The following is an excerpt from Raleigh and Opal’s newsletter. In this piece, Raleigh discusses Eid-Al-Adha, which fell on August 11 this year.
It is with mixed emotions that we celebrate the “Christmas of the Muslim world” with our neighbors each year. That is what Eid Al-Adha is for our friends: one of the most important and joy-filled celebrations of their religious life.
They celebrate the story in the Quran where God asks Abraham to sacrifice Ishmael but then provides a ram to sacrifice in his place. Even today, every household is to purchase a ram or whatever they can afford, and to reenact that moment by sacrificing it in the name of God.
There IS joy here! All of their children literally live in the mercy of a God who does NOT desire human sacrifice. And yet there is sadness for us as well. We know a different story, and we know a God who went even further. The need for animal sacrifice was later eliminated through the willing sacrifice of Jesus who “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8)
Even death on a cross.
A few days ago, our neighbors knocked on our door and invited us to come and take part in the sacrifice. We took pictures of our children with the ram, and then we watched as they slit its throat and the life ran out. Our family and our neighbors were respectfully silent watching these last moments of life. Later, I helped to carry the ram inside the house where we hung it up for them to butcher. With my involvement, they said I was truly a man of this land.
As I reflected on this process and our Lord Jesus’ sacrifice for us, I had a startling realization: “If Jesus had given himself as a normal animal sacrifice, it would have been a quick and humane death.” Our neighbors were very careful to kill the ram quickly and efficiently so as to hurt the ram as little as possible.
“I am horrified at the thought of someone having their throat slit, but I often forget the grisly reality of a crucifixion.”
Yet Jesus humbled himself to death on a cross—a death a million times more painful, gruesome, cruel, and shameful than any animal sacrifice had ever been. I am horrified at the thought of someone having their throat slit, but I often forget the grisly reality of a crucifixion. This day I thought more about the meaning of “even death on a cross.” Jesus submitted himself to a death lower than an animal sacrifice. There was nothing lower on this earth he could have submitted himself to.
The Eid ended on the third day. Is it a coincidence that the Eid is three days long? Will our friends and neighbors one day replace the third day of celebration with an Easter sunrise celebration?! What if they continued to symbolically sacrifice the ram as a type of Christ, but then, on the third day (what joy!), celebrated Jesus rising, conquering death, and freeing us from the grave! Oh friends, please pray with us that this may be so!
Jesus our Lord, our Ram, is risen!
*name changed for security