Behold the Lamb!
Somewhere around 30 AD, the nation of Israel was a nation in turmoil under an oppressive Roman government that had values far different from the Hebrew values…imposed practices and oppression that the people of Israel so rejected, so rebelled against, and yet had to so follow. Others had tried in vain effort to free Israel of the clinches of Rome but to no avail. Rome grew stronger. Their religious fervor of the people grew weaker. The religious leaders grew more frustrated both from a political as well as a spiritual standpoint.
It is in that setting…yes, mixed with all of its hypocrisy, all of the extremists of the Pharisees, and all of the political fervor of the zealots…mixed in that setting, we find Christ beginning His public ministry, introduced by a forerunner named John the Baptist who has begun an itinerate ministry preaching up and down the Jordan River.
Our text today makes a single statement that is profound for the people at the time…a people looking for real genuine hope…a people wanting to hear from a God who had not spoken to them in 400 years, a God who once led their forefathers by word, by vision, by cloud, by fire, but now had been silent for so long…a situation much like I believe many of us feel in this country today…a country in turmoil…one with oppression…one where following religious convictions is becoming less and less possible (it would seem) by the mandates of society…one where it seems God remains silent.
Yet God doesn't remain silent. He speaks today, and He spoke on that day. In John, chapter 1, verse 29, we find John the Baptist on one occasion when he's preaching…when many had gathered to hear his speech, his sermon, his call to repentance and baptism. It says there in verse 29 that "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, 'Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'"
John reaches out and he cries out. The "Behold!" is a cry that he makes to all of those who are gathered around. In that crowd are some who would become the 12 disciples of Christ. To their ears and to the ears of even some Pharisees who are there inspecting John, criticizing John, questioning John…to the ears of some Gentiles who are gathered there…to the ears of some Jewish converts who are desiring to repent and grow close to God…to all of those different ears, John declares, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
This one phrase in many ways sums up so much of what the entire Bible really has to tell us. The whole story of the Bible really centers around the Lamb. In fact, if you go with me back to Genesis chapter 22…in Genesis 22 we find this story, not through the words of John the Baptist but through the words of a son named Isaac. In Genesis 22, it says, "Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, 'Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' Then He said, 'Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.' So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off." That place, Mount Moriah, is of course Jerusalem. It's where the temple would eventually be built. It's where the altar of God would eventually be erected.
It says in verse 5, "And Abraham said to his young men, 'Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.' So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. 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?' And Abraham said, 'My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.'"
A question is asked by Isaac…really, the question that becomes the question of the entire Old Testament. The question is…Where is the lamb? The Jews were looking for the sacrificial lamb. They were looking for the Messiah. They were looking for the one who would come and would offer the sacrifice that would purge them of their sin. Isaac, in asking the innocent questions of…Where is the lamb for sacrifice?, begins the journey…a journey that would bring us to the Gospel of John…a journey seeking…Where is that lamb?
But already Abraham has answered that question. Abraham really projected (maybe even unknowingly) where the lamb was because Abraham says, "My son, Isaac, God will provide for Himself the lamb." We come to John 1 in verse 29. We notice again now with fresh eyes exactly what John was saying. He said, "Behold"…not just "the lamb" but "Behold, the Lamb of God." The of God means the lamb that God provided. God provides the lamb.
Here is the answer to Isaac's real question. Here's the answer to all the prophets of old. Here is the answer to what is truly, deeply burning in your heart. To all of those gathered on that hill in Judea by the Jordan River…to all of those gathered here this morning, he says, "Behold, here is that Lamb. Here is that Lamb."
The Greek word for lamb…there are several Greek words for lamb, but the one that's used here is the word amnos. It means the Pascal lamb. It's the young, yearling lamb that was chosen for sacrifice, and that's what John says. He predicts and foretells Jesus' life before His ministry even begins, he says, "The Lamb of God." "The Lamb of God." Peter would tell us in 1 Peter 1:18…he reminded the believers saying, "…knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers."
Boy, do you hear that stab, there? The tradition of your fathers did not redeem you. But verse 19: "…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." Peter recognized that Jesus was the Lamb from God who came to take away the sins of the world. That's exactly what John says: "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" Take away means literally he lifts it up and removes it. It's used other places in the New Testament…the word for destroy. It's the idea that it is taken out of the way; it is no longer part of whatever it had been a part. It's lifted up. It has been removed. It has been destroyed.
Paul echoes that in Colossians 2:14. He speaks of all of our sins and of the work of Christ. In 2:14, he says, "…having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us [this is the sacrifice of that Lamb]which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way…" How? "…having nailed it to the cross." Our Lamb is Jesus Christ. He is our sacrifice. He and He alone is the one who took away that sin…who was the Pascal, Passover Lamb that the Jews had been celebrating at every Passover season but had been longing for and looking for the reality of.
When John declared that statement "Behold the Lamb," and he spoke to that Jewish crowd…oh their minds when he said that amnos word…they focused in on that Passover lamb. They focused in on that story of Passover. You remember the lamb was to commemorate their deliverance out of Egypt. Their deliverance out of Egypt, as the Old Testament tells us…the Passover service was not being led out by Moses but was their deliverance from the death angel…sort of the night before they exited Egypt when the instruction was given for them to take a lamb and to slaughter it, and to take the blood and to put it on the mantles and on the door posts…and when the angel saw that, it would pass over you.
God wanted them to remember; He wanted to commemorate that. He wanted to keep in mind the necessity of a lamb to take death away, a necessity of a lamb to provide deliverance. John the Baptist recognized in Jesus Christ the One who was to bring deliverance in that day. Because of the lamb during the exodus, the people were spared. Destruction passed them by and deliverance came. Jesus, John saw, was now the means of sparing those who were willing to apply His blood to the doorpost of their heart in order that the judgment of God might bypass them as well.
"Behold the Lamb of God..." I tell you today, as John the Baptist has said and all of the disciples would witness and every preacher down through the ages has declared to you, that the sacrifice that will remove sin…the lamb that is required is the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. When you reach out and receive the gift He offers you…when you accept His sacrifice on the cross as your lamb's sacrifice…you no longer have to bring a lamb before the doorway of the temple and have it slaughtered by the priest and its blood sprinkled on the altar.
You can, by claiming Christ, by claiming that sacrifice, His death on the cross as the payment for your sin…you can behold the Lamb as your lamb. That blood pays your sin debt. The death passes over you as well. That's the voice of John the Baptist. He answers the question of Isaac…Where is the lamb? by saying, "Behold the Lamb."
Well, there's one more voice, isn't there? That's the voice of all the saints who have received the purging, who've received the cleansing that the blood of that lamb can offer. We get an insight into what is now to be our voice as we declare the salvation that the Lamb of God has provided. That voice comes from the apostle John, the same apostle who wrote this Gospel, who was very careful in the beginning chapter of his Gospel to say, "Behold! The Lamb." He now writes another book, the book of Revelation.
There he plants for us this idea yet again…in Revelation 5. He says in Revelation 5, beginning in the first verse…John speaking said in his vision, "I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?' And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it."
Now if you can just put your imagination in motion and imagine there being a scroll sealed with the perfect number of 7…obviously a scroll containing something valuable, something important, something that just draws John to it, something he wants to hear…the revelation of things that are contained there…then to discover that there is nobody worthy to open it…not in heaven, not even on the earth, not even under the earth.
So verse 4: "I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it." My friend, that is your destiny…my destiny. That is the entire world civilization's destiny if we don't have a lamb. Nobody is worthy to participate in the things of God. We are all unholy people. So, like in a good movie…at the very darkest moment, when he's weeping, when he represents all of our weeping…in verse 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."
Now I want you to look at that phrase. I want you just for the moment to pull out the parenthetical prepositional phrase in there. Notice what he says. He inserts the descriptive location of where they are. But look at what he says: "I looked, and behold, a Lamb." Oh, he had just written not too many years before, perhaps a decade earlier…when John had said, "Behold! The Lamb..."
Now he himself gets to say in his vision of heaven, "Behold a Lamb." Now he says, "as though it had been slain, having seven horns [that's perfect power] and seven eyes [perfect vision] which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He [that Lamb of God, that slain Lamb] came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. Now when He had taken the scroll…" All heaven breaks out because now there's someone worthy to usher in eternity. There's someone worthy to unscroll the redemption of the earth…someone who lays claim to the title deed of humanity and all of heaven.
So it says in verse 8: "Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.'"
The elders and the throne of heaven sing a new song… a song of which Christ (and Christ alone) is worthy. His blood has redeemed us. It has redeemed people from every tribe, every race, and every nationality. He has made us kings and priests to our God. Then the chorus enlarges; the choir gets bigger. In verse 11: "Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders [and they join in] and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands." In other words, without number…the sound of a huge unnumbered choir of angels singing and saying with a loud voice. I like that John says that. He said that twice now: "A loud voice."
This is heaven breaking forth here. This is the choir of angels, the elders, the throne itself resounding loudly and saying, "Worthy is the Lamb." Where is the Lamb? Behold the Lamb. But now our song is Worthy is the Lamb.
The Old Testament asks the question Where is the Lamb? The New Testament answers the question by saying, "Behold the Lamb is Christ." The resounding response of God's people is to praise the Lamb. "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!"
Then in verse 13…if it'd get any larger it does. It goes from choir to congregation. It says, "And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: 'Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!'"
You know, the image of the lamb does not die out with John the Baptist. It's not just an Old Testament picture, is it? Oh, it begins in the Old Testament. It is a type. We see its portrayal…it's representation. But when John declares, "Behold the Lamb," he's not just saying a Jewish thing. We find in heaven that that one single symbol continues. As such it tells us (does it not?) the entire story of the Bible. We ask, "Where is the Lamb?" We find that it is in Christ. The response of eternity is: "He's worthy, and praise and honor be to Him who sits on the throne, to the Lamb, forever and ever." We sing, "Worthy is that Lamb. Worthy is that Lamb."
Whose voice is your voice, today? Maybe it's Isaac's voice that's in your heart today. Maybe you're asking, "Where is my salvation? Where is the answer to the confusion of all these world religions? Where is the answer to the confusion of my heart on my own destiny, my own purpose for living? Where is the answer to my deep fear of what happens after I die? Is this all there is? Is there salvation? Is there something more than what I have right now? Where is the lamb?
Or maybe you're here today, and you're crying out with John the Baptist, "Behold the Lamb." Today you're seeing that John is bearing witness of the Lamb, and he does so in the remaining verses from 29 to 36. He simply gives his witness that this is the Lamb of God. Maybe you're here today because you're bearing witness to your neighbor, to your family, to those you work with, you go to school with…that Christ is that Lamb. He is the answer to the world's confusion, to the world's despondency…He…not government…it doesn't matter what kind of oppression you may be in, there's an answer to it. It is the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. He (and He alone) is the answer.
Or maybe your voice today is the voice of the apostle John. You're here today to sing loudly, to sing with a loud voice, "Behold the Lamb. Worthy is the Lamb. Worthy is He to receive all honor and glory and power. Worthy is He who sits on the throne." His worth is to be declared and praised forever and ever. You sing that song that says, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!"
I tell you, one of those voices is your voice today. The answer to all 3 of those is the Lamb. Behold the Lamb, Jesus Christ who takes away the sin of the world, who offers salvation to you, not based on merit, not based on cleaning up your life…for no one is worthy and you'll be left like John the Apostle weeping much…but who offers to give you salvation as a free gift…to accept His sacrifice, to apply His blood to the doorpost of your heart that you might be able to cry a cry and a song of deliverance, a Pascal song. For death has passed over you and worthy is the Lamb. Worthy is the Lamb.
Transcribed by Digital Sermon Transcription