See the old man, and the boy, growing up, but still a child, wide-eyed with wonder. He is the most dearly loved of children, the only son of his mother; the child of a miraculous conception when she was long past her fertile years. And he is precious to his father also, for in this child, Isaac, this child of laughter, rest all the promises of God that he would make from the seed of this one man a mighty nation, even though he has only one right-born son, this one, born years after all reasonable hope had faded from the world. And now, here they are, walking side by side, and between them is a donkey, loaded with firewood. Two young servants walk behind them, carrying the provisions for the journey and a pot of fire.
But now they have come to a parting of the ways. Ahead lies the mountain they have been journeying towards for three days. The old man instructs the servants to remain there with the donkey, then he and his son begin the ascent, carrying the wood and the fire-pot. At his father’s gesture, the young man walks in front. He does not know that his father is greedy for every remaining second that he can fix his eyes on his son. For he knows, as the boy does not, that God has commanded him to kill his son on an altar there, and make of him a burnt offering. And when the boy asks him where the sacrifice is, he can only reply, with heavy-hearted faith, that God will supply a lamb.
But he does not know the deep truth of his own words. For his son will not die upon that mountain. Instead, God has already provided a lamb to die in his place, a sheep caught in a thicket to be offered up on his behalf.
See the women walking in the soft grey light that precedes the dawn. There is no laughter between them, and few words, for their hearts are in deepest mourning for the One who has just died, the One on whom they had pinned all their hope, believing that in Him the promises of God would be finally fulfilled. But no, it was not to be, he was crucified on a hill three days ago, and the sky turned dark at his dying, and all joy fled from their world. And now they go to perform the last act of kindness, the one which the dead cannot feel, but which has been, for centuries, the ritual of grieving women, and their last chance to look upon his tortured face. Their eyes blur with tears, and they do not hide their pain from one another.
They do not yet know that, upon the mountain, God has provided a lamb to die in their place, and that the Father Himself had to watch His Son die as a sacrifice. They do not yet know that he is the firstborn of many, that from his death a whole new people will be born, a multitude no man can number, from every tribe and nation and language upon the earth.
And they do not yet know that they will find the tomb empty, and the Beloved restored to undying life. For they do not yet know that He is not dead, for he is risen.