep Magic as it appears in our world. Retribution must be dealt out for all sins committed.
But the spell has been broken. Both in Narnia and in our world. The bewitchment is over. Not because of a multitude of sacrifces. By one sacrifice. A perfect, willing victim allowing Himself to be sacrificed for others.
This was Aslan's "Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time":
- There is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge only goes back to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.
Aslan willingly took Edmund's place on the Stone Table. He was sacrificed for the sins of another. He rose again, fully restored from the Witch's shaming, and was ready to bring about the long-anticipated Golden Age of Narnia.
The Deeper Magic reminds us of God's mercy. The Psalm reminds us, "Remember Your mercy, O LORD, and Your steadfast love, for they have been from old" ; and "All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness." God's steadfast love and mercy are dependent on nothing except God Himself. This substitutionary sacrifice was in God's mind before He even created the world.
It was foreshadowed in Eden as animals were killed to provide skins to cover Adam and Eve's shame. It was foreshadowed in Abraham's willingness to offer Isaac on Mount Moriah. Even though he had been told, "In your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." He did not withhold even his beloved son from God's commands. God stayed Abraham's hand so that he might sacrifice a ram instead.
But it could not be just any substitute. It had to be the one that God provided. Jesus is "the valiant One, whom God Himself elected" to battle and defeat sin, death and the devil. This battle began on the cross and ended in the tomb. When Jesus rose from the dead, the battle was over. The victory was His. He took our sins away. All of our betrayals are buried in the tomb. They no longer have power over us. A Golden Age has broken into our world as well. A Golden Age that will last for eternity.
So, how do we live with the outcome? How do we live without the bewitchment? How do we live in this Golden Age?
The Penvensie siblings became the Kings and Queens of Narnia. They ruled in this great Golden Age for fifteen years because they trusted Aslan. They made the LORD their dwelling place. They were kings and queens that overshadowed the original King and Queen of Narnia. Their reign was like Israel once they took over the Promised Land. Their lives were wonderful until they accidentally found their way back into the real world. But even there they lived according to Aslan's blessing. They would not understand it until later, but they would learn to know Him by another name. The name through whom all God's blessings would flow.
God tells Abraham, "I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore." Here he speaks in plurality. A multitude of multitudes of offspring coming through Abraham's beloved son Isaac. In the last verse of our reading, God speaks singly, "In your Offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." One Offspring who would be the blessing for all the nations of the earth. Jesus Christ, "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."
Jesus is "the Word they still shall let remain nor any thanks have for it; he's by our side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit." Jesus' willing sacrifice shows how we may be satisfied in God as He shows us our salvation. Our enemies will not exult over us because "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above." Jesus came from above to give us Easter.
With Jesus' perfect sacrifice, we can enter Lent knowing that it has an end. We don't have to wonder if Easter will ever come. Easter will be here because it is the breakout of the Golden Age in this world. We have every blessing in Jesus because He has given His life for us. The winter of Lent will soon be over and we will once again glory in the spring of Easter. Amen.