Look at him. Oh, yes, see God's Lamb in Abel. Here is a man - we do not read a great deal about him, but there is enough in his story to show some things. He must have been a very meek man, a very selfless man. You see the other kind of man in his brother Cain, whose very name means "acquisitiveness, get, acquire, have, draw to yourself". The Lord Jesus - "as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth" (Isa. 53:7). Paul later said that is the scandal to the Greeks, that is what scandalises the Greek mentality. You see, the Greeks believed that a man ought to stand up for himself and be capable of standing up for himself. The Greek idea is "The man who can defend himself, the man who can enter into the contest and come out best with all the others laid low. Here you tell us of a Man Who let them do that to Him! What sort of Man is He Who let people do that sort of thing to Him without putting up a fight for it? Without at least, if it is all against Him, showing some kind of manhood and masculine dignity; a contemptible fellow to let them do that!"
Abel's brother rose up and slew him. Why had not Abel taught his brother to fear him a bit and that it would not pay to do that sort of thing? Abel was evidently a very meek, selfless sort of fellow. You have the first clue to the Cross: "He saved others; himself he cannot save" (Matt. 27:42). That was the jeer at the time of His crucifixion. "If thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross" (Matt. 27:40). "Save thyself" (Mark 15:30). "Save thyself". Thank God, He never did. We would never have been saved if He had saved Himself. That is why the Lord Jesus had to die, because of man's selfhood, his self-dependence, his self-sufficiency, all shown in Cain.
Cain brought the works of his own hands and gloried in them and thought they were the meritorious basis of his access to God to get heaven opened again, and it did not work. Well, you could dwell upon that for a long time, but there it is. Abel had no confidence in his own works. Like Christ, he saved not himself.
But what about his justification and his vindication? "He had witness borne to him that he was righteous" (Heb. 11:4), that he was well-pleasing to God, and that is worth anything and everything! That is an open heaven, and what would you have in the place of that? And not only so - he lives. I do not know what Cain's end was, he was a marked, a branded man. Whether in the end in repentance he got forgiveness, I do not know. The end of the story so far as the record goes is that he was a fugitive in the earth. But Abel's is a different story. The writer of one of these New Testament letters says - "he being dead yet speaketh" (Heb. 11:4). The testimony goes on and Abel goes on with his testimony, and you will see Abel one day in glory. He has served the purposes of Christ. In his day he kept the flame of testimony alive. He died, he was slain, he, as a shepherd, laid down his life. He faintly but truly foreshadows that other great Shepherd of the sheep.
Is that enough? I feel that the Lord would have said something about Abel on that Emmaus road. However, there is the principle, whether He did or not, there is the truth. You see, it was a battle with death and in dying he slew death. It is the victory of Life.
We pass from Abel over to Abraham. What a full life was Abraham's! How very full of significance and spiritual implications. I focus upon one thing which I think is comprehensive. Abraham was the man who was crucified to the world. Think that out - the man who was crucified to the world and only sought the things of heaven. He was separated from the great civilized centre of the day, Ur of the Chaldees, and all that that meant, to be a pilgrim and a sojourner and never to have on this earth a city or house, but to dwell in a tent. Moving here and there, up and down, having no continuing city, looking "for the city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God" Heb. 11:10), and all the time letting go. That is the wonderful thing about Abraham. His nephew Lot was allowed by him, told by him, to look up and down the land and make his choice, and Lot chose the very best prospect. It did not matter to Abraham, he did not feel he had lost anything. He had come so completely to that position where the world was crucified to him and he was crucified to the world. He looked for a heavenly country.
Now look again into Abraham's life and see if that is not the key. I will not take up all the proof and evidence, but there it is. Abraham was the man of far sight. The Lord Jesus said thousands of years afterwards - "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad" (John 8:56). He was a man of far sight, that is, he never made the immediate the ultimate. It was that that saved him all the time. If he had taken any one of the experiences that came to him as the ultimate, as the end, you see what would have happened. The incident of the offering of his only son, Isaac - if that had been the end of everything for him, the ultimate, he really would have gone down to the grave without a testimony. But he never, of all those things that happened, looked upon this as the end and the ultimate. He was looking ahead all the time, he was looking beyond, he was a man of far sight.
And that man was truly brought into the fellowship of the Cross. "Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest" (Gen. 22:2), which means 'upon whom all thy love is set because you have not got another', "whom thou lovest... and offer him", and thereby he stepped right into the heart of God Who "so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). He entered into the Cross. The Cross for him was a continuous crucifixion of the world to him and of him to the world, but being worked out. Oh, it is not just a theoretical position, it is being worked out and applied here and there and there; and if you notice these different stages and epochs in Abraham's life, you find that they are becoming more and more intense, they are working up to the final climax of the offering of Isaac. And God comes back with a full answer - "because thou... hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed" (Gen. 22:16-17). How full-orbed was his entering into the Cross and then into the glory. We cannot stay to follow through the glory that follows for Abraham, but there it is: suffering unto death.
We cannot stay to follow through the glory that follows for Abraham, but there it is: suffering unto death.
But his particular relationship was this world. How much this world means to so many. They have no vision beyond it, no life outside it. It is everything to many; a poor everything, but it is everything to many. To let it go is the greatest difficulty. The apostle Paul cried "Far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14). And if you look at the context, you find it is this - 'It does not matter to me one little bit what the world thinks or says'. That is the context. 'I have been delivered entirely by the Cross of Jesus Christ from any kind of concern or worry as to the attitude of this world towards me, as to what I stand to gain or lose in this world: my whole concern is how I stand in heaven and how much of the heavenly wealth and riches I have.' It is the Cross that does that.
Come back to the Lord Jesus. Immediately He stepped out into His public life and was in the wilderness with the devil, it is the world and all its kingdoms that are offered to Him. Did He hesitate, pause or waver? Was He a little bit influenced or affected by that bait, that enticement, that prize? Not for an instant. He had just come from Jordan and that in His consciousness meant He had died already to this world. He had already accepted the meaning of the Cross in those burial waters. He could therefore stand His ground and say 'I have been crucified to the world.' But He had also entered into His glory.
Abraham shows where the conflict arises. This great battle for this great issue of eternal heavenly Life to be brought into experience now, is so often focused upon our relationship with this world: to have it, to be something in it, to have its good opinion, to obtain its gifts and all that. The battle focuses there. The Lord Jesus sums that issue up in this way - "What doth it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life?" (Mark 8:36). It is a poor bargain. Abraham settled that and in so doing showed what the Cross has to do and why Christ must die to deliver us from this present evil world.