“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
John the Baptist first uttered this sentence pointing to Jesus as He emerged from His Jordan baptism. We sing it at in the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper. Look! There He is! Behold! God’s Lamb. In John’s Gospel, Lamb of God is an image that never gets fully developed. Jesus is the Light of the world, the Bread of Life, the Good Shepherd, the Door of the sheep, the Way, the Truth, the Resurrection, the Life, the true Vine. But we never hear about Lamb. Not until the end. And then it is hidden beneath the sound of all the Passover lambs in Jerusalem being slaughtered, their cries are the background for Jesus’ “it is finished.”
Behold the Lamb in His baptism. Behold the Lamb in His death. The connection is direct. There need be no intervening step or saying, and in John’s gospel there is none. From water to cross, two points forming a distinct line of salvation. To be God’s Lamb is to be appointed to die. To shed blood. Life for life. To be the vicarious Victim, the substitute Sacrifice. Every lamb and ram and goat and bull and pigeon and turtledove who shed its blood in sacrifice points to this Lamb, God’s Lamb, and He is all of them in One. He is the Sacrifice to end all sacrifice, the once-for-all Sacrifice whose blood cleanses the world of sin.
He is the Passover Lamb, the scapegoat and the sacrifice of the Day of Atonement. He is ram that stood in the place of Isaac, Abraham’s son. He is Abel, whose innocent blood protected Cain, the brother who murdered him in the world’s first religious war. He is the God’s Holocaust, the whole burnt offering, the perfect Israelite offered up for the life of the world. He is the culmination and fulfillment of every sacrifice offered in tabernacle and temple.
And He is you. He stands in your place under the Law. He suffers for you. He dies for you. He sheds His blood for you. He takes the sting of Death in your place. By His blood you are cleansed, your sins atoned for, peace with God is made, the law’s death sentence answered, death passes over the blood of the Lamb. “Christ died for all, and therefore all died.” He is God’s Lamb for the world, and He is the world. Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Yes, you were there. In Him. He is the second Adam, humanity’s new and perfect Head, embodying the human race from beginning to end in that flesh born of Mary.
Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is not the restorer or renovator or recycler of this world. God doesn’t do rehab. He is the Savior of the world. The Sin-bearer. He becomes our sin, the aggregate sin of the world so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. O happy exchange! Such a deal! No deal at all, really. His to do and to give, ours to receive and believe. He bears the awful load of this world’s corruption – its immoralities and adulteries, its felonies and misdemeanors, its idolatries and profanities, the lies, the slanders, the hatred, the injustice, the murders. He bears our addictions, the wounds inflicted on us by others and our own self-inflicted wounds in our vain attempts to justify ourselves and atone for our sin. He bears that awful load of our inhumanity, our abrogation of our priesthood as God’s image. He bears all of it. Wilingly. Intentionally. To death on a cross, and in so doing puts Sin to Death in the flesh.
He takes away the sin of the world. Takes it away. Deposits it as far as the east is from west. Every last sin of every last sinner, none excepted. The sins of thieves on the right and on the left. Your sin. The sin you know, the sin you don’t know, the sin you try so hard to cover up. He takes it all away. The sin of your past, your present, your future all dumped into the black hole of His death on a cross. Don’t you dare try to bear your own sin much less atone for it. The Lamb has you covered. He bore it. His yoke is easy because He bore the heavy yoke. His burden is light because He bore the burden of your sin. He does the heavy lifting so you may walk upright, confident, forgiven, free to serve others, to be Christ for others, to bend down and wash the feet of others or whatever your vocation may call you to do. You do so unburdened because the Lamb has taken away your sin and the sin of the world.
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It is the way of the old Adam to use the Law to limit God. But not everyone in the world? Surely not everyone! The believing few, not the unbelieving many. The salvageable parts of the world. The redeemable sons and daughter of Adam. The religiously respectable of the world. But surely not the world!
Yes, the world. Every sinner, from Adam and Eve in the garden to the last child born in Babylon. He is the second Adam. The new head. The embodiment of all. As in Adam, all sinned, all are condemned, all die, so in Christ all are justified, forgiven, live. Don’t you dare draw a line that excludes some, for where you draw that line, you will find yourself excluded too. He is the Light of the world even if the whole world is blind. He is the Savior of the world even if the whole world refuses to believe it. Your believing doesn’t make it so. Your believing enables you to live in it, enjoy it, use it. But it does not make it so. God’s Word makes it so.
Today is Friday. Good Friday. The sixth day. It is the day God spoke the creative word concerning animals and man. In the creation week, this is the very good day. The crown of God’s creative speaking. In the image of God, He created him; male and female, He created them. Priests of creation. Very good.
And on another Friday, outside Jerusalem, the second Adam hangs on a cross for the first Adam’s sin. It is truly a good Friday. A very good one indeed.
Behold the Lamb of God, Christ Jesus, who takes away the sin of the world.
And your sin.
In the name of Jesus,