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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:Behold the Lamb of God!
Text:John 1:29 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation
 
Preached:2015-01-18
Added:2015-04-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

2010 Book of Praise

Bible Translation: NKJV

Psalm 149:1

Hymn 26

Hymn 25:1,5,7

Hymn 27:1,2,5,6,7,8

Hymn 7:2

Read:  John 1:19-51

Text:  John 1:29

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For most of you the words of our text are not new.  “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  When you hear those words “Lamb of God” you know who this refers to: our Lord Jesus Christ.  But what would it have been like to have heard those words for the first time?  What would it have been like to have been with John the Baptist near the Jordan River, to see a Man walking towards you and hear John say concerning Him, “Behold the Lamb of God”? 

  Although we might be very familiar with these words, you do not find them too often in the Bible.  In fact you will only find these words here in the gospel according to John and in another book that John wrote, the book of Revelation.  No one called the coming Christ, in fact no one called a man “the Lamb of God” in the Old Testament. 

  And yet these words fined their roots in the Old Testament.  These words tell us in a nutshell what the Gospel, yes what the Bible, is all about.   The Old Testament cries out for the coming of the Lamb, the message in the gospels is “Behold the Lamb!” and now we rejoice at His coming by singing “Worthy is the Lamb!”  The message of the Scriptures and the gospel that I and others may preach to you week after week is the message of the Lamb!

But it is not just a message, it is not just some nice sounding words.  It is a message that calls for an answer, a message that needs a response.  The question for each one of again today is not just “Who is this Jesus?” but the question the question each one of us must answer is “What will you do with this Jesus?  Will you confess Him to be the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world?  Will you receive Him as the Son of God?

I preach to you the gospel under the following theme:

Behold the Lamb of God!

  1. A substitutionary Lamb
  2. An Expiatory Lamb. (makes payment)
  3. A Victorious Lamb

1. A substitutionary Lamb.

The gospel according to John is more than just a biography on the life of Jesus Christ.  John, in fact, leaves out many details of Jesus’ life, also many details that we can read about in the other gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke.  There is a reason for this, and that is that John wrote his gospel for a specific purpose, as he explained in John 20:31:

“. . . so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing you may have life in His name.”

And reading through the gospel according to John you are challenged to put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ again and again.  This call to believe comes to us in a number of ways:

  • There are the words of the Lord Jesus Himself, where He declares who He is and what He had come to do.
  • There are the miracles that Christ did and thus showed His glory.
  • There are a number of people who speak with the Lord Jesus and are confronted with who He is and what He came to do.  To give some examples, John the Baptist in chapter 1, Nicodemus in chapter 3, the Samaritan woman at the well in chapter 4 and the man born blind in chapter 9.
  • There are many names and descriptions of the Lord Jesus.  We already see this in John chapter 1 where the Lord Jesus is called the Word (vs1), the true Light (vs9), the Lamb of God (vs29), the Son of God (vs34), Rabbi – which means “teacher” (vs38), Messiah – which means Christ or the Anointed One (vs41), the Son of God and the King of Israel (vs49).  And in verse 51 Jesus calls Himself “the Son of Man.”

And each time we read these things we learn more of who the Lord Jesus is and we are called to respond, to give an answer.  We should never read the Bible as something that is simply “interesting” because God did not give us His Word simply to satisfy our curiosity.  He gave it to us to reveal to us Himself and His Son, Jesus Christ.

And now in John 1, the Lord Jesus is about to begin His public ministry.  Although John 1 does not mention it specifically, we know from Matthew and Luke that when John was baptizing at the River Jordan, the Lord Jesus Himself came to John and was baptized.  It was at that time that John saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and remaining on Him.  (John 1:32)  Immediately after this, Matthew 4 and Luke 4 tell us that Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days where he was tempted by the devil.  It was after this that He must have come back to the Jordan, to where John the Baptist was and that is when John called him “the Lamb of God.”  John, therefore, continued baptizing after the baptism of Jesus and many still came to him.  So many in fact, that this was causing a stir all the way in Jerusalem.  And so in verse 19 of John 1 we read:

“Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?””

 The Jewish leaders wanted to know who John was.  But notice how he answered them.  Verse 20.

“He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”

“Do not come looking for me”, John is saying, “but look for Another!  Look for the One who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”

And it was the very next day, the day after John had said these things to those sent from the Pharisees that the Lord Jesus Himself was coming towards him.  And seeing Jesus, John said

“Behold!  The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

But what did John mean by this?  Why did he call The Lord Jesus “the Lamb of God”?

It would have been unusual for a man to be called a lamb, and it is more than likely that not even John fully understood what the Holy Spirit had him say.  (I say that because some time later, in Matthew 11, John sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”)  Nevertheless, when John called Jesus the Lamb of God all those who heard this would have understood this in the context of the lambs that were used for sacrifice.

There was in fact a lamb that was offered in the temple every morning and every evening of every day – and an extra two lambs on the Sabbath.  These lambs were given as a burnt offering.  What happened with these lambs is that the priest would lay his hands on the head of the lamb before it would be killed and offered up.  This is important to understand because it explains what was happening, what was being symbolized when the lamb of burnt offering was offered up each morning.  Concerning the burnt offering Leviticus 1:4 says,

“Then he [in this case the priest] shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.”

What this means is that when the lamb was sacrificed, morning and evening, the death of these lambs occurred in the place of the death of God’s children.  God’s people, who in those days were the covenant people of Israel, were sinful and it is they who deserved to die.  Nevertheless, through the sacrifice of a lamb, God accepted the lamb as a substitute.  The lamb died so that God’s people did not have to – but rather could live before His face. 

There was another lamb also, that the people of Israel were familiar with – the Passover lamb.  At the time that John declared the Lord Jesus to be the Lamb of God, the Passover was not very far away (See John 2:13) and there may well have been sheep being driven through the Jordan Valley and up to Jerusalem for the feast.  The Passover Lamb was of great importance to the people of Israel because it reminded them of their redemption from Egypt.  At that time the people of Israel were slaves of Pharaoh, king of Egypt and on the night that they left Egypt, on the night when the angel of death went through the land, killing the firstborn of all Egypt, the Israelites were to smear the doorposts of their houses with the blood of the lamb they had killed.  The angel, seeing the blood, would then pass over the house and deliver them from death.  The lamb of Passover, therefore, was a substitute, dying in the place of God’s people Israel.  And now, coming towards John the Baptists was the Lamb of God, the One to whom all the lambs of sacrifice and every Passover lamb pointed to.  To the One who truly is our substitute, to the One who could take our sins upon Himself and die in our place.  That is why after His death and resurrection the apostle Paul could write in 1 Corinthians 5:7 that

“Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”

He is our Passover.  He is the Lamb, our substitute, the One who came to die in our place.

But there is one other place in the Old Testament that pointed to the Lamb that was to come.  In Genesis 22, when Isaac was still a child, the Lord spoke to Abraham and He said to him,

“Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burn offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

And so Abraham went up Mount Moriah, the mountain that would later be called Zion, the place where the temple would be built, Abraham and Isaac along with wood, fire and a knife.  But no lamb.  And then come those poignant words of Genesis 22:7.

“But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!”  And he said, “Here I am, my son.”  Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

Where is the lamb?  Verse 8 –

“And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”

And He did provide the lamb.  Already on that day, just as Abraham was about to offer his son Isaac, the LORD stopped him and then Abraham turned around and there behind him was a ram, caught in the thicket by his horns.  And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.  And just as that ram was a substitute for the life of Isaac, so the true Lamb, the Lamb of God has come.  He has come to be our substitute.  He came to die, to be sacrificed in our place.  And so it was that at the very beginning of Christ’s ministry on earth, John the Baptist pointed to the end of that ministry, to His death on the cross.  For the day would come that, in the region of Mount Moriah, just outside of the city of Jerusalem, at both the time of the Passover feast and of the evening sacrifice, that Our Lord would die on a cross.  It was in this way that He was in this way that He would be sacrificed.  It was in this way that He, taking our place, would die that we might have life.  It was in this way that He ultimately revealed Himself to be the Lamb of God.

2. An Expiatory Lamb.

John the Baptist goes on to say more.  Not only is the Lord Jesus “the Lamb of God” but He is

“. . . the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

With these words the Lord is described not just as our Substitutionary Lamb but also our Expiatory Lamb, that is the One who made payment for us, payment for our sin.

Sin is a concept that the world does not understand.  The world has its own values and the world understands something about the concept of right and wrong.  But what the world does not understand is that what is wrong is ultimately that which is wrong in the eyes of God.  Sin is disobedience towards God, breaking His law, failing to do what He commands, and doing that which He forbids.  And that sin must be punished.  As we confess in Lord’s Day 4 of the Heidelberg Catechism,

“[God’s] justice requires that sin committed against the most high majesty of God also be punished with the most severe, that is, with everlasting, punishment of body and soul.”

We can not live under sin.  Our sin is our death sentence.  A death sentence for each one of us individually and a death sentence for the whole world.  We cannot live before God in our sin-filled state and therefore either we must be consigned to the eternal punishment of body and soul or we need to have that sin taken away.

And that is what Christ came to do!  The Old Testament sacrifices did not just speak of substitution, but they also spoke of expiation, of payment for sin.  But whereas the blood of lambs and goats in the Old Testament only pointed to the way for sin to be removed, Christ came to take our sin away and to take it away completely!  Do you remember what the angel said to Joseph in Matthew 1:21?

“And she [that is Mary] will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

That is what the Lord Jesus had come to do.  And now, at the beginning of his ministry, John the Baptist predicts how the Christ would save His people from their sins: He would do so as the Lamb of God.  The Lamb of sacrifice.  The One who would suffer, the One who would die instead of you and of me.  He was, then, the Suffering Servant, the Suffering Lamb, of Isaiah 53.  Isaiah 53:4,5 –

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

And Isaiah 53:7,

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”

And why did He do that?  The second part of verse 8,

“For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions [the sins] of My people He was stricken.”

That is what our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, had come to do.  He came to take our sins upon Himself and then to take those sins away

But note something else that John the Baptist said in John 1:29.  Seeing Jesus coming towards him John said,

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

When Christ came to earth He did not just come for Israel, but He came to redeem the world.  The Old Testament sacrifices were only for the nation of Israel, but the Lamb of God was to be offered as a payment for the sin of the whole world!  No, that does not mean that He died to take away the sin of every single person.  The Lord Jesus Himself warned us in John 8:24 that

“. . . if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

There is only one way not to die in your sins and that is to turn Jesus, to behold the Lamb of God, to believe in Him and have life in His name.  But His death is indeed sufficient to take away the sins of the whole world.  And He takes away the sin of all those who come to Him – from every tribe, from every nation, from every language and culture.

But now think about this:  If Christ, the Lamb of God, has come to take away the sin of the whole world, then why not your sin?  Why not my sin?  It is not just other people who need to have their sin taken away and made right with God.  So do you and so do I!  And the good news for us is that He promises to take away your sin.  The Form for Baptism gets it right when it says,

“When we are baptized into the name of the Son, God the Son promises us that He washes us in His blood from all our sins and unites us with Him in His death and resurrection.  Thus we are freed from our sins and accounted righteous before God.”

That is what is promised to you!  But now what are you doing with that promise?  Do not be like those Pharisees who rejected not just John the Baptist but the Lord Jesus Himself.  Rather turn to Him and receive Him as the Lamb of God for the complete forgiveness of all your sin.

3. A victorious Lamb.

The Lamb of God is not still hanging from a cross, nor does His blood continue to flow.  This Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ, died once for all.  And He who died now lives.  He was raised from the death and has ascended into heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father.  And He is there in victory!  In Revelation 5:6 it says,

“And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.”

And as John the Apostle looked he heard the voice of many angels around the throne, ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

And there sits the Lamb, in glory, in victory!  There He is, in heaven, for us!  Now the Lamb is there at the right hand of the Father, and He is there as our Mediator, as the One who intercedes for us, He is there to declare that we have been cleansed of all our sin.

But not only that: from Heaven He sends us His Holy Spirit so that not only are we forgiven but we are also changed, made new, made holy.

But that’s not all.  That’s not where it ends.  Rather, we who do behold the Lamb of God, who do trust Him and believe in His name, may look forward to living with God and with the Lamb forever.  Turn with Me to Revelation 7:9-17.

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom,

Thanksgiving and honor and power and might,

Be to our God forever and ever.

Amen.”

13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?”

14 And I said to him, “Sir, you know.”

So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. 16 They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Brothers and sisters, will you be there?  Will you be there with those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb?  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Behold Him!  Look to Him and believe in Him.  And you too will share in the victory of the Lamb!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2015, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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