"The next day, he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)
People saw him as a crazy man, a spectacle, or one charismatic enough to have his own crowd of followers, those convicted by what he said about the coming kingdom of God. He lived out in the wilderness, ate locusts and honey, and dressed in clothes of camels hair. This John the Baptizer was certainly a unique individual with some boldness and a mandate: the "voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord" (John 1:23).
He was unique enough, bold enough, and perhaps strange enough, that they asked him, "Are you the Messiah? Are you Elijah? Are you the Prophet?"
"No, no, and, no," He replied. Instead, he kept saying that someone else was coming, someone who would be far greater than himself.
And then, one day, he say Jesus coming toward him and said, "Behold - Look! - the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the of the world!"
John pointed to Jesus. And still today, by what he said, he points us to Jesus.
The Lamb of God
Long before John spoke these words, God's people, the Israelites, were living in captivity as slaves in Egypt. The Lord heard their cries, and he raised up Moses to challenge the Pharaoh, saying, "Let my people go." Nine plagues later, and God was about to bring the final blow: he would kill the first born of every Egyptian.
Each Israelite family was to take a lamb without blemish, a perfect lamb, kill it, and put its blood on the frame of the door. God would "pass over" the Israelite homes, sparing their firstborn children (Exodus 12). In this way, they were saved. The result of this is that the Pharaoh finally said, "Go!" He had enough. And so God's people were freed from the oppressive rule in Egypt. The blood of the lamb saved the firstborn children and God rescued his people.
Once in the wilderness, God gave the Israelites the Law - showing what they were to do and not do as God's people. Knowing full well that they were sinful and unable to keep it, God set up a system by which they could atone for their sin, purifying them and make themselves right with him. They were to make regular sacrifices - different kinds of animals for different things. They had to be offered time and again, for they were still a sinful people, prone to wander and chase after other gods.
Hundreds of years later, the prophet Isaiah spoke of a coming "servant of the Lord," one who would bear our griefs, carry our sorrows, being pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities, our sins; our rightful punishment would be on him so we could know peace, and by his wounds we would be healed (Isaiah 53:5-6).
He would be oppressed and afflicted, yet would bear it silently. "Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not open his mouth" (Isaiah 53:7, CSB) - for us who are the sheep who have gone astray and gone our own way. We are the wayward, lost sheep, and he would be the sacrificial lamb.
And after generations of waiting, John says, "Look! The Lamb of God!"
In calling him the "Lamb," John evokes these images from Isarel's history.
Where the blood of the lamb was the sign for God to pass over His people's homes and spare their firstborn, the blood of Jesus, shed for us, applied to us, marks us as God's people, spared from the penalty for sin, death. Where a great rescue from bondage followed, we are rescued from the power of sin.
Where the Israelite people had to keep offering sacrifices for their sin, offense after offense, festival after festival, year after year, Jesus is the final sacrifice for sin. He died, once for all time in our place.
In a sense, the animals bore the guilt of the people's sin in their place. Blood had to be shed, and in his grace, God set up the system by which the blood of animals would be shed. But they couldn't really, fully, bear our sin. They couldn't transform our nature, getting deep down, dealing with our heart of stone and sin. Instead, they pointed toward the One who would do that.
We needed one like us. A human. Only because every human ever born of natural means is sinful, it would be nigh impossible for us to find one who could die in our place, for everyone would have to bear their own punishment. And so God came to earth, born as a man, lived a perfect life, and was the unblemished lamb, the perfect one, just as the sacrificial lambs had to be perfect. He bore the sin of everyone who ever lived, once for all time, the final sacrifice.
It's His sacrifice on the altar of the cross that we present before God as we come to Him for salvation. It's His sacrifice that we continually uphold as we grow, as we need to continue to repent of sin that lingers. We cry out, "I am covered by Jesus' blood, saved by Him, and so Lord, forgive! You have cleansed me and made me Yours because Jesus died in my place!"
"For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ,av like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb." --1 Peter 1:18-19
Look on Him
John calls us to "Behold! Look! The Lamb of God!"
It's a call to direct our attention and see Him, but not just for a mere moment. It's an invitation to linger, to pay attention. John's whole life was all about paving the way and pointing to Jesus. May we give our whole lives to looking to Him.
To spending time with Him and dwelling on the depths of what He has done and is doing in us. To see the wonders of His love. When John's followers asked where Jesus was saying, Jesus said, "Come and you will see," and they stayed with him that day (John 1:38-39). We are invited to look to Jesus and to spend time with Him, knowing Him, seeing His great salvation. The more we look on Him and the different facets of what He has done for us, and the more we reflect on who we are without Him, sinful and lost, the more we'll be amazed at His great love for us and the more we'll find that a life spent with Him is a life worth living.
"Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!” --Revelation 5:12