Reverend Doctor Gareth Edwards, of Hill Park Baptist Church, preached on John 1:26, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:26
You may have had a hectic week and look back and feel exhausted by all you were required to do. All that takes place in here in John 1:19- 34 took place in a week. It begins with John the Baptist being quizzed by a deputation of Pharisees and ends with Jesus’ first miracle – turning water into wine. It was a week full of testimony to who Jesus Christ is. The question at the beginning is ‘Who is John the Baptist?’ but the question that is answered is ‘Who is Jesus Christ?’ John the Baptist plays a central role in that testimony, which can clearly be seen in verses 32-34. He has already baptised Jesus and come to realise that Jesus is the Messiah. John humbly points the deputation from Jerusalem away from himself and to the Messiah – the one who was in the midst but of whom they were ignorant. The next day John immediately identifies him as the Messiah.
In order to grasp John’s message we need to examine the key words and unpack the statement, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” This will be done in reverse order: Sin, Lamb of God, Behold.
It has been said that the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. Jesus came into the world to address this problem – sin. Jesus came in order to take sin away. Today, sin is considered to be irrelevant. We may believe they are accountable to no-one but ourselves. If we believe God exists at all, then we may believe that He doesn’t have a right to condemn us because His role is to love and care for us. If we do acknowledge we have done wrong, we blame others for leading us astray or we blame our circumstances; we’re not guilty but victims.
The Bible doesn’t excuse our sin, it doesn’t allow us to escape the fact that we are accountable to God for our actions and our words. Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In Romans 6:23 we read, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This rebellion against God brings upon us the just sentence of death. This is the root of the whole problem of our world. All are sinners. As sinners we are justly condemned by God, subject to His holy wrath. John the Baptist tells us Jesus came to deal with the problem, to take away our sin. Do you recognise that you are a sinner? You may be someone of integrity, yet our sin is desperately wicked. The reality is that in what we do and what we say there is rebellion against God. It is no use burying our heads in the sand; we are sinners! Consequently, the Word of God tells us that the greatest priority is that our sin be taken away. Family problems, health problems, financial problems – they all pale into insignificance. We need our sin to be taken away, to know His forgiveness. We need to cry out for a Saviour to come, to rescue us. You desperately need a Saviour.
Lamb of God:
The people of Jesus’ day were steeped in the Old Testament and knew very well how lambs were used as sacrifices for sin. After sin came into the world we were alienated from God. It was God’s will that a lamb was as a sacrifice. In Genesis 4:4 and Hebrews 11:4 we read how Abel was considered righteous after offering a sacrificial lamb – the shedding of blood for life. Cain offered fruits of the soil, labours of his own hand, which God rejects. No amount of human effort had effect. Later, under the Law of Moses, a lamb was offered. We read in Leviticus 4:32 that a sinner brings a lamb and places his hands on the animal’s head to symbolise the transference for guilt.
In Hebrews 10 we learn that no amount of shedding of blood could take away sin. Only the Lamb of God truly cleanses us, the Messiah. Those who offered sacrifices in the temple looked forward to the one Lamb of God, whose death would take away their sins.
The people would have remembered how Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his much loved son Isaac. Abraham obeyed and took Isaac, who was probably in his late teens or early twenties. Isaac submits. They reach Moriah where they leave their servant behind. When Isaac asks where is the lamb Abraham replies that God will provide. Abraham was about to plunge the knife when God intervened. Abraham proved his faithfulness to God, or rather proved to himself his faithfulness to God. There, nearby, God provided a lamb caught in brambles – a substitute for Isaac. Now John describes Jesus as the Lamb of God – a substitute for you and me, for Isaac, for Abraham. ‘God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8).
In Exodus 12 God is going to send an angel of death to pass through Egypt. But the Israelites sacrificed a lamb and smeared its blood on doorposts as a sign to spare the Israelites and protect them. The lamb had to be perfect. So it is that Jesus Christ came, the real Passover, the perfect Lamb, who sacrificed His blood for us. Through the blood of the Lamb we are spared.
‘You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot’ (1 Peter 1:18-19).
In Isaiah 53:5-7 the prophet foresaw the coming of the Lamb, a suffering servant, a sacrificial Lamb who will take away the sins of the people, ‘like a lamb led to the slaughter.’ Jesus was both innocent of the charges laid against Him, completely innocent of any wrong doing. Yet He goes to the cross like a man who endures what He deserves. Why? Because He has accepted the responsibility for your sin and mine. He stands in my place and yours. So in describing Jesus as the Lamb of God, John is saying Jesus is the fulfilment of the Old Testament passages of scripture.
In Egypt on Passover night there was death in every house. Can you think of what that would be like – if in every house in Roch someone had died? On Passover night there was either the death of a lamb or death of a first born babe. In payment for our sins there has to be death. Either our death or Jesus’ shed blood so we might be forgiven and have eternal life, an eternal relationship with God. It is amazing to think God provided His only Son to suffer in our place when we are so unworthy. It is amazing!
Look / Behold!
John the Baptist issues an invitation to all around him not simply to gaze on Jesus but to trust Him. John is saying,’ Here is the Saviour who can provide all your needs. Don’t look to me or yourselves for salvation, look to Him and Him alone. ’ It is only those who look to Jesus with believing eyes who will be saved.
The New Testament uses the term ‘all’ for inviting people to come. This means all types – male, female, rich, poor – Jesus offers salvation to all types of people. But it only has effect for those who repent of their sins and know that there is nothing they can do to help themselves. Have mercy upon me as a sinner. I take Jesus to be my Saviour. I hide in His death because He died for me and I trust in Him. Your wrath, Oh God, fell on Him at Calvary and as I trust in this I am hidden from that wrath. I will follow Him and serve Him.
‘Look!’ John says. He pleads for you to take Him as your Saviour. John has baptised Jesus in the Jordan. Jesus didn’t have any sin so why was He baptised? Just as He didn’t have to die for His sins, He died for ours. He was saying, ‘I am one of them, I am them.’ He carries those sins of ours throughout His perfect life. We watched as His sins were sealed behind the rock of death. He rose on the third day, minus sins, which are never to be seen again.
Have you looked to Him? Not just a passing glance. Have you looked and seen in Him the only hope of Salvation?