THE LAMB OF GOD
April 9, 2017
Billy Sunday, was a famous evangelist of the last century said:
“There are 256 names in the Bible for the Lord Jesus Christ, and I suppose this was because He was infinitely beyond all that any one name could express.”
Today, on this Palm Sunday I want to look at one particular name for Jesus. Of all the names and titles Jesus has been given in the Bible this seems to be one of the most common.
In the book of Revelation, Jesus is called the “Lamb” 26 times.
We try to describe Jesus, and we do a decent job, but there aren’t many words we can use to fully describe who Jesus is. For some people - - one word may say it all, but there are so many possibilities.
In his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey wrote about a University of Chicago study which showed more has been written about Jesus in the past 20 years or so than was written about Him in the first 19 centuries. Jesus is without a doubt the most talked about — and the most scrutinized — character in all of history.
Trying to summarize who Jesus is, is not easy to do. Because we will always miss points about His nature and character. On this Palm Sunday, I thought about this passage from the gospel of John. John the Baptist saw Jesus coming and said ~
29 “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
30 This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because He was before me.’
31 I myself did not know Him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that He might be revealed to Israel.”
32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on Him.
33 I myself did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me,
‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’
34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” – John 1:29-34
This is the first time Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God. But the message from John the Baptist was not new. This is the purpose of His coming into the world. It is above and beyond anything and everything else Jesus did. What He was to do far surpassed His lessons and parables, any physical healing or miracle He performed. He came to take away our sins.
If you recall part of the Christmas story, when Joseph was going to break off his engagement to Mary, because he knew that child was not his, an angel of the Lord came to Joseph and said...
20 "Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus. . .
And this is the part I want you to hear...
21 . . . because He will save His people from their sins." – Matthew 1:20-21
That's what Jesus came to do. From the very beginning, this was God's plan. He was going to send His Son to save us from our sins. That's because, in case you haven't noticed, we have a little bit of a sin problem.
And when I say "sin problem," I'm talking about the entire human race, and I'm talking about every person in this room.
If you have ever felt like you were at war with yourself, and felt like you were alienated from others, and felt like you were separated from God — I want you to know you’re not imagining things. It's true. This is the human condition. We are alienated and separated. We are broken. We are fallen.
And you don't have to take my word for it. You only have to look around. You see it on a global scale; just read the headlines. You see it locally, in the lives of people close to you. And then, there are many who see it every day on a personal level. Something isn't right. We are not right. We are not as we could be, and not as we should be. Isaiah said it well . . . .
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way. – Isaiah 53:6
This is the problem which everyone struggles with, and it's the ONLY reason Jesus came into this world — to save us from our sins, so that, only through Jesus can we be made right.
When John made this statement, although the people didn’t really understand who Jesus was, they understood what John meant by referring to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins.
You see, they understood the animal sacrifice system. That was how they grew up, they understood and practiced something which we believe is outdated and barbaric.
We understand that animal sacrifice has nothing to do with being right with God.
However, for many ancient cultures, including the Jewish people, animal sacrifice made sense. In fact, it was mandated by God. They understood what it meant.
Jesus came to save His people from their sins. He came to take away the sins of the world — to put us at peace with ourselves and one another, and to bridge the gap between you and God.
The fact is, we're broken. We struggle with our brokenness and more often than not we lose the struggle. But it doesn't have to be that way. You can know what it means — you can know how it feels — to be right with God, and to be right with yourself, and to be right with others. You can make peace with your past, you can experience joy in the moment, and you can have hope for your future. That's what Jesus came to do, because He's the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
For the first century Jew who heard John speak these words, two images probably came to mind.
1.) The Passover Lamb.
Passover was an ancient Jewish celebration commemorating an event that occurred during their days of Egyptian bondage, somewhere around 1450 BC.
For 400 years the children of Israel had been slaves in Egypt, brutalized and oppressed. Then God sent Moses to Pharaoh to say, "Let my people go." Pharaoh refused and resisted and continued to reject God, even when plague after plague was visited upon the land. There were 10 plagues in all. Plagues which not only impacted the Pharaoh, but all of the Egyptian people.
Finally, the last plague came. God told Moses to tell the Israelites to stay at home and sacrifice a lamb and smear the lamb's blood on their doorpost, because that night the angel of death would visit every household in Egypt and their first born would die. And through Moses, the Lord said...
13 "The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you." – Exodus 12:13
That night the households of the people of Israel were spared. However, the people of Egypt were not spared. And Pharaoh then told Moses to take the Jewish people and leave Egypt. This began their journey toward the promised land of Israel.
When the first century Jew heard John the Baptist say, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," they would have thought of the Passover lamb.
2.) They also would have thought of the temple ritual of animal sacrifices. This was instituted after the people left Egypt.
The people were instructed to sacrifice animals to atone for their sins. We read about that in Leviticus 4 ~
34 Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar
of burnt offering and pour out all the rest of its blood at the base of the altar.
35 And all its fat he shall remove as the fat of the lamb is removed from the sacrifice of peace offerings,
and the priest shall burn it on the altar, on top of the Lord's food offerings.
And the priest shall make atonement for him for the sin which he has committed, and he shall be forgiven. – Leviticus 4:34-35
This sacrifice was made every day until 70AD, when the Temple was destroyed. The Old Testament ritual of sacrifice was never intended to be permanent, as we read in Hebrews ~
4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. – Hebrews 10:4
The ritual was intended to be understood as a symbol of what would happen when God sent Jesus into the world. The blood of an animal can never take away our sins, but through the blood of Jesus Christ — through his sacrificial death — our sins can be forgiven.
Here's the bottom line . . . . We're all sinners. We've all sinned against a holy God. We've all done things which we should not do, and we've also left undone those things we should’ve done.
It isn’t that everyone else is sick and messed up and we’re the only ones who are normal and OK. It’s the fact that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. None of us are immune. Even if you think it, I’ll tell you, you are wrong. Even the best of you, you still are a sinner in need of the grace and mercy of Jesus.
When we realize we are sinners, when we can admit we sin and need help, then we will realize we are in need of a Savior. This is what Jesus' death means to us.
When Jesus died on the cross, every sin you ever committed, past present and future ... and every ugly thing you did and every decent thing you avoided doing . . . . and hateful word you said and nasty thing you thought
. . . every heart you broke and every spirit you crushed ... every person you took advantage of and . . . every time you turned your back on someone in need and every time you exploited a situation to your own advantage . . .
. . . . every time you cut someone down to size and every time you tried to puff up yourself . . . every time you lied, every time you stole . . .
. . . and every time you looked at God and said you knew better . . . and
. . . every sin in your past, present and future was placed upon Jesus, as He hung on a cruel Roman cross located in a dump on the outskirts of town.
And while he hung up on the cross, the restitution that you should have to pay to your Heavenly Father for the things you have done, he paid. He was like a spotless lamb paying the price for a sinful world.
Jesus Christ came into the world to die on the cross for your sins. And if you think your sins are insignificant, or even non-existent, you'll have a hard time understanding what His death really means.
But I want to tell you some great news!!
Jesus paid it all. Paid in full. Your dirt, your filth has been cleaned, you have been made whiter than snow.
That's why God said through the prophet Isaiah...
18 "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." – Isaiah 1:18
We may not understand certain aspects of these ancient rituals, and may think some of them are pretty strange, but we need to know they were precursors for the coming of Jesus.
Through the Lamb of God, through His sacrifice on the cross, believe that your debt can be 100% paid in full. When Jesus said “It is finished” when He was on the cross. That’s what that statement means in Greek. It means what I set out to do, I accomplished. It means the bill is totally paid. When you say yes to Jesus, He stamps your account, which is filled with sinfulness as
PAID IN FULL - - forgiven. All you have to do is say YES to Jesus!
Will you say that today?! It’s a matter of your heart! Can you put down all of your baggage and say Lord, I’m a sinner, in need of you and your grace, mercy, love and power! I believe, help my unbelief!