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Jesus Christ: The Meaning of Sacrifice

Maya Bohnhoff | Jan 4, 2014

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Maya Bohnhoff | Jan 4, 2014

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

The Sacrifice of Abraham

This is Part 6 in the Jesus Christ in His Own Words series:

There is nothing greater or more blessed than the Love of God! …The essence of all religions is the Love of God, and it is the foundation of all the sacred teachings.

It was the Love of God that led Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that strengthened Joseph in Egypt and gave to Moses courage and patience.

Through the Love of God, Christ was sent into the world with His inspiring example of a perfect life of self-sacrifice and devotion, bringing to men the message of Eternal Life….

Thus I exhort each of you, realizing its power and beauty, to sacrifice all your thoughts, words and actions to bring the knowledge of the Love of God into every heart. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 82.

The Sacrifice of Abraham

The Sacrifice of Abraham by Andrea Del Sarto (1527)

In the last article, I mentioned a number of individuals that Baha’is regard as Messengers of the Divine. This is by no means an exhaustive list. In fact, contrary to what you may have read or heard, there is no such list, because Peter had it right: God has been speaking to us “since the world began”.

When I first encountered the idea that God has progressively revealed religion to mankind through the ages, I argued that none of these other Prophets, Messengers or Manifestations had sacrificed His life as Christ had. Or, as a Christian friend said during a dialogue on faith: “No other religious leader, prophet, or man who calls himself God has ever done that.”

This belief, alas, does not hold up in the face of reality, something I quickly discovered as I learned more about of the lives and times of these other Prophets. First of all, every divine Teacher lives a life of utter sacrifice. Their cultures consider them apostates, madmen. They are persecuted horribly for their teachings — mocked, ostracized, tortured, exiled, imprisoned, killed. Buddha was poisoned, Zoroaster slain by sword as He prayed, the Bab was executed for heresy by firing squad in 1850 for teaching that the prophecies of the world’s sacred texts were about to be fulfilled. Baha’u’llah not only spent forty years of His life in imprisonment and exile for His supposed heresies against Islam, but He was tortured repeatedly, poisoned and eventually sent to the prison city of Akka, where his persecutors expected death would ensue.

One of the best summaries of what befell Baha’u’llah during His lifetime is contained in the Biblical book of Isaiah in chapters 52 and 53. It describes a “man of sorrow, acquainted with grief” who was “cut off from the land of the living”, which Baha’u’llah was, first in the Black Pit of Tehran, then in a series of exiles, then in Akka, Palestine. Despite all of this, through some miracle that threw the Ottoman Empire into turmoil, He was released from Akka to spend His last years in a country house that had been abandoned by its owner.

And they made His grave with the wicked—but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. ‑ Isaiah 53:9.

I had always associated these words with Jesus, but wondered how several of the later passages applied to Him. Isaiah prophesies of this Servant of God that when God has

…made His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. – Isaiah 53:10-11.

Siyah Chal

The Siyah Chal Prison (Black Pit)

Jesus died and ascended at the age of 33 with His spiritual “seed” scattered and demoralized; Baha’u’llah returned to God at the age of 75, already beginning to see His own prophesies and teachings come to fruition. The very revolution that allowed Baha’u’llah to spend the end of His life in the country outside the prison walls — where the Ottoman rulers thought He would succumb to foul air, disease, and maltreatment — was one such event.

It was but one of the events He warned of in a series of letters to the kings and rulers of the world (collected in a volume entitled Summons of the Lord of Hosts), that laid out what God expected of them and intimated what would happen if they did not change their avaricious and warlike ways. Recipients of those letters included the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, as well as the Shah of Persia (Iran), Pope Pius the Ninth, the leaders of the young American democracy and the rulers of the British Isles and Europe.

One by one those prophecies came to pass, thus meeting a standard set in the Torah:

And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. – Deuteronomy 18:21-22.

Through the sacrifices of each and every one of these great Beings — these Manifestations of the names and attributes of God — the world we live in progresses, not just materially and scientifically, but spiritually as well.

Read the previous article in the Jesus Christ series – Jesus Christ: The Names of God

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