Summary: Jesus the Lamb of God - what will we do with Him?
“The Lamb of God
Story: A tourist visited a church in Germany and was surprised to see the carved figure of a lamb near the top of the church’s tower.
He asked why it was there and was told that when the church was being built, a workman fell from a high scaffold.
His co-workers rushed down, expecting to find him dead. But to their surprise and joy, he was alive and only slightly injured.
How did he survive? A flock of sheep was passing beneath the tower at the time, and he landed on top of a lamb. The lamb broke his fall and was crushed to death, but the man was saved.
To commemorate that miraculous escape, someone carved a lamb on the tower at the exact height from which the workman fell.
In this morning’s Gospel reading John the Baptist, described Jesus twice as “the Lamb of God”. (Jn 1:29 &36)
For us in the 21st Century, these are rather strange words. Yet to the average Jew of the first Century it wouldn’t have been!
1. So what would the expression “Lamb of God” have meant to the first century Jew.
I suggest that it would have conjured up the idea of the Passover Lamb.
Passover was the annual celebration, when the Jews remembered how God had delivered them from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.
The story of the Exodus is told in the first 12 chapters of the Book of Exodus.
Around about 1500 BC, God called Moses to lead the Jews out of Egypt. But Pharaoh steadfastly refused to let them leave.
In that particular situation of the Jews in Egypt - with Pharaoh steadfastly resisting God (and I emphasise this because not all disasters are a result of God’s judgement), God sent 10 plagues on the Egyptians.
It was the 10th plague that the Jews particularly remembered at Passover.
The 10th plague was when God sent the Angel of Death to destroy all the first born in the land of Egypt.
However, the Angel of Death passed over (from which we get the word PASSOVER) those Jewish households where the blood of a lamb - without blemish - had been sprinkled on the door lintels.
One Bible Commentator put it like this. “In every household in Egypt that night, there was either a dead lamb or a dead firstborn.”
It was only after the 10th plague that Pharaoh
allowed the Jews to leave Egypt.
God commanded the Jews to celebrate this act of salvation from Egypt by holding a festival each year, which they called the "Feast of Passover".
In that festival, each Jewish household was to sacrifice a lamb WITHOUT BLEMISH each year during the Feast of Passover.
This lamb was known as the Passover Lamb
So when Jesus was called the Lamb of God, I think John was saying three things about Christ.
1.1. The lamb without blemish
As the Passover lamb was to be a lamb without blemish, so Jesus was the lamb without blemish. His was a life of spotless purity – he had no sin. He was a man who had no sin of his own to atone for.
1.2. The lamb offered protection
The blood of the lamb protected the Jewish households from the wrath of the Angel of death in Egypt.
So Jesus, the Lamb of God offers us protection from the effects of our sin, which ultimately lead to separation from God – or eternal death.
1.3 The lamb was sacrificed for guilt that wasn’t his own
As the Passover lamb (during the 10th plague in Egypt), died in place of the first born, so Jesus died in our place – for our sins.
As John the Baptist put it. Jesus is “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”.
The Passover lamb however was slaughtered annually, whereas Jesus the Lamb of God would die once and for all to deal with the sin of the world.
It is very interesting that this imagery of Jesus as the Lamb of God becomes very prominent when we consider that Jesus died at Passover, probably in AD 29.
Jesus, the Lamb of God was killed only once – and we remember His death each Easter.
After that no further sacrifice was needed.
The writer of the book of Hebrews put it like this:
’Just as man is destined once to die and after that to face judgement, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him ’(Heb. 10:27-28)
In a similar vein, the apostle John also wrote:
’The blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanses us from all sin.’ (1Jn 1:7)