the lamb of god
2nd Sunday after Epiphany – A LSB #’s 434, 547, 550
Text – John 1:29
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, & said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
THE LAMB OF GOD
Last Sunday, we learned from St. Paul that as you & I were baptized, we were baptized along with Jesus, & we were baptized into His death. At baptism, we effectively died to sin. Death no longer rules over our lives. There is for us, a life after death that is far more glorious than anyone here can imagine. That will be life as the heavenly Father created it to be.
In the Gospel reading today, we learn more about the death of Jesus that you & I were baptized into. It was not simply a happenstance event & God made the best of it. Jesus’ death was not a random, senseless act like so many murders are. The sacrifice of God’s Son was planned, prophesied & foreshadowed across the entire OT.
We run into the fulfillment of OT prophesies in the very 1st verse of the Gospel reading: “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, & said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” John had baptized Jesus & now fulfills his calling by pointing out Jesus as the One who saves us from our sins, as Isaiah predicted 800 years before:
“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone & her sins are pardoned. Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over for all her sins.” Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, & level the mountains & hills. Straighten the curves, & smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, & all people will see it together.” (40:1-5a NLT)
Already before he reports the baptism of Jesus, Matthew writes this in his Gospel: “The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said, ‘He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for Him!”’” (3:3 NLT) And that is exactly what John the Baptist was doing as he said of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Still, the prophesy from Isaiah is far from the only one Jesus fulfilled. Think about the title, “Lamb of God!” Most of us are totally unfamiliar with the creature. In Jesus’ day, lambs were everywhere, & were killed for sacrifice on God’s altar.
In fact, that practice had been going on for thousands of years, & millions of lambs. If you had sinned, or if you wanted to make a special offering to God – even a thank offering – you brought a lamb with you to the temple. You would hand it over to the priests. Though it was innocent, it would be killed, on your behalf, for the forgiveness of your sins.
It’s easy for human beings to ignore the cost of their sins, to make light business of our repentance. As the life of the lamb was taken, its sacrifice was meant to remind you of the harm that your sin had caused. It’s more difficult to take lightly the damage that our sins do as we personally hand over an innocent lamb that it might give its life for the wrongs we have done.
“O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, grant us Thy peace.” (LSB p. 198) We sing those words today, just before we receive the body & blood of Christ, for the remission of our sins. Holy Communion was given to us by Jesus Himself, the night before He was sacrificed, specifically to grant us His peace. Our Savior knew that we would need it.
John the Baptist was sent as a voice in the wilderness to point out Messiah, to reveal Him as the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed so that we do not have to pay for our own sins. John pointed out Messiah that you & I might receive comfort from Him & be assured that our sins have been pardoned.
However, what happens if we refuse to exercise the repentant heart that God’s Spirit created in us when we first believed? Many churches today no longer practice confessing sins during their public worship services. They claim to stand before God in His holiness, yet even in light of Jesus’ sacrifice for them, they consider confessing their sins to be too depressing. What does that say about the importance of not taking lightly the sacrifice of the Lamb that God would provide? Isaac understood its importance:
And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire & the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there & laid the wood in order & bound Isaac his son & laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. (Genesis 22:7-9 ESV)
If I concentrate on hearing those words, they always give me chills. That is faith in God’s goodness. Hopefully you know that the next verses describe how God does provide a ram to take the place of Isaac in the sacrifice. That ram points ahead thousands of years to the day when God will sacrifice His own Son for the forgiveness of all the sins of the whole world.
Yahweh does not distinguish between races or genders or nationalities. The Lamb of God was crucified for all, & that is what you & I are baptized into. That is where true equality & equity are being created, gifts that last for all of eternity. But yes, they are still hidden in this life which is still scarred & corrupted by sin.
Yahweh is patiently waiting for more of His people to be born & brought to faith that they too might enjoy the perfect world to come. He wants all to be saved. He predicted & then put into action the plan that was able to save everyone, but He will not force anyone to receive the equity & the equality that He is creating.
God allows those who wish to deny His gifts to continue in their denial. They will get their wish. With these words of St. Luke, Jesus models for us the setting of healthy boundaries: “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, & you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34b ESV)
It is not God’s fault, nor is it ours, that some refuse to repent of their sins. Still, if you
concentrate on hearing those words, “…& you were not willing!” it should give you chills. Real human beings are attempting to choose on their own broken & sinful terms. What a horror awaits them in eternity. The heavenly Father sacrificed His own Lamb that it might not be so. John the Baptist has the purpose & the privilege of pointing out that Lamb of God.
On the night of the Exodus, the people of God were to sacrifice a lamb & paint its blood on the doorposts & lintel to mark their home as a house of God. The sacrifice of that lamb caused the angel of death to pass over that house so no one inside would die.
From then on, at Passover, God’s people were to sacrifice a lamb in order to remember what Yahweh had done to set them free from slavery to the Egyptians. Over thousands of years & millions of lambs, however, God was also pointing ahead with their sacrifices to the One great sacrifice to come. Today, we remember that sacrifice as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
The sacrifice of the Lamb of God has not only set His people free from slavery to the Egyptians. It has set us free from slavery to sin, even our own sins. It has set us free from all the inequities of this life. It has set us free from slavery to boredom & from slavery to injustice. It has set us free from slavery to illness & suffering.
As we come to the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded that the joy of having our sins washed away can never be taken from us. We may choose to forget. We may be distracted by the temptations of Satan & our own sinful flesh. Illness & financial inequities may lead us down the road of worry & despair, yet the sacrifice of the Lamb of God remains forever true.
Jesus has carried our sins, & we are forgiven. He laid down His life for us, & we will live forever. Because of God’s great love for us, He would not stand by & see us destroy ourselves with our own evil. There is no danger of Him suddenly deciding He doesn’t want to offer Himself for our salvation. That makes Jesus different from all the other lambs. The Lamb of God goes willingly to the altar of the cross. He knows what is coming, & it is His own free choice. Father, Son, Holy Spirit – this Three & yet One God chose the path to the cross. God Himself came into the world as Jesus, to be that sacrificed Lamb. It was willing, joyful mercy – Jesus giving Himself for you & me.
That is God’s glory, the Lamb hanging on the cross in death to save us from the twisted madness of this world. In heaven you will see that glory with perfect vision. There, no more innocent lambs will die. No more innocent children will be aborted. Perfect eyesight & a perfect vision, with no more illness or sorrow, no more evil or lack of gratitude.
Truth will reign supreme & all of us will know it. No more deception, no more lies, no more hatred or prejudice, only peace & harmony. Until then, we are, like John the Baptist, here on earth for a purpose, or many purposes. But the chief one is to point others to “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Jesus has come to undo the curse of Genesis 3:19, “Dust you are & to dust you shall return.” Evolutionists like to celebrate that we are made of stardust, but even stardust is still dust. Jesus will return one day to recreate our bodies, to make them new again, where sin has made them old. After the resurrection, we will never return to the dust. Amen.
The Lamb, the Lamb, O Father, where’s the sacrifice? Faith sees, believes God will provide the Lamb of price! He sighs, He dies, He takes my sin & wretchedness. He lives, forgives, He gives me His own righteousness. He rose, He rose, my heart with thanks now overflows. His song, prolong till every heart to Him belong. Worthy is the Lamb whose death makes me His own! The Lamb is reigning on His throne! Amen. LSB 547:1, 4-5.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet