Summary: Looking at the Lamb of God ... Jesus
Text: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Scripture Reading: John 1:29 – 42
The gospel of John differs from the Synoptics in several ways. It was written later, about AD 85, and is more of an interpretation of Christ and his great spiritual truths. John’s gospel is not merely historical but also interpretive. In John the vineyard on the Galilean hillside has become a symbol of divine discipline and judgment. There are no pictures of sowing, reaping, and so on. There is no development in the recognition of Jesus. He is the divine Messiah from the first verse. In John there is no mention of Jesus’ birth, baptism, temptations, transfiguration, or last supper. The agony of Gethsemane is not described. There is no parable in the gospel, unless the miracles, as some say, are acted parables. Each miracle is given for a definite purpose. They are key signs, and each gives a great spiritual truth that reveals the wonderful attributes of Jesus. These spiritual truths that stand behind the miracles take place on the plane of history.
While John omits some things contained in the Synoptics, he introduces us to some things not contained in the Synoptics. The miracles at Cana, Nicodemus, the woman of Samaria, the paralytic at Bethesda, the raising of Lazarus, and the washing of the disciples’ feet are all found in John only. The discourses in John are long. I point out these things not to say that they contradict each other but that they supplement each other. It seems that John knew what the Synoptics contained and did not care to repeat. He says that he selected his materials and wrote “that people may keep on believing that Jesus is the Christ and that they might have eternal life.”
The humanity of Jesus is emphasized as well as his divinity. In John, Jesus is “wearied by the well,” be becomes “hungry,” and at one time he even “weeps” at the tomb of a friend. The writer was an eyewitness of the events recorded in the book.
John plunges immediately into the purpose of the gospel — to tell about Christ so that people might have everlasting life. He says that the “Word,” which is Christ, was the very beginning. He was the source of life and of all things. He was the Light of humankind whom no darkness could overcome. The Baptist came as a witness to this Light. John testified that Jesus gives us all the grace we need. The ministry of John the Baptist is given prominence in the first chapter. People flocked to hear John, and many were puzzled as to who this fiery preacher was. They asked him if he was Elijah or a prophet. He told them that he was merely the voice that was sent to announce the coming of the Messiah. When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” This picture of the Lamb comes from Isaiah and is also found in Revelation.
I. The Lamb of God.
One is reminded of the words of Abraham when he was about to sacrifice Isaac: “God will provide himself a lamb” (Gen. 22:8). Jesus is not the Lamb of humankind but of God.
A. One characteristic associated with the lamb in the Old Testament sacrifices was its innocence. We speak of the innocence of children not in the sense that they are free from sin but in that they do not understand sin. As children emerge into adulthood, this innocence passes. Christ, however, never lost his innocence. He walked among the sins and temptations of life but remained pure and unsoiled.
B. The second thing we can mention about a lamb is its gentleness. It is the perfect type of meek, uncomplaining suffering. People are sometimes gentle because they must be. They say, “Well, we cannot help ourselves.” Not so with Christ — he need only speak and legions of angels would be at his side.
C. But the idea that our author would impress upon our minds is not so much the character of the lamb or its innocence and gentleness, but its death. He connected Christ with the sacrifices of the old dispensation. Christ is the fulfillment of all the sacrifices. The remarkable thing about the Lamb of God was that he went to his death voluntarily.
II. This Lamb takes away the sin of the world.
Some say that Jesus came to earth to heal, and they emphasize his healing ministry. He healed the blind, the crippled, the diseased, and even the dead. But Jesus’ main purpose was to save people from their sins, which is greater than any bodily healing. Sin, the choice of evil instead of good, the perversion of the desires, the slavery of the will, the darkening of the mind, the deadly sickness of the heart — this is the fountain of all trouble, the cause of all disorder and wretchedness. This is the curse that destroys life’s harmony and beauty. This is the obstacle that separates the soul in darkness and sorrow from God. The forms of religion, the voice of unceasing prayers, the smoke of endless burnt offerings, the blood of bulls and goats, the oblations of all that is most precious, cruel altars drenched with human gore, and flames consuming the offspring of woman’s body — gifts, pleadings, sacrifices — bear witness to the deep and awful sense of sin that rests on the heart of the world. Thus John exultingly declares that Jesus “taketh away the sin of the world.”