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The Lamb of God

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Lamb of God

June 1, 2008

John 1:35-42                   

Before beginning today’s message, I’d like to share with you the reading from “Experiencing God Day-by Day” from April 23 – it touched me; I hope it does the same for you.      

For My people have committed a double evil:

They have abandoned Me,

the fountain of living water,

and dug cisterns for themselves,

cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.—Jeremiah 2:13

There should never be “dry spells” in the Christian life. God said that He would be like an artesian well in the life of a believer. Artesian wells bubbled forth with a cold, fresh, never-ending supply of water from the depths of the earth, quenching any thirst and always satisfying. This is the picture of the spiritual refreshment that belongs to the person in whom the Holy Spirit resides.

Have you ever heard people say they are experiencing a dry spell in their Christian life? What are they saying? Are they saying that the Lord ran out of water? It should never cross your mind that the fountain of living waters residing within you should ever be reduced to a trickle. You don't need to run all over the country trying to find sources of spiritual refreshment. Conferences, retreats, and books can all bring encouragement, but if you are a Christian, the source of living water already resides within you.

Have you exchanged the living fountain for man-made cisterns that cannot hold water? Why would you exchange an artesian well for a broken water tank? Artesian wells do not dry up. Broken cisterns do. If you are experiencing spiritual dryness right now, is it because you have been attempting to find your source of spiritual refreshment from man-made sources, which will fail you every time? Jesus extended an invitation to you when He said: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (John 7:37). Have you been refreshed by the living water only Jesus can provide?

In April we started our study of the book of John. In previous messages we studied Jesus as the Word and Jesus as the light. Both the Word and the Light illuminate. But today our metaphor is a lamb – the Lamb. The Lamb of God (v.29,35) is the metaphor John the Baptist chose for Jesus on this day, and there is no doubt it alludes to the sacrificial lamb of the Passover from Exodus 12:3. But this time, the Lamb is for universal atonement – not just to spare one family, but to spare all families. How much John foreknew about Jesus’ purpose to save all men is not spoken in Scripture, but from today’s passage, we can surmise John the Baptist knew his Scripture. He had discerned the ultimate purpose of the Christ. “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” At this point, we start to sense the tension between those who anticipated the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53:7 like John, and those looking for a king, like the Pharisees.

This is the second day of the week that the Apostle John recorded, and no doubt some of the same Pharisaical committee members who had gone to John and asked him if he was the Christ (Jn. 1:19-28), were present to hear John the Baptist’s message. He called Jesus “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29), a title he would repeat the next day when he said in, John 1:35-36: “Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked upon Jesus as He walked, and * said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!"  In one sense, the message of the Bible can be summed up in this title. The question in the Old Testament is, “Where is the lamb?” It says in Genesis 22:7: “And Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." And he said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" God provided a ram, didn’t He? Now sacrificial ram became the sacrificial lamb: Jesus.

In the four Gospels, the emphasis is “Behold the Lamb of God!” Here He is! After you have trusted Him, you sing with the heavenly choir, “Worthy is the Lamb!” (Rev. 5:12)

The people of Israel were familiar with lambs for the sacrifices. At Passover, each family had to have a lamb; and during the year, lambs were sacrificed at the temple altar, for personal sacrifices. Those lambs were brought by men to cover the sins of men, but here is God’s Lamb, given by God to atone for the sins of men! Those lambs could not take away sin, only the Lamb of God can take away sin. Those lambs were for Israel alone, only this Lamb would shed His blood for the whole world!

What does John’s baptism have to do with Jesus as the Lamb of God? It is generally agreed by scholars of all denominations that, in the New Testament, baptism was by immersion. It pictured death, burial, and resurrection. When John the Baptist baptized Jesus, Jesus and John were picturing the “baptism” Jesus would endure on the cross when He would die as the sacrificial Lamb of God. As Isaiah 53:7 prohesied:  “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.” And in Luke 12:50, Jesus says: “"But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!”  It would be through the baptism of death, burial, and resurrection that the Lamb of God would “fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15).

Perhaps John was mistaken. Perhaps John was not sure that Jesus of Nazareth was the Lamb of God or the Son of God. But he should have been sure after the Father made it clear to John just who Jesus is by sending the Spirit like a dove to light on Him during His baptism. What a beautiful picture of the Trinity! 

I want to follow each day in these events as our gospel writer set them out, so turn to John 1. Day one starts at verse 19 and goes through to verse 28. Day two begins at verse 29 – notice, it states “the next day….” Day three begins in verse 35, again with the words “the next day”. Day four begins at verse 43 with the words “the following day”. Our key passage this morning follows day three. Let’s turn to it now. We are reading John 1:35-42  “Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked upon Jesus as He walked, and * said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and * said to them, "What do you seek?" And they said to Him, "Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?" He said to them, "Come, and you will see." They came therefore and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He found first his own brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which translated means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, "You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter).”

Did you know who the two disciples of John were who followed Jesus? They were John, the writer of the Gospel, and his friend Andrew. Andrew is clearly identified in verse 40, but in verse 37 it says two disciples of John the Baptist went with Jesus that day. Why isn’t the other disciple named? There is a simple explanation. None of the gospel writers identified themselves by name in their writing. Later in the book of John, he will identify himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (Jn 13:23; 19:26; 20:22;21:7,20). So, now we know John, the writer of our gospel, was a disciple of John the Baptist. That is why he could so accurately record John’s words, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. Then our gospel writer became a disciple of the Lamb of God. John the Baptist rejoiced when people left him to follow Jesus, because his ministry focused on Jesus. "He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease” it says in John 3:29-30. John the Baptist’s purpose was clear! Just as our purpose as followers of Jesus should be!

When Jesus asked two disciples, in 1:35,  “What are you seeking?” He was forcing them to define their purpose and goals. Were they looking for a revolutionary leader to overthrow Rome? Then they had better join the Zealots! Little did Andrew and John realize that day how their lives would be transformed by the Lamb of God. Now let me ask you, “What are you seeking? Are you seeking the transforming work of the Lamb of God? I hope so. Are you like Andrew and John – wanting to follow the Lamb of God and be a disciple that love Jesus loves? The question Andrew and John asked Jesus, ““Where are You dwelling?”, in verse 38, may have suggested, “If You are too busy now Jesus, we can visit you later.” But Jesus invited them to spend the day with Him (it was 10 a.m.) and no doubt He told them something of His mission, revealed their own hearts to them, and answered their questions. They were both so impressed that they found their brothers and brought them to Jesus. Andrew found Simon and John brought James. Indeed, they were their brothers’ keepers! (Gen. 4:9) Whenever you find Andrew in John’s Gospel, he is bringing somebody to Jesus: his brother, the lad with the loaves and fishes (John 6:8), and the Greeks who wanted to see Jesus (John 12:20-21). No sermons from Andrew are recorded, but he certainly preached great sermons by his actions as a personal soul winner! Now, consider the words of the poem:

            I’d rather see a sermon

Than hear one any day.

I’d rather one should walk with me

Than merely show the way

I can soon learn to do it –

If you’ll let me see it done.

I can watch your hands in motion –

Though your tongue too fast may run.

And the lectures you deliver

May be very wise and true,

But I’d rather get my lesson

By observing what you do.

For I may not understand you,

Or the high advice you give,

But there is no misunderstanding

How you act, and how you live!

Do people see Jesus in you? They don’t care how much you know; they need to know how much you care! Are we our brother’s keeper? Do we care about the eternity of the souls of our neighbors and friends? Are we pointing them to the Lamb of God – our Messiah? We too should be saying, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

“We have found the Messiah!” was the witness Andrew gave to Simon in verse 41. Messiah is a Hebrew word that means “anointed,” and the Greek equivalent is “Christ.” To the Jews, it was the same as “Son of God” (see Matt. 26:63-64; Mark 14:61-62; Luke 22:67-70). In the Old Testament, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed and thereby set apart for special service. Kings were especially called “God’s anointed” (1 Sam. 26:11; Ps. 89:20); so, when the Jews spoke about their Messiah, they were thinking of the king who would come to deliver them and establish the kingdom. Do you see now why I mentioned earlier the tension between the Pharisees who were waiting for the Anointed King, and John the Baptist, who intimated Christ would be a sacrificial Lamb? That is where the confusion lay.

There was some confusion among the Jewish teachers as to what the Messiah would do. Some saw Him as a suffering sacrifice (as in Isa. 53), or led to the slaughter (v.7) while others saw a splendid king (as in Isa. 9 and 11) with the government on His shoulders (9:6), ruling in righteousness (11:4). Jesus had to explain even to His own followers that the cross had to come before the crown, that He must suffer before He could enter into His glory. As Luke 24: 26-27 states: "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”

 Whether or not Jesus was indeed the Messiah was a crucial problem that challenged the Jews in that day. In John 7:26, we read “"And look, He is speaking publicly, and they are saying nothing to Him. The rulers do not really know that this is the Christ, do they? And in 40-44 “Some of the multitude therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, "This certainly is the Prophet." Others were saying, "This is the Christ." Still others were saying, "Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He? "Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?" So there arose a division in the multitude because of Him. And some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him.

There has always been division about the Lamb of God, hasn’t there? Even Jesus’ own parents were wary about declaring Jesus as the Lamb of God. Look at John 9:22 with me: “His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed, that if anyone should confess Him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Jesus said He would be the reason for tension. We know all will not come to Jesus, don’t we? When the Jews asked Him to be plain about who he was, how did He answer them? Listen to 10:24 “The Jews therefore gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, "How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly."  And in 10:25 and 26, He answers: Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me. "But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. We all come by faith, not fact and our lives are changed. In Bible times your name would often be changed by God as well.

Simon’s interview with Jesus changed his life and it also gave him a new name—Peter in the Greek, Cephas in the Aramaic that Jesus spoke—both of which mean “a rock.” It took a great deal of work for Jesus to transform weak Simon into a rock, but He did it! “Thou art … thou shalt be”  (Jn 1:42) is a great encouragement to all who trust the Christ – the Lamb of God. Truly, He gives us the “power to become children of God” (John 1:12).

It is worth noting that Andrew and John trusted the Lamb of God through the faithful preaching of John the Baptist. Peter and James came to Christ because of the compassionate personal work of their brothers. Later on, Jesus would win Philip personally; and then Philip would witness to Nathanael and bring him to Jesus. Each man’s experience is different, because God uses various means to bring sinners to the Savior. Everyone of us has a different story of how we came to trust in Jesus. The important thing is that we trust Christ and then seek to bring others to Him. We must be disciples who make disciples. That’s what you grandmothers are. You are disciples who want to make sure your grandchildren become disciples. In John 1:43-51 some of the disciples of Jesus are chosen Jesus called Philip personally and Philip trusted Him and followed Him. We do not know what kind of heart preparation Philip experienced, for usually God prepares a person before He calls him. We do know that Philip proved his faith by seeking to share it with his friend Nathanael (v.46). Are you seeking to share your faith with your friends? It’s not how much you know it’s who you know the needs to be shared. Share the Lamb!

John 21:2 suggests that at least seven of our Lord’s disciples were fishermen, including Nathanael. Fishermen were not scholars, but they were courageous and stuck to the job, no matter how difficult. But Nathanael started out a doubter: he did not believe that anything worthwhile could come out of Nazareth (V.46). Our Lord was born in Bethlehem, but He grew up in Nazareth and bore that stigma (Matt. 2:23). To be called “a Nazarene” (Acts 24:5) meant to be looked down on and rejected. Expect people to still reject Jesus, but don’t let it stop you!

When Nathanael hesitated and argued, Philip in verse 46 adopted our Lord’s own words: “Come and see” from John 1:39. Later on, Jesus would invite, “Come and drink!” (John 7:37) and, “Come and dine!” (John 21:12) “Come” is the great invitation of God’s grace. Today, we can still says “Come!” Come and see for yourself” Come and taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps. 34:8).

When Nathanael came to Jesus, he discovered that the Lord already knew all about him! What a shock! By calling him “an Israelite in whom is no guile,” Jesus was certainly referring to Jacob, the ancestor of the Jews, a man who used guile to trick his brother, his father, and his father-in-law. Jacob’s name was changed to “Israel, a prince with God.” The reference to “Jacob’s ladder” in John 1:51 confirms this.

When Jesus revealed His knowledge of Nathanael, where he had been and what he had been doing, this was enough to convince the man that Jesus indeed was “the Son of God, the King of Israel.”(v. 49) His experience was like that of the Samaritan woman at the well. “When He [Messiah] is come, He will tell us all things …. Come, see a man who told me all things that ever I did” (John 4:25, 29). When the Messiah, the Lamb of God, is revealed to you, it too should result in saying “Come!” The revealing the human heart should always result in ministry of the local church. When the truth of Scripture is spoken, it will pierce hearts, for it is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. (Heb. 4:12)  The Word of the Lord endures forever (1Peter 1:25). Jesus said, “heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away (Mark 13:31)

When Philip witnessed to Nathanael, the evidence he gave was what was written by MosesMoses and the Prophets (John 1:45). Perhaps Jesus gave Philip a “quick course” in the Old Testament messianic prophecies, as He did with the Emmaus disciples (Luke 24:27). It is always good to tie our personal witness to the Word of God. It is God’s Word that will not return void (Is 55:11; Is 45:23; Matt 24:35)

We have seen today that at the close of that fourth day, Jesus had six believing men  five who would be His disciples - (John, Andrew, Peter, Nathanial, Philip). They did not immediately “forsake all and follow Him”; that was to come later. But they had come. They had trusted Him and experienced His power. In the three years that lay ahead, they would grow in their faith, learn more about the Lamb of God, and one day take His place on the earth so that the Word might be carried to all mankind. That is the pattern we, as present day disciples follow. We came; we trusted; we experienced His power; we grow in our faith; we learn more about Jesus; so we can take His place, so the Lamb of God can be made known.

The witness of this entire chapter is clear: Jesus of Nazareth is God come in the flesh! God is here! God is with us! “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

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