Saturday Oct 17, 2015

Gems in the Gospel of John - Part 08

Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 8 - John 1:29-31
The Lamb of God

John 1:29–31, “ The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, “A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.’”

John, John the Baptist that is, must have used an expression that would be meaningful to those who heard him but we cannot be sure what that meaning was. Nowhere in the Old Testament is a lamb said to be ‘of God’. That John said a striking, important and memorable thing we cannot doubt – but what did he mean.

There seem to be 4 main possibilities. In Biblical order, but not necessarily order of importance, these are that he was thinking of:

  1. the near sacrifice Abraham made of his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. When Isaac asked, “where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham replied, God himself will provide the lamb.”
  2. the lambs that were sacrificed on the night of the Passover at the exodus from Egypt. The Lord told Moses, “it is the Lord’s Passover” and Paul uses the same expression in 1 Corinthians 5:7 when he said, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
  3. the lambs that are frequently mentioned as sacrificial offerings in passages such as Exodus 29:38, 41 where we read, “This is what you are to offer on the altar regularly each day: two lambs a year old …a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord.”
  4. Isaiah 53, which clearly lies behind so much of what happened in the life of Jesus. It says, “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

Which of these, or other possibilities, John had in mind as he called Jesus the Lamb of God – or all of them – we cannot tell. Rather amazingly these 4 possibilities point us to 4 distinctly different concepts. They are in order: obedience to the call of the Lord, determination to set out on a difficult journey, the forgiveness of sin and the complete provision made for us on the Cross.

They are not in sensible or logical order. What is that logical order? Stop for a moment and think it through for yourself before reading on. (This sentence is a simple place filler to ensure you don’t see what my answer is too quickly!)
I think: the last one must come first, Jesus is in all and through all that happens; then we have forgiveness of sins, the promise of new life as we embark on the journey of faith and finally we must learn to be obedient in all that happens.
What is really striking is what happened when he said the same thing the next day in the hearing of two of his (John’s) disciples. It is recorded that, “When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’

When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’ They said, ‘Rabbi’ (which means ‘Teacher’), ‘where are you staying?’ ‘Come,’ he replied, ‘and you will see.’”

Is it possible to do a really good job of explaining something you don’t fully understand yourself? The answer has to be yes – when you are driven by the Holy Spirit of God. Because that is what happened to John the Baptist. He must have done a wonderful job explaining the Old Testament passages promising a Messiah, even although we know he was not himself fully convinced about Jesus at this time (Matthew 11: 2,3).

We too will never have complete knowledge, nor will we ever be sure that we are completely obedient, but like John we can have the key that unlocks all the best things in life: here is the Lamb of God – follow Him.

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