Behold, the Lamb of God (John 1)
1. As we look at our text this morning, we find ourselves in the midst of an ongoing storyline through the bulk of the first chapter of St. John's Gospel. John the Baptist has had this discussion with some of the Pharisees and scribes around the question: "Who do you think you are?" Everyone had ideas, but none of them were correct. This conversation was still fresh in his mind the next day. "The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him" (v29). John wanted to put all the questions to rest and make sure that everyone is on the same page. "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (v29). Now, he's set the record straight. But what was he saying?
2. John the Baptist tells anyone who will listen to him Jesus is "the Lamb of God". This is one very compact and very deep statement. The title that John gives to Jesus isn't new to his Jewish audience. The very word "lamb" brings such a rich history of images and promises that shove Jesus up on a pedestal that probably no one in the audience saw coming. John's audience automatically thought about all the sacrifices that they had made in their lives. All the lambs that had been slaughtered for the forgiveness of their sins. All the sacrifices that pointed to and got their efficacy from the once for all sacrifice the Messiah would one day make for all the sins that the children of Israel had committed throughout their history. John was proclaiming that Jesus was that Messiah. And not only that Jesus was the Messiah but that Jesus was the SACRIFICE that would be made!! That the forgiveness of sins that John proclaimed through the baptism of repentance all hinged on Jesus' death. That would be the sacrifice where all the sins of the world would be taken away.
3. But John doesn't say, "Behold the Lamb of God who WILL take away the sin of the world." He says, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (v29). There's a big difference in those two statements. One points to some uncertain future. One says it's happening right now. Even as John was speaking the words to his audience, Jesus was in the process of taking away the sin of the world. Even just walking along the Jordan River like He was, Jesus was taking away the sin of the world. He did this throughout His life from His Baptism in the Jordan River by John until they "He gave up His Spirit" (John 19:30). It wasn't enough for Jesus just to die for the sins of the world. Jesus had to live the perfect life that you are so far from being able to live. Everything that Jesus did in His life, He did for you. He lived the life that is required of each of us according to the Law. And He lived it perfectly for you.
4. In His life, Jesus didn't only take away the sin of the world. He bore them throughout His life. We sometimes talk about the burden of our sins being placed on Jesus when He's carrying the Cross from Pilate's palace. That's not exactly correct. They are there in a very visible form in the Cross, but they had been there since His Baptism. As we said last week, His righteousness was washed off of Him and our unrighteousness--our sinfulness--was washed onto Him. He bore the sin of the world. That's a very true statement, but it's extremely abstract and impersonal. It needs to be made into a statement that is extremely concrete and personal. Jesus Christ bore your sins--every evil thought about your neighbor, every lustful thought, every action, every misstep you've ever made--Jesus bore those things. He did this so that He could bring you back to where you are supposed to be. He wants you to be with Him in Heaven. He bore all your sins and lived a perfect life so that through His death and resurrection you could be given that perfect, sinless life and be with Him forever in Heaven. Amen.