Behold the lamb of God
John the Baptist was a wild and holy prophet whose mission in life was to prepare the way for the LORD Jesus. John was foretold in the Old Testament as one who would cry out in the wilderness and introduce Jesus to the world. (Isaiah 40:3ff; Malachi 3:1) So, when his big moment came, what did John say?
Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)
Think of all the ways John could have described Jesus. He could have said “Behold the Word of God”, “Behold the Christ of God”, “Behold the King of God.” “Behold the Priest of God”, “Behold the Light of the World,” “Behold the Heavenly Bridegroom”, “Behold the great I AM”. But here’s what John thought we needed to know first: “Behold the Lamb of God.” Behold the Sacrifice. Behold God’s Bleeding Victim. That’s the most fundamental introduction to Jesus.
Remember Genesis 22? It’s 2000BC and Abraham is walking up a hill in the region of Jerusalem with “his son, his only son Isaac whom he loves.” He’s told to put a knife to his son as a sacrifice of atonement. Isaac asks, “Father, where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Abraham replies: “God Himself will provide the Lamb.” And on that occasion, the LORD provides a ram. The ram dies instead of Isaac. But from that day onwards that mountain was called “The LORD will provide”(Genesis 22:14). What will the LORD provide? The Lamb. The LORD will provide the Lamb on that mountain in the region of Jerusalem.
Fast forward 500 years to the first Passover. The LORD’s final plague on Egypt strikes both Egyptians and Israelites alike. He passes through the land and strikes down the firstborn son of each household – unless a lamb dies instead. The blood of this lamb must be painted on each household’s door with hyssop. Then they will be saved. Israel is redeemed by sheltering under the blood of the lamb. And Passover becomes the most important festival of the calendar.
500 years on, we’re listening in to a prayer of King David. He’s just committed adultery and murder and in his famous Psalm 51, he’s praying for forgiveness. He says to God “Cleanse me with hyssop and I shall be clean.” (Psalm 51:7) God has hyssop it seems. Does God also have a Lamb, a sacrifice that averts judgement? David prays with confidence, knowing that the Lamb of God can cover even his sins.
Fast forward another 500 years and Isaiah foretells the coming of the Messiah: He would be led ‘like a lamb to the slaughter’. In this way Christ would be sacrificed to bring us peace.
Fast forward another 500 years. We are on the hillside outside Bethlehem. And the angels appear, not to dignitaries, butto shepherds. Just as Norfolk is known in Britain as the place that rears our Christmas turkeys, Bethlehem was known as the place that produced Passover lambs. The angels are telling them: Do you want to see a real passover lamb? Hurry to the stable!
Now come forward 33 years and Jesus is entering Jerusalem on a donkey. It’s the tenth day of the first month – and as all of Israel are bringing their Passover lambs into their houses, Jesus enters into God’s house. On the 14th day of the 1st month, while everyone else is holding their Passover meals, Jesus is hosting His last supper. He’s meant to be carving the lamb and passing it around. But there is no lamb on the menu – not that we’re told of. There is a Lamb at the table though. And on that Friday, Jesus is slaughtered.
No wonder the Apostle Paul says, “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” (1 Corinthians 5:7).
No wonder the Apostle Peter calls us redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
The Apostle John hears the song of heaven, and it’s the Lamb they are singing about:
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.” (Revelation 5:12)
In fact, Revelation has a wonderful phrase that’s repeated: “the Lamb in the midst of the throne” (Rev 5;6; 7:17). The throne represents the power and authority of God. And Jesus our Lamb is at the centre. Where do we see the Godness of God shining at full strength? In the slaughter of Jesus, our Lamb. The Lamb is at the centre of the throne.
Do you ever worry that behind lovely Jesus lurks a stern God ? Do you ever think that the cross was a nice gesture from the Son, but who knows about the Father? No: Behold the Lamb. When you see Jesus your Lamb you see to the very centre of the throne – the very centre of God. God’s eternal nature is revealed in the Lamb: bleeding for you.
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