Behold the Lamb of God

Intro: John 1:29-34The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “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 is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ 31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” 32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 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.’ 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

  • It was John’s mission to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus. It was he who was commissioned to identify Jesus to the world. John could have said, “behold the King of Israel”, or “the Holy One”, or “the Anointed One”, or “the Branch” or “Root of David”, or even “the Son of God”. But John chose to identify Jesus as “the Lamb of God”.

I. Why did John identify Jesus in this manner? What does it mean? There are differing connections offered concerning John’s use of this terminology. Three prominent ones:

  • The Lamb of the Passover (Ex. 12)
  • The Lamb of Isaiah’s Prophecy (Isa. 53)
  • The Lamb of the daily sacrifices (morning and evening) commanded in the Law of Moses. (Ex. 29) We look more carefully at the first two of these connections.

A. A Sacrificial Lamb: John’s use of the word lamb immediately pointed to the animal of the altar. The lamb was used as a sacrifice. We mentioned earlier that the first appearance of the word “lamb” in the OT is in Gen. 22, when Isaac asks his father, Abram, “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”. After which his father replies, “God will provide for Himself the Lamb” (Gen. 22:7-8) [John’s declaration in John 1 is the first appearance of the word “lamb” in the NT]. Some suggest that the Jews were so familiar with this event that John’s announcement would have immediately brought it to their minds. God would provide HIS lamb.

B. Whatever the connection, John’s use of this description of Christ clearly points to the fundamental importance of Jesus’ death in the purpose of God. Jesus came to be THE Lamb offered for the sins of the world. None of us have ever offered a lamb on an altar. Our understanding of John’s declaration requires us to look back at the sacrificial system of the OT. What does the Bible teach us about Jesus as the Lamb of God?

II. Christ, Our Passover: The next time we view the sacrificial lamb in the OT is during God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt. God sends Moses and Aaron to the Pharaoh with a single and simple request -” Let My people go”. But Pharaoh refused, and Jehovah sent 10 separate and progressively damaging plagues upon the Egyptians. In the end, God’s judgment upon the deaf ear of the Pharaoh is the final plague of the death of the king’s own firstborn son, and every firstborn of Egypt.

A. Just before God visited Egypt with the final plague, He instructed each family in Israel to kill a lamb. Turn to Exodus 12- Ex 12:3-13 Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. 7 And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. 8 Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire — its head with its legs and its entrails. 10 You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire. 11 And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 ‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. 13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

B. God gave specific instructions in preparation for their deliverance:

      • On the 10th day of the first month they were to choose a year old lamb or kid without blemish from their flock. That lamb was to be set aside from the others for four days.
      • Four days later they were to kill this lamb at evening.
      • The blood of the lamb was to be applied to the doorposts and lintel of their house.
      • The lamb was roasted with fire and eaten, along with bitter herbs and unleavened bread.
      • What was not eaten was to be burned with fire and totally consumed.
      • They were commanded to eat in haste, with their shoes on their feet, their staff in their hand, and their loins girded about them.
      • They were to remain in the house until morning.
      • This meal became a yearly observance to commemorate the day of their deliverance – their day of independence from the oppression of Egypt.

C. What did the elements of the Passover teach them?

1. It was not of their doing. God released them with a strong hand – “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” (Ex. 14:13)

2. The death of the lamb was necessary. There was no substitute for its blood in evading the judgment of God. In the lamb’s death there was both judgment and mercy combined.

3. Obedience. Even though they did nothing to free themselves, their deliverance was contingent upon their obedience to God’s commands. Their freedom was conditional.

4. Following the night of judgment came the morning of deliverance. The people of Israel crossed over the Red Sea on dry land, with a wall of water on each side. When Pharaoh pursued them, God destroyed the Egyptians and saved Israel in the same event.

D. Notice Ex 12:21 – Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. You will notice that the word “lamb” is italicized in this verse. It is not in the original text. Moses literally said, “you shall kill the Passover“… using the word Passover to refer to the lamb itself.

1. 1 Corinthians 5:7Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Paul calls Jesus our Passover, referencing the lamb itself. He was sacrificed FOR us. He was essential to our deliverance from God’s judgment.

2. There are several connections between the Passover Lamb and Christ.

            • According to the divine purpose, Jesus was crucified, as our sacrifice, during the Passover feast; and at the same time of the day as the daily sacrifice at the temple. God’s timing was perfect.
            • No bone of the Paschal lamb was to be broken, so no bone of Jesus was broken, in fulfillment of prophecy. (John 19:36, Ps. 34)
            • The lamb was entirely consumed – representing Jesus’ whole dedication and sacrifice for us. Jesus was fully offered.
            •  The unleavened bread also represents purity. This is Paul’s connection in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. The unleavened bread represented the new consecrated life of the Israelite, separated from the stain of Egypt. So the lamb was first, then the feast of the bread. If Jesus has been sacrificed, then we must take up our cross and deny ourselves. In Rom. 6 Paul argues for the sanctification of the Christian on the basis of Jesus’ death on the cross, and puts his argument in the context of a deliverance from slavery – Rom 6:6knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
            •  The bitter herbs that were eaten with the lamb represent the call of repentance and confession, which are a fitting and natural accompaniment to our salvation.
            • The attire of the Israelite represented his willingness and readiness to leave (probably standing) 1 Peter 1:13-16 – 3 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
            • They were to remain inside throughout God’s judgment on Egypt – again this was a call to trust in God. As they heard the cries and sounds of death around them, they were to

3. It cannot be doubted that the lessons of the Passover was in Peter’s mind when he wrote: 1 Peter 1:17-21 – 7 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Conclusion: The sacrifice of the Lamb is so central to the story of our deliverance that it becomes the most familiar image of Jesus, our Lord. He is OUR lamb. The revelation of our redemption is revealed to us by the Lamb. It is interesting to note that the N.T. book that mentions the Lamb more than any other is the book or Revelation. Jesus is THE Lamb in Revelation. We may consider this next week – But as we close, read with me from Rev. 5.

  • Rev 51 And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. 4 So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. 5 But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” 6 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. Worthy Is the Lamb 8 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. 9 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, 10 And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” 11 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, 12 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!” 13 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!” 14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.