God's Lamb For You (John 1:29-41)

Text: John 1:29-41

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Some of the most confusing parts of the Bible are the Old Testament stories of the sacrifices that were made by the Hebrew people.  Yes, the Old Testament stories of sacrificing lambs, bulls, and so forth have often caused modern readers to scratch their head and frankly obtain a squeamish stomach.  As a result, these sacrifices and the stories that surround the sacrifices, can at times, be diminished as things that are irrelevant for a sophisticated twenty-first-century.  Indeed, these sacrificial stories are often diminished because of their so-called irrelevance and they are often suppressed because they are deemed as detrimental to evangelism; what would a person who is considering Christianity for the first time think about this subject?  With all that said, let us not be too quick to dismiss these Old Testament sacrifices and catalog them underneath the title of ‘irrelevant,’ for they are not irrelevant, but extremely important for us to understand in regard to our salvation; salvation, may I remind you, that was bought for us at the price of blood, blood of a Lamb.  Therefore, let us take a moment to consider several of the sacrifices in the Old Testament! 

Probably one of the most unsettling stories in the Old Testament is the story of Abraham being called to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Abraham’s faith was tested in such a way that we can barely comprehend.  God said, “take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”  However, as is told in this story, right before Abraham was going to bring his knife down upon his son, the angel of the Lord called out to Abraham to stop and then provided a ram, a male sheep, to take the place of Isaac as the burnt offering.  Yes, God provided the sacrifice for Abraham and Isaac.

We are further impacted by the story of sacrifices when we consider the story of the plagues that came against the nation of Egypt in the book of Exodus.  If you can recall, the Hebrew people were in slavery in Egypt and through Moses, God was bringing down plague after plague upon Egypt.  These plagues were directed at the Egyptian gods in order to mock these weak and imposturous gods, as well as implemented to ‘break’ the Egyptians and allow freedom to the Hebrew people.  More specifically, during the last plague, the Lord promised that death would strike all firstborns in the land; He would come to destroy by bringing forth death.  However, the Lord also granted a solution, an antidote if you will.  He called the people to choose a Lamb without blemish, kill it, and then place the blood of the lamb over the door posts.  Thus, the shed blood of an innocent lamb without blemish would be a sign to the Lord and death would pass over the household, as they ate a meal together.  Yes, the blood would prevent death from striking.

Probably the most interesting of all the sacrificial stories in the Old Testament has to be the sacrificial system laid forth in the book of Leviticus.  In Leviticus, the people are instructed to take lambs and bulls, lay their hands upon these animals, confess their sins upon the animal, and then kill the animals in their place.  Consequently, the blood of the animals was then placed on what is called the mercy seat.  The mercy seat was placed on the top of the arc of the covenant.  Inside the arc of the covenant were the Ten Commandments.  Above the Mercy Seat God would meet the people.  Therefore, the blood of an innocent animal was placed over the Ten Commandments and beneath God; the blood made payment on behalf of the people who broke the Ten Commandments and a Holy and Just God. 

Now, you may be wondering why this is important for us to consider and why it is extremely relevant to each and every one of you.  It is extremely important for us to consider because of what John the Baptist says about Jesus in our Gospel reading from today.  In our Gospel reading, John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  Did you hear that?  Jesus is the Lamb of God.  He is God’s Lamb!    Considering the whole context of the Old Testament sacrifices that we just covered, there is no doubt that John sees Jesus as the culmination of this whole sacrificial system.  Yes, the whole sacrificial system is a shadow of Jesus.  The Old Testament lambs, the sacrifices, the shed blood, and so forth are echoes or waves in the Old Testament of Jesus who broke into time and history in the first-century. Seeing what we know from the Old Testament it is no wonder why John says to his two disciples to behold.

The word ‘behold’ that John uses is in the imperative mood.  In other words, John is saying with a great deal of force for his disciples to “LOOK!”  Yes, look, it is the Lamb of God.  They are to perceive, see, comprehend, and know that Jesus is the Lamb of God.  John is saying, “look here; I want to show you something!” 

As we read this passage we too are captured by this imperative, especially during this Epiphany season!  BEHOLD Jesus is the Lamb of God.

At this time, do you get it?  Do you see it?  Behold, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!  Yes, as God provided a male lamb to take the spot of Isaac on Mt. Moriah, God also provides a Lamb for you, a Lamb to be sacrificed in your place on Mt. Calvary!  Look here! Just as the blood of the Lamb covered the door posts in Egypt so that death would pass over the Hebrews, the blood of Christ was shed for you and covers your lips and mouths as you partake not of the Passover but of the Lord’s Supper. This is so that death passes over you.  Yes, eternal death has no power over you, for you have received the body and blood of the Lamb that was shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Behold!  Just as sins were confessed upon the animals in Leviticus and as these animals were slaughtered in the place of the people of Israel, Christ bore your sin as His own, was slaughtered in your place, and His blood makes payment for you.  Yes, His blood stands between your violation of the 10 Commandments and a Holy God as a sufficient payment. 

My friends, contemplating that Jesus is the Lamb of God is not just a theoretical exercise.  In other words, all this talk of sacrifices is not for the sake of a history lesson. Rather, we must keep in mind that Christ’s sacrifice is something that happened in a real place, in real time, and for real people… people like you.  Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! Yes, Jesus was sacrificed for you, to take away your sins.  This is huge! 

The objective reality of Jesus is that He gathered the stench of sin into one disgusting mass of evil.  This includes “all the wars and murders and rapes and thefts.  It includes all the sinful thoughts, words, and deeds that anyone at any time has ever had.  It includes the sinful nature that we were born with.  It includes all our gossip, complaints, grumbling and worry.  It includes every lie we have ever told to our parents, our teachers, our spouses, our children, our pastors, ourselves, yes, even the lies we have told to God.  It includes the thoughts we had as our eyes lingered a little too long on that member of the opposite sex.  It includes everything putrid and vile that you, I, or anyone else has ever thought, done, or said that flew in the face of God’s holy law and earns us eternal damnation. ”[1]  Yes, Jesus gathered this disgusting mass of evil; He gathered it together so that He could take it away from you.  He took it away from you so that He could take it upon Himself.  Yes, He lifted it off of our records; took it away from us to the Cross.  At the Cross, God’s Lamb was sacrificed, not you.  There at the Cross, Jesus provided Himself as a sacrifice for you.  There at the Cross, Jesus consumed your sin, drank your cup of suffering, and bled to cleanse you.  There at the Cross, the one act of Jesus removed for all time the damning power of your sin.  At the Cross this happened because Jesus is God’s Lamb, a Lamb given and sacrificed for you.

Behold, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  He is your Lamb.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] James T. Batchelor, Second Sunday after the Epiphany Sermon (www.pericope.com, Accessed January 18, 2014)

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