The story of the sacrifice of Isaac is so powerful that it is never referred to as the near-sacrifice. Abraham’s willingness to give up his son was 100%. The story shows, with two characters and God, what, in the Jesus narrative, is accomplished in one human being. In stories the spiritual must be represented in the physical else there is nothing for the reader to work with in a symbolic way. The physical can be interpreted in many ways and that is what makes a good story.
For Abraham, the son he had prayed for, his life link to progeny, his proof of manhood, the long-awaited delivery of God’s promise—all this as his most prized possession was being asked of him.
Jesus was asked to give his life, his most prized possession—a life lived doing what he thought was most important: preaching, teaching, healing—what he thought God wanted him to do. As all those things were given up, he became, in the narrative, one whose very being was transformed. The story says his being was so transparent and ethereal he could move through a locked door, and yet he could eat and drink as a normal human.
He was recognized in a prayer of thanks. He prepared a meal for his friends (first time ever in all gospel accounts). He didn’t preach or teach or heal. He encouraged his friends to be compassionate. He just was. His being was enough. His being was exactly what God wanted of him. And what God wants of us.
A willingness to sacrifice ourselves results in a near-sacrifice in that only what needs to die dies and the real self is born into our transformed personalities. The stories of Isaac and Jesus are our stories—or are meant to be.
(Note: A book entitled Humpty Dumpty Hatched, which tells the story of transformation of one personality, is available on this website.)