John 1:29. The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
New Testament scholar Frederick Bruner calls this sentence the “Mount Everest” of John the Baptist’s witness of Jesus Christ. Of all the things John could have said when he saw Jesus coming – Behold the King! Behold the Messiah! Behold the Prophet! Behold the Word! – he chose to say Behold the lamb.
If you saw Jesus walking up to you today what would you call out about him? Look, there’s my teacher. Look, here comes my friend. Look, it’s my therapist. Look, it’s Jesus my example. Would your first description of Jesus be “Look, my lamb!”?
John the Baptist’s reference to Jesus as THE sacrificial Lamb of God is not a new concept. And it wouldn’t be lost on those who heard it, as it might be on us today. The idea of a sacrificial lamb is all over the Old Testament.
- Abraham is given a sacrificial lamb by God to replace Isaac.
- At Passover, the Hebrews sacrificed a lamb.
- Every day the evening and morning lambs were sacrificed at the temple.
- On the day of atonement, a scapegoat took away the sins of the people.
- Isaiah 53 calls the Suffering Servant “a lamb led to the slaughter for our transgressions.”
Why is THE lamb the first thing John calls Jesus? Because THE SIN is THE world’s first and greatest problem. If you are struggling to relate to Jesus as your lamb, it might be because you don’t see your need for a sacrifice for your sin. It might be because you are trying to manage all your guilt and shame without a sacrificial lamb. It might be because you are missing the entire point of the Old Testament message – you need a lamb!
In Christ we have that sacrificial lamb that we all need. We don’t have to carry the weight of our sin any further. We can lay it down at the throne of the Slaughtered Lamb (Rev. 5:12). We aren’t living in debt to God, constantly working to pay him back for our wrongs. The debt is paid. It is nailed to the cross and we bear it no more. There is now therefore no condemnation. No penance. The Christian life is not a life of sin management. It is the life of freedom from guilt and shame. It is a life of worship lived before God with the joy and peace of God as our strength. As Peter tells us, we are not just forgiven, we are born again. We are purified. We are imperishable.
1 Peter 1:18-23. 18 knowing that you were ransomed…with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot… 22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth…23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable.
John’s “Mount Everest” declaration concerning our sin is all encompassing. Jesus was not just the temporary atonement or covering for our sin. No, he is the Lamb of God who TAKES AWAY, forever and ever, the SIN of the world. He is the propitiation (satisfaction) of God’s wrath and the expiation (removal) of our guilt. He is not one by one, day by day, covering over you individual sins as you remember to confess them. He is not keeping a list and checking it twice. Jesus has, by his single offering, perfected all who are in him.
Hebrews 10:14. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
And it is by that single offering of the Lamb that we are being (ongoing) sanctified. Jesus has taken away our sins once for all time, and by the power of that finished work, he his is taking away our sins day by day until that final day when we gather at the throne of the Lamb who was slain. When we know that SIN can no longer enslave us, that it has been taken away, that it has no power over our destiny, that we are forever guiltless before God, it is only then that faith in the Lamb’s love for us will drive out faith in our own sinful systems of self-righteousness and self-satisfaction.
“To live is Christ” means we can trust the gentle and compassionate sin removal process of our Lamb. As we behold the Lamb’s sacrifice for us on the cross, our hearts are drawn in love and grace to him as all else fades away.
Do you see Jesus as your sacrificial lamb? What makes this difficult?
You in Christ
In Christ the power of sin is removed. How can this truth remove your bent toward sinning today?
Christ in you
How can you live as a sacrificial lamb of God today?
Playlist: Lamb of God songs.