It’s really a great example of what Pope Benedict called “recapitulative history,” where we see the events in the Old Testament, and then when we come to the New Testament, we see that Jesus is fulfilling all of the events. Or, as it says in Matthew 3:15, he is fulfilling all righteousness. He’s completing the story in the Old Testament.
In Genesis 22, the Old Testament reading, it’s a very famous reading of Abraham, who is a called on by God to go to Mount Moriah with his son, Isaac, and to sacrifice his son.
But there is a hint in this text that God is going to either raise him or he’s going to come to Abraham’s rescue. Because Abraham says before he goes, “I and the boy will return.” There’s a name for this sacrifice, or this binding of Isaac, and it’s called the Aqedat.
Recapitulative History: The Connection Between the Aqedat and Romans 8
When Abraham brings Isaac to Mount Moriah, it’s important to remember that that mountain is where Solomon one day is going to build the temple. If you go to Jerusalem today, you’ll see a big Islamic building there on top of this area.
Well, Abraham brings Isaac, and he’s getting ready to sacrifice Isaac, and then God stops him at the last moment, and says, “Now I know that you trust me.”
At that point, we see a ram in the thicket, and later on in the readings, we see that we’re going to constantly look for this lamb of God who’s going to pay for the sins of the world. And we know that to be Jesus.
When we come to the second reading in this example, in Romans 8:32, we see that God did not spare his own son.
And so, as God spared Isaac for Abraham, we see that that is a picture of what is to come, but God will not stop with the sacrifice of his own son.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.”
And so, God doesn’t spare his son, and he’s going to, as St. Paul says, give us all things. He’s going to give us righteousness. He’s going to give us peace. He’s going to give us joy. He’s going to give us purpose, and he’s going to give us a plan for life.
Recapitulative History: The Transfiguration and the Feast of Booths
In the Gospel reading, it’s the Transfiguration. Now, what’s interesting is that the focus in the Old Testament, when we talk about a lamb, it’s always in connection with the Passover lamb.
Now, the Passover lamb was celebrated during the Passover. Once the Israelites left Egypt, they went for a year down to Mt. Sinai. They took three months to go to Sinai, spent a year there, then went through 40 years in the wilderness.
God delivered them from the Egyptians, and every year after that, they have a feast that they celebrate that really looks back to God freeing them from Egyptian bondage. It’s called the feast of booths, where they live for a number of days in these small booths. That’s the holiday.
That’s the feast that is taking place during the transfiguration when Jesus takes them up on the high mountain, and that high mountain is in the Galilee area.
The Gospel says,
“After six days, Jesus took with him, Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white as no fuller on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah and Moses, which are really examples of the law and the prophets. And they were talking to Jesus and Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is well that we are here.'”
And I think that’s the understatement of the century. There you are with Moses and Elijah and Jesus, and Jesus is transfigured. You’re saying, “This is a good place to be right now.” Let us make three booths. One for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.
What We Can Learn From These Readings
Now this feast of booths was celebrated after they left Egypt.
And so the celebration is one of God sustaining us in the wilderness, learning to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. It goes on in verse six and says,
“For he did not know what to say for they were exceedingly afraid, and a cloud overshadowed them and a voice came out of the cloud. ‘This is my beloved son. Listen to him.’ And suddenly looking around, they no longer saw any one of them, but Jesus only.”
Now, what strikes me about this reading is that after they left Egypt, when they would later celebrate this journey with the feast of booths, they learned in the wilderness, that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
And here in the New Testament, God, the Father, who speaks audibly twice, once here and once in Matthew 3 at the Jordan river, is reiterating and saying, “This is my beloved son. Listen to him.“
So I would like to say to you that if you are going through, during this Lenten period, a dry, arid desert experience in your life, you need to learn the lesson in the Old Testament, that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
If you would like to hear more from Jeff Cavins about the connections between the Old and New Testament, consider his DVD study series, Unlocking the Mystery of the Bible.