D. THE LAMB OF GOD: (John 1:29-34)
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him, but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me. Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
According the the Apostle John, this is now the second day after the questions that the Scribes and Pharisees had for John the Baptist. It is likely that the group of representatives of the religious leaders present on that second day are the same ones from the day before in order to glean as much information from the Baptist as possible. This time John (the Baptist–not the Apostle) used a title for Jesus that he would use again; in fact, he is recorded as using this title the very next day (which would be the third day):
Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:35-36)
The title of “Lamb of God” would in fact be used repeatedly by the followers of Jesus in the future. In reality, the message of the entire Bible can be summed up in that title. In the Book of Genesis, God laid the groundwork for the sacrifice of His Lamb when he sent Abraham to the top of Mt Moriah to sacrifice his very own son, Issac. The passage in Genesis reads like this:
So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his you men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship and we will come back to you. So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering…” (Genesis 22:3-8)
As we reread this familiar story, we notice that Abraham told his servants that he and his son would go to worship and then return. Abraham knew that in one way or another God would intervene because he knew God would not fail on the covenant that they had made together. Like Abraham, Isaac was to become ancestor to a great nation, the nation that would bring the Messiah into the world. God was never going to require Abraham to kill his own son but the picture of Abraham offering his son as a sacrifice was a powerful foreshadowing of what God would in fact complete by sacrificing His own Son on the cross many centuries later.
In all four of the New Testament Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the emphasis is, “Behold the Lamb of God! Here He is!” Ultimately, after we have trusted in Him, we join the masses in Heaven, singing, “Worthy is the Lamb!” Both Revelation chapters 7 and 8 have great crowds proclaiming these words before the throne of God. We will look at one of these for this study. In the 5th chapter passage below, we find a scene in Heaven when the opening of the Seals of Judgment are about to commence. As the previous verses in this chapter show, no one in Heaven is worthy to open these Seals of Judgment except the Messiah, the Lamb of God who had been slain for the sins of the entire world. Let’s read:
Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.”
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice; “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” And every creature which is in Heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb,forever and ever!” Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshipped Him who lives forever and ever.” (Revelation 5:8-14)
The people of Israel were very familiar with the sacrifice of lambs, including at Passover when every family had to have a lamb to sacrifice. Also, throughout the year, two lambs were sacrificed each day at the Temple altar plus all the lambs personally sacrificed by the people. All of these sacrifices were presented by men to men. Here though, is God’s Lamb presented by God to men. The lambs offered continually could not remove sin, they could only cover them temporarily—until the next sacrifice was required. God’s Lamb was offered, not to cover sin, but to completely remove and eradicate sin and its stain, once and for all. God’s Lamb was offered for the entire world whereas the Old Testament sacrifices were provided primarily for the nation of Israel. Below is a passage found in the Book of Hebrews speaking to this very subject. I have chosen the Living Bible version for clarity:
The old system of Jewish laws gave only a dim foretaste of the good things Christ would do for us. The sacrifices under the old system were repeated again and again, year after year, but even so they could never save those who lived under their rules. If they could have, one offering would have been enough; the worshippers would have been cleansed once for all, and their feeling of guilt would be gone. But just the opposite happened; those yearly sacrifices reminded them of their disobedience and guilt instead of relieving their minds. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats really to take away sins. That is why Christ said, as He came into the world, “O God, the blood of bulls and goats cannot satisfy You, so You have made ready this body of Mine for Me to lay as a sacrifice upon Your altar. You were not satisfied with the animal sacrifices, slain and burnt before You as offerings for sin. Then I said, “See, I have come to do Your will, to lay down My life, just as the Scriptures said that I would.”
After Christ said this, about not being satisfied with the various sacrifices and offerings required under the old system, He then added, “Here I am. I have come to give My life.” He cancels the first system in favor of a far better one. Under this new plan we have been forgiven and made clean by Christ’s dying for us once and for all. Under this new plan we have been forgiven and made clean by Christ’s dying for us once and for all. Under the old agreement the priests stood before the altar day after day offering sacrifices that could never take away our sins. But Christ gave Himself to God for our sins as one sacrifice for all thim, and then sat down in the place of highest honor at God’s right hand…(Hebrews 10:1-12)
So, we ask these questions: What was John’s baptism all about? And what did these baptisms have to do with the Lamb of God?
- What were John’s baptisms all about? The Jews had used baptism as ritual cleansing ceremonies of Gentile proselytes. That was common and they were used to it. John the Baptist however was baptizing Jews. That was something new. John himself explained that he was baptizing them for repentance symbolic of changing one’s mind and going a different direction.
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness; ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.’” (Matthew 3:1-3)
Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” (Acts 19:4)
Being baptized by John demonstrated a recognition of one’s sin, a desire for spiritual cleansing, and a commitment to follow god’s law in anticipation of the arrival of the Messiah.
- What did John’s baptism have to do with the Lamb of God? It is generally agreed among fundamental Christ followers that “baptism” is by immersion. It is a picture of death, burial, and resurrection. When John the Baptist baptized Jesus, Jesus and John were picuring the “baptism” Jesus would endure on the cross when He would die as the sacrificial Lamb of God.
He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him. And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.(Isaiah 53:3-8
It would be through death, burial, and resurrection that the Lamb of God would “fulfill all righteousness.” If the Baptist had any question about the identity of Jesus as the Lamb of God, as some believe, God the Father made it very clear to John just Who Jesus really was by sending the Spirit like a dove to light on Him. It is a wonderful picture of the Trinity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.
Continued in Part Five…