Summary: Since Jesus is more than the Virgin Mary’s little lamb we will look to him for forgiveness and we will point others to him.
“Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb. Mary had a little lamb his fleece was white as…snow.” Did anyone have trouble finishing that nursery rhyme? Even the youngest ones here know how that rhyme goes. What you probably don’t know, however, is the history of that verse. One source said that this rhyme was written in 1830 by Sarah Hale, a classmate of Mary Sawyer who one day brought a lamb to their school in Sterling, Massachusetts. Another source said that this rhyme was developed in England as a way to teach children about Jesus, the Virgin Mary’s little lamb. That isn’t a bad way to think of Jesus, as long as we remember that he is more than Mary’s little lamb for he is also the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
It was John the Baptist who first called Jesus the Lamb of God (although Isaiah had prophesied 700 years earlier that Jesus would be led like a lamb to the slaughter). I don’t suppose most people would consider it a compliment to be called a lamb. Lambs are weak and they aren’t very smart. John’s intent, of course, was not to insult Jesus for he went on to say about him: “This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’” (John 1:30). Although John was six months older than Jesus he said that Jesus existed before him. This could only be if Jesus was more than Mary’s little lamb. Jesus could have existed before John only if he was an angel, or God! John didn’t have to guess Jesus’ identity. It was revealed to him at Jesus’ baptism. John testified: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God” (John 1:32-34).
No Jesus is not just the son of Mary; he is the Son of God! Why didn’t John just say then, “Behold the Son of God…”? Why did he call Jesus the Lamb of God? John called Jesus the Lamb because it was descriptive of what he had come to do – take away the sin of the world. During Old Testament times God had commanded his people to sacrifice lambs (among other animals) for their sins. God did this to teach his people that he does not deal with sin lightly. The punishment for sin is death. Accordingly the lambs offered for the sins of the people were butchered and burned, not just penned up. In the same way Jesus came to give up his life to pay for our sins, not just spend a few years away from the glories of heaven. He had to do this because the lambs sacrificed during Old Testament times couldn’t really pay for the sins of the people. Animal sacrifices were only I.O.U. notes that put off paying the real debt of sin because human sin can only be paid for with human blood. That’s why God’s Son became Mary’s son so that he had the right currency, human flesh and blood, to pay for our sins.