Summary: Why is the Apostle John the only Gospel writer to record the words of John the Baptist referring to Jesus as the Lamb of God? We will discover the answer to that question in this topical message titled Behold the Lamb of God.
The words that John the Baptist chose to describe Jesus are very interesting. As a matter of fact, Jesus is only specifically called the Lamb of God twice in the whole Bible—once here and once a few verses later in verse 36. There is no doubt that John the Baptist used those words to describe Jesus. But what is interesting is why the Holy Spirit only inspired the Apostle John to record them. None of the other Gospel writers recorded those words. Why is that? Because John uses that phrase to introduce us to one of the themes he carries all the way through his Gospel. John’s theme of Jesus as the Lamb of God is especially appropriate to us as we enter this Holy Week. Because when John used those words to describe Jesus, he was describing Him as our Passover Lamb.
Over 1500 years before John wrote this book, the Israelites were captives in Egypt. 400 years before that, Joseph had rescued his family from a terrible famine by bringing them to Egypt where he was second in command to Pharaoh. But during that 400 years, the children of Israel grew into a mighty nation. Subsequent Pharaohs became concerned about how the nation was growing. They were worried that the Jews would rise up against the Egyptians, so they oppressed them. The oppression started simply enough, but before long they made them laborers. Then from laborers, they made them servants. Then from servants, they made the Jews into slaves. They treated them harshly and before too long, the Jews began to cry out to God to deliver them. God heard their cries and sent them Moses to deliver them from bondage in Egypt, into the land that He had promised Abraham hundreds of years before. So Moses appeared before Pharaoh and demanded that he release the Jews from their bondage. Of course, we’re all familiar with what happened then. Pharaoh refused and then God sent a series of plagues upon Egypt. With each plague, Pharaoh’s heart became increasingly hardened. As he saw the mighty hand of God on display, he refused to submit his life to Him. And as he continued in his rebellion, God hardened his heart. Finally, God sent one last plague. This was the plague of the firstborn. And in that plague, God told the people that He was going to send His death angel to take the life of all first-born males in Egypt. Judgment was coming. The oldest boy in every home was going to die. But even in the midst of God’s judgment, He showed His grace. He gave Moses some very specific instructions about how he was to apply that grace. And as I read the text, the grace was not only available to the Jews. It was available to all who would apply it. And here’s how it worked. Each family had to select a lamb. The lamb had to be completely spotless and without blemish. There were very specific instructions about how to select it, how to handle it, how to kill it and how to prepare it. But the whole assembly was to take all of those spotless lambs and slaughter them. When they did, the individual families would take their slaughtered lamb and its blood home. When they got there, they would prepare the lamb for the Passover meal. But the blood was for something else. A brush was made from a hyssop branch. It was dipped into a basin of that pure, spotless lamb’s blood. Then the blood was applied to the outside of the door and the doorframe. Once the blood was applied, the family went inside and closed the door till morning. During the night, God’s death angel passed through the land. He stopped at each house and killed the firstborn son. Unless he saw the blood. When he saw the blood applied, God’s judgment was stayed—and he passed over. The lamb was a substitute. Its blood was poured out and applied so that the firstborn might live. From that point on, God commanded the Jews to remember that night. They were to remember that night by celebrating the Passover. Throughout the years of Jewish history, the Passover celebration and meal went through some changes. Different elements were added to symbolize different things. By the time of Jesus, the Passover Seder looked very different from the first one. The one we will participate in on Wednesday will look very much like the ones during Jesus’ day.
One thing has become more and more clear to me as I’ve been studying and preparing for the Passover Seder we’re going to celebrate on Wednesday. With all the background study I’ve been doing in the book of John for the series we’re in, it amazed me how John uses the Passover as a thematic backdrop for his whole Gospel. This morning, we’re going to look at that backdrop. From the verse we started with all through his Gospel, John shows us that Jesus is our Passover Lamb. With John the Baptist, he commands us to behold the Lamb of God. And that’s what we’re going to do this morning. We’re going to look at the three Passovers in the book of John. And as we look at those, we’re going to behold Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He takes away the sin of the world because He is our purification, He is our provision, and He is our propitiation. The first Passover that John mentions is in John 2:13-22.