Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. John 1:29
Perhaps you are a person who loves shortcuts!
At least when tackling a difficult topic, you love to start off with a big picture or bird’s eye view. While our approach with the Bible ought to be in a lifetime of study and reflection, it does give us those big picture statements so that we don’t miss the forest for the trees.
Amazingly, in this one verse, we have all God wants us to know to obtain eternal life.
When John used the image of ‘lamb’ to describe the Jesus, he was summarizing hundreds of years of biblical history. It emphasized that the only approach worshippers had to God was through blood sacrifice.
Early in human history, Abel brought a lamb as a sacrifice to God. Later, Abraham, believing God would spare his son Isaac said, "God will provide himself lamb." During the Exodus, the night before Israel left, each family had to apply lamb’s blood around their door posts to avoid the death of the firstborn son. Many generations later, the prophet Isaiah described the Messiah as, “a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7).
So, when John referred to Jesus in this way, he was getting us to see that what God pictured through those events he accomplished through Jesus death on the cross.
But we also see that he is not just a lamb, but the lamb ‘of God’. This is vital because it means that this lamb is one uniquely provided by God. In fact, the lamb is the Son of God himself! (John 3:16) It speaks of the great love God has for us in that he gave his own Son in our place. But also, that our sins before God are so serious that only the death of God’s Son would do. Hebrews says, “it is not possible the blood of bulls and goats take away sin.” (Hebrews 10:3) Neither is any person able to atone for their own sins before God. If there is a solution, it must come from God. This is further opened when the Apostle Paul states that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Notice how he concludes his great summary. He is the lamb “who takes away the sin of the world.” He doesn’t single out specific sins, but sins of every nature. This is wonderful because it means that I can be confident that when I come to God through the means he has appointed, that all my sins will be dealt with; past, present and future. So, it says, “he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
The question is not “Is God willing or able to save me?” but “Am I willing to be saved by him, in his way?”
Therefore, the verse begins with this all-important word “behold”. This is a call to faith. It is a call to consider and believe. It is a call to never take your eyes of this once and for all sacrifice for you. What a provision God has made for you and me. It is so great and so final the Bible goes so far as to ask, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation...?” (Hebrews 2:3). Behold the Lamb!
Rev. Kent Compton is a minister with the Free Church of Scotland in Desable and Cape Traverse. A guest sermon runs regularly in Saturday’s Guardian and is provided through Christian Communications.