Behold the Lamb of God!
John 1:29 “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
This verse of scripture contains enormous meaning. Herein is a glimpse of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus Christ, doing the job that God ordained for him to do hundreds of years before John was even born. In his moment of ecstasy and supreme inspiration, John magnifies God the Father and His Son the Lord Jesus, confessing before the Jewish nation that the long awaited Messiah was now in their very midst!
This verse unveils the mystery of nearly 4,000 years of prophetic history. The verse also unveils the sovereign plan and purpose of the Almighty God of Heaven– the plan designed in eternity, and now in the fullness of time it was being fulfilled before their very eyes. Oh! What a day to live! What a day to be there to hear that great prophet proclaim with all his heart mind and soul– “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”!
In this short message we want to see from the scriptures just what it means to “Behold the Lamb of God”. We want to see just how the “Lamb of God taketh away the sin of the world.” There can be no greater sight to see, no greater man to cast our eyes upon, than Jesus Christ the Lord. There is no greater work that can be done, than for Jesus to take our sins away and give to us eternal life.
“...Behold…” The word behold means to see or to look upon. But here in our text there is so much more implied than to merely see or look upon with the physical eyes. The prophet Isaiah said speaking of Christ “he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” Isaiah 53:2b. John surely wasn’t appealing for people to merely gaze upon the outward form of Jesus’ body. John must have a far deeper intention than this.
In the Old Testament book of Numbers (Numbers 21:5-9), God sent deadly fiery serpents into the camp of Israel because of their rebellion against Him. The Israelites pleaded with Moses for relief, so God told Moses to make a brazen serpent, place it upon a pole, and raise it up in the sight of the people. Every one who was bitten by a serpent, when they looked upon the brazen serpent that Moses made, they would live. If they would not look, they died. In the Gospel of John 3:13-16, Jesus relates this fiery serpent event to those who will look upon or believe in Him, and that all who will believe in Jesus shall live forever!
So, then, to “Behold the Lamb of God” is to believe on Him as the “Lamb of God”. Not to merely look upon Jesus with one’s eyes. Multitudes have looked upon Jesus. They looked upon Him as He was sentenced to die on Calvary- “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” they cried. They looked upon Him as He died on Calvary’s tree, but all they could do is mock Him and rail at Him. To “Behold” is to put your faith and trust in Jesus– to own Him as your Savior!
“...Behold the Lamb of God…” So much could be said about the meaning of these words. Jesus bore the likeness of a lamb in that He is harmless, innocent, meek and lowly, and totally submissive to the purpose why He came to be the “Lamb of God”. In all these things He was lamb-like. Truly a lamb very suitably portrays Jesus’ character as He lived upon this earth.
In an even greater way, Jesus is the “Lamb of God” in that He became the sacrifice for the sins of God’s people. Throughout the Old Testament there are types and shadows that portray Jesus as the sacrificial lamb Who would come into to this world to be the only true sacrifice for our sins. All of the Old Testament types and shadows could not cleanse people from their sins. These types were given simply to show forth the true sin sacrifice which was to come– Jesus Christ the “Lamb of God”. Now we want to see some of those Old Testament types so that we might better comprehend with John the Baptist when he said “Behold the Lamb of God”.
When Adam and Eve fell into sin, God clothed them with animal skins (Genesis 3:21), which pictured their need for a sin sacrifice. This sacrifice, which the animal skins pictured, would not only take away their sin and shame but would also clothe them with the righteousness of the sinless sacrifice– Who is Jesus Christ. This was the first blood sacrifice in the Bible, which was performed by God Himself. This would be the first bloody example set forth in a type that showed all of mankind’s need for a sacrifice to pay the debt for their sins.
The next sacrifice was the lamb that Able (Adam and Eve’s son) offered in Genesis 4:1-5. God was please with Able’s sacrifice because it rightly pictured the “Lamb of God”. In the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 11:4) we find that Able, by his “more excellent sacrifice”, obtained witness that he was righteous. He was righteous in that his sacrificial lamb pictured the true Lamb, Jesus Christ. His righteousness wasn’t in his works, but in Who he was trusting to pay his sin dept!
Another type of the “Lamb of God” is found in Genesis 22:7-8 where Abraham sets out to offer his son Isaac upon mount Moriah. God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son as this would be the supreme type of God the father offering His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, upon the cross of Calvary. Those famous words of Isaac and Abraham still ring forth from the annals of Bible history:
Genesis 22:7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
8a And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering...
The Passover sacrifice instituted in Exodus 12 is a most glorious and vivid type of the “Lamb of God”. Israel at this time was in bondage to Egypt and to Pharaoh Egypt’s king- types of the world and Satan its king. God, after hearing His people’s cry, sent grievous plagues upon Egypt for the purpose of judging Egypt and delivering His people with His mighty hand. Just before God was to deliver Israel out of Egypt, He told Moses to institute the Passover supper as a memorial of God’s great deliverance out of the land of bondage.
God instructed Moses to have each household sacrifice a lamb. The lamb was to be the firstling of the flock, without spot or blemish– picturing the sinless perfection of Jesus Christ. Jesus could only become the sin sacrifice for sinners by being sinless Himself. They were to have no leaven in their houses, which in the Bible is a type of sin. There is no place for sin in the worship of God, especially when it may taint the portrayal of the perfect “Lamb of God”. When we observe the Lord’s Supper in the Lord’s Church, the requirements for holiness and confession of sin are very similar, in that the Lord’s Supper portrays the sacrificial work of the Lamb of God for the sins of His people, and their deliverance from their sins.
The Israelites were to take the blood of the lamb and strike it upon the side posts and upon the upper door posts of their houses. The blood applied thereon prevented the death of the firstborn child, and hence saved that house from the last and most severe plague to be sent upon the land of Egypt. In like manner the blood of Christ, God’s Lamb, prevents our eternal death in the lake of fire wherein all the unregenerate souls of this world will one day be cast. This will be their last and most severe plague, from which there shall be no escaping throughout eternity.
They were to roast the lamb with fire and eat it all (with head, legs, and entrails) with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, picturing how that we by faith partake of the bitter sacrifice of the “Lamb of God”. Christ was roasted as it were with fire, as He endured the wrath of Almighty God for us.
“...which taketh away the sin of the world.”
Finally, we want to see what it means for the “Lamb of God” to take away the sin of the world.
To take away in this passage, means both to take up (or literally to bear) and to take away. First, the “Lamb of God” took up or bore our sins in that He suffered the eternal consequences for them. Thus, as a sacrifice He suffered for the sins of His people so that they would not have to suffer; and He died for their sins so that they would not have to die. The very nature and purpose of a blood sacrifice is for the sacrifice to become the substitute (either figuratively or actually) for the guilty party. And so it is with Christ. As the perfect sacrifice, Jesus became the sin substitute for God’s people who are guilty of breaking God’s Holy law. The evidence that we are the people of God is repentance of our sin and faith in the “Lamb of God” as our sin substitute.
The “Lamb of God” not only bore the sins of His people, but he also took their sins away. The scapegoat of Leviticus (Leviticus 16:8-26), dramatically pictures how that Jesus takes our sins away. The sins of Israel (who were the people of God in the Old Testament), were placed upon the head of the scapegoat, and the goat was led into the wilderness to die. In this way Israel’s sins were taken way, never to be remembered again. This was only a type of Christ Who would actually take away sins. Hebrews 10:17 tells us that “... their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” In Psalms 103:12 we read “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” and in Micah 7:19 we read “He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”
All of these promises of casting away, removing, not remembering, and taking away sins can only ever be truly fulfilled by the sacrifice of Christ as the “Lamb of God”.
“...taketh away…” is in the present tense, meaning that Jesus continually takes away sin. He provides daily and perpetual cleansing to which this answers to the daily sacrifice of Numbers 28: 3-10. There, two lambs were offered daily- one in the morning and one in the evening, for the daily cleansing of God’s people. This daily cleansing is fulfilled in Christ, where at His Father’s right hand He pleads our pardon and cleanses our sins on the merits of His own blood, which He shed for our sins.
“...the sin of the world.” By this is meant every kindred, tongue, people, and nation, and not the Jews only. Not all people without exception is meant here, as we know that all people are not saved. But only true believers in the “Lamb of God” throughout the world.
To conclude this study of John 1:29, I would like to ask you the reader if the “Lamb of God” is your Lamb? Was God’s Lamb sacrificed for your sins? You can only say yes to these questions if at some time in your life you have truly repented of your sins and believed in your heart that Jesus Christ, the “Lamb of God”, died for your sins, was buried, and rose again the third day for you.
If you have never believed in Jesus as your Savior, then I invite you now to “Behold the Lamb of God”.
(Sermon preached by Pastor Burke at the Faith Baptist Church of Lawtey, Florida)