Summary: How does Jesus serve as the lamb of God? We often talk about Him taking away the sins of the world but what does that mean and how does He do it?
July 15 2007
The Lamb of God
During feudal times royal families would have what were called ‘whipping boys’. A whipping boy was a boy of the same age but not the same class in society as the prince or nobleman. For when a child was of high enough class he was too important to be beaten by anyone other than his father. Fathers of noble families were frequently unavailable in the raising of their children so something had to be done to punish the misbehaved child. Thus the concept of the whipping boy was developed. The whipping boy would be a playmate to the young nobleman they would grow up together, and likely be close friends. When the nobleman acted out of turn or slacked in his studies the whipping boy would be beaten in place of the young nobleman. This was a form of psychological ‘indirect punishment’. The whipping boy would serve as a sort of scapegoat for the young prince or nobleman. When the noble boy did wrong the whipping boy was punished in his place. Now what I want you to do is put this picture of the whipping boy in your pocket we are going to come back to it.
Last week we talked briefly about the beautiful imagery that John writes with. This week we will see a great example of that Imagery. If you would turn in your Bibles to John 1:29 that is the text we will be looking at today. 40 days before our text John that is John the Baptists not John the disciple, baptizes Jesus. The day before this text John has stated that someone would come after him who would be the Christ. Let’s begin:
Jn 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! Jn 1:30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ Jn 1:31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” Jn 1:32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. Jn 1:33 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.’ Jn 1:34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”
The lamb of God is rich with meaning. This is a beautiful picture John and John alone will paint throughout his writing. No other New Testament author will use the phrase ‘the lamb of God’. Now with some study of the Old Testament you may associate the idea of a lamb of God with the lambs of the Old Testament…1st century Jews certainly would have. The first time we see this image of the lamb is in Genesis 22:7-8 when Isaac asks Abraham where is the lamb for the sacrifice and Abraham responds “God will provide.” And God did provide. Abraham was suppose to go sacrifice his son and God provided a lamb to take the place of Abraham’s son. Now it is important to note that John is the only writer in the New Testament to give Jesus the title ‘Lamb’. Paul and Peter will mention him as a lamb but John is unique in giving Jesus the title of lamb. This picture of the ‘lamb of God’ is full of Old Testament references. However, it can be difficult to know just what image of the ‘lamb’ John is trying to associate with.
Since the time of the Exodus lambs would have been a primary animal of sacrifice for the sins of the people of Israel. Two would be sacrificed each day, one in the morning and one at twilight as an offering to God. The lambs that were sacrificed were to be without blemish or defect. These lambs were sacrificed to cover over the sins of Israel. Throughout the Old Testament the blood of lambs served as an atonement for the sins of the people. While the blood of lambs does not have the power to take away sin, for a time their blood would cover the sin of man so that God would be able to dwell among them in the Tent of Meeting. They could not erase the sin because they were not a perfect atoning sacrifice. These lambs were killed for the sins of the people of Israel. They had done nothing wrong, they were helpless innocent sheep that were killed in place of men who were guilty of sin and deserved death. This sacrificial lamb may be what John means. John may be saying: Jesus is the lamb of God who will be sacrificed for the sins of the world. Though He is innocent of sin He will be put to death for the sins of the world so that we may be forgiven. Now if these are the words of John the Baptist they are very insightful. However, this could be a picture thrown in from John the apostle to allude to things to come as well.