The Lamb of God
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”
Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.”
John is telling people to:
? Look to the Lamb
? Understand His Sacrifice
? Grasp His Grace & Mercy
When John tells people to “Behold!” he is telling them to:
Look to the Lamb
“The next day” refers to the day after John the Baptist was interrogated by the Jerusalem delegation. The question is what had happened before he proclaimed Jesus as the Lamb of God? Here’s the chronology of events recorded in the synoptic Gospels:
? John baptizes Jesus in the Jordan River- as Jesus comes up out of the water
? John watches the Spirit of God from heaven descend on Jesus like a dove.
? John hears a voice from heaven saying, "This is My Son, the Beloved, in Whom I have great delight" - confirming that Jesus is His Son and endorsing His ministry.
? Right after Jesus was baptized by John the Spirit of God leads Jesus into the desert for 40 days where he faces and overcomes 3 powerful temptations by the devil.
? After His baptism and His temptation Jesus returns to the area where John was ministering.
This leads us up to the account in v. 29
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
John was watching Jesus walk toward him and says to his own disciples: “Look” or “Behold!” This word is in the imperative- because it is of utmost importance. John doesn’t say, “Look at me - I’m a great prophet!” He doesn’t say, “Look to your good works to save you.” He doesn’t say, “Look at your religious heritage, lineage, or “Look to the Law.”
John the Baptist says, “Look to the Lamb of God!” He is not saying look in the sense of just seeing something casually with the eye, but to behold or grasp the truth and significance of this moment for yourself. Someone is coming towards you - do you realize who this Someone is and what He has come into the world to do? Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Let it sink in. It is so easy to miss the most important things in life because we are so distracted, looking in the wrong direction and focusing on the wrong things. John is saying “Look - He is the Lamb of God!” Which brings us to our second point:
Understand His Sacrifice
John said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” He is using some shocking OT terminology when referring to Jesus as the Lamb of God, because the lamb was associated with the sacrifice and suffering for sin. None of the sacrificial animals which were to be offered for sin were allowed to have any blemishes or defects and they had to be supplied and, in most cases, slaughtered by the ones who were bringing their sin offerings. The reason for this is to remind the offender that sin always costs us something, always hurts our relationship to God and others.
So, what does this mean when John called Jesus the Lamb of God? John could have been referring to the lambs that were offered as morning and evening sacrifices at the temple (Ex 29:36-42). Some scholars say that the reference was to the lamb who took on Himself the nation of Israel’s iniquity (Isa 53:3-12) or else about the sacrifice that God provided as a substitute so that Abraham did not have to sacrifice his “only” son Isaac (Gen 22:7-13).
He could have been referring to the Passover lamb that was sacrificed on the last day before Israel was delivered out of Egypt. When the angel of death went through the land of Egypt and brought death on all the firstborn sons and cattle, only those who had the blood of the Passover lamb sprinkled on the doorposts and the lintel over the door were spared. The blood of the Passover lamb protected the nation of Israel from God’s wrath. Or the trespass offering that was given as atonement for unintentional sins that required a form of payment to an offended party, and also as a cleansing from the defilement of sins.
John the Baptist’s proclamation was that Jesus is the Lamb of God, who didn’t just take away the sin from a select few or just from the nation of Israel but that He takes away the sin of the world! What this means is that for every sin, for every failure and shortcoming, for every temptation, and in every situation, we can look to the Lamb and His perfect sacrifice. Look to the Lamb of God because all that the ancient sacrifices foreshadowed in the OT were perfectly fulfilled in the sacrifice of Christ. John was saying, “Look! Jesus, the Lamb of God was not only perfect, without a single defect or fault, this perfect Sacrifice was provided by God Himself.” Our sin was very costly, it cost God His son.
When you look to the Lamb of God and get a revelation of the sinfulness of sin and begin to comprehend the magnitude of His all-encompassing sacrifice, then you can begin to…
Grasp (or take ahold of) God’s Grace & Mercy
The nation of Israel was looking for a victorious Messiah and King - a Lion that would conquer and rule the world. In the end, Jesus will come as the conquering Lion of Judah and yes, he was as bold as a lion when he faced opposition from the religious elite and when he went to the cross, but He came as a lamb. They were looking for a lion, to deal with their enemies, to straighten out the sinners, but God sent the lamb. The Lamb came to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free. Augustine said,
When the time came for God to have mercy, the Lamb came. What sort of a Lamb whom wolves fear? What sort of a Lamb is it who, when slain, slew a lion? For the devil is called a lion, going about and roaring, seeking whom he may devour (1 Pt 5:8) By the blood of the Lamb the lion was vanquished.
As the Lamb, Jesus overcame temptation, was mocked and despised, beaten beyond recognition and eventually crucified - all for our sake. As a lamb He defeated Satan and conquered sin and its consequences for our sake.
What is sin? Sin isn’t an easy topic to discuss in our day because, like death, it is an unpleasant subject. We don’t like to think of ourselves as bad or evil people but, unfortunately, it is what we are by nature. We can blame society, a bad environment, global warming or dysfunctional family background for the reasons we are the way we are, but it doesn’t change the fact that we are sinful by nature. Sin is a universal rejection of God and His righteous, perfect, holy, moral, and spiritual law. Sin is both an act and a state of being, it is an inner force, an inherent condition, a controlling power.
The very first man and woman created by God chose to rebel against His mandate and since we are all Adam and Eve’s descendants, we inherited their sin nature and, therefore, we sin. The moment we were born, we were under judgment and destined for hell and there was absolutely no way for us to change our condition or eternal destiny. There is no way we can make ourselves clean and stand before God and justify ourselves. There is no way we could pay the penalty that justice demands so that we can have peace with God. But God made the way possible through the perfect Lamb of God.
This is God’s grace and mercy, and He wants us to grasp or take ahold of this.
When John talked about the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world - this wasn’t just talking about a few people, or even a nation - He takes away the sin of the whole world. “Takes away” is in the present tense here - signifying the ongoing sufficiency of Jesus Christ's sacrifice and the fact that it is always available for every person. For every person who places their trust in the efficacy of Jesus’ sacrifice, his or her sin (known and unknown, past, present, and future) is paid for and taken away. He takes away the wrath we deserved. Even the guilt of our sin is removed. This is mercy. Guilt is not only referring to a legal verdict because we have sinned against God, but it also includes the emotion you feel as a result of recognizing your sin. But when you confess your sin, turn from it, He forgives you and cleanses you of all unrighteousness.
“Your sin is forgiven; it is removed as far as the east is from the west” (Ps 103:12). After the sin offering was burned up on the brazen alter, the priests would take the ashes away and bury it in a secret place, so no one could find it. It means that once sin is forgiven God will never bring up your sin and use it against you. You do not need to bring your own sin or the sin another up and use it against them. You do not need to go around feeling guilty for something that Christ has paid for. You never have to earn God’s love and acceptance.
Why is important to behold the Lamb because every day we are being bombarded with ads and images of violence and sex, with images of physical perfection. And after a while we become desensitized to these harmful, unrealistic, destructive images. Maybe some of you have been following the latest news coming from a whistleblower concerning the strategy of social media and the negative effects it elicits from its viewers, especially teenage girls, and children. Apparently, as algorithms are collected while you are on the internet, various sites reward your eyes with things that interest you in order to draw you in. The purpose is to keep users looking at the platform for as long as possible so they will view more ads and they will potentially make more money. Whether it is positive or negative content, research has found the more that you are exposed to certain content online the more likely you will adopt it and share it. What they have found is that whatever you continually look at or focus on, you will take hold of - it will impact you and become part of you.
Of course, we cannot ignore what is happening in this world - nor should we. It is so easy to become overwhelmed, embittered or angered by what we see and what we cannot control - but we look to the Lamb for the answer. We seek wisdom from above and trust in a sovereign God, whose ways are perfect. We seek first the Kingdom of God. I believe many are missing the opportunity to look to the lamb, they are looking towards other people or places for the answer, sometimes even to escape their own painful issues, but you will not find what you are looking for there.
You will always have personal challenges in life, in your walk with Jesus. You will be tempted, and at times you will fail. When this happens, what do you do? You can look to yourself and condemn yourself (even though Jesus won’t), you can beat yourself over the head, you can hide from other Christians, make promises you’ll never do that again, you can even try to get God to love you, or you can look to the Lamb and know that He already loves you, will not condemn you, nor forsake you. How do you handle disappointment or discouragement? What about those regrets that you can never change? You can walk around living in defeat or look to the Lamb of God.
Therefore it is important to be in the Word, so you have an accurate picture of who Jesus is.
Therefore it is important to expose your children to God and His precepts in the home, why it is important to bring them to places and to be around people who model godliness and integrity as this is the most critical factor in their spiritual development. We cannot just be talking about love, forgiveness, faithfulness, etc., we need to be modeling it. What do others see you spending your time looking at? Why is this important, because the more they see you looking at Jesus in the home and in daily life the more likely they will take hold of this faith, make it their own and share it. Even when they go far from God, when they face to life - the more likely they will look to the Lamb. This goes for all of us. The more you look to the Lamb, the more you understand His all-encompassing sacrifice, the more you will grasp the greatness of God’s grace and mercy. In the end when we are all standing before the Lamb of God, beholding Him who was freshly slain, we will see the myriads of redeemed people from all backgrounds, all nations standing around the throne. Then we will really begin to understand the magnitude of His all-encompassing sacrifice and grasp the depth of His grace and mercy.