The Lamb Of God That Takes Away The Sin Of The World
1. Each week in our services, we recite the confession of faith and express our faith. In the Apostles' Creed we don't just confess "We believe in God," but state also that "We believe in Jesus." This statement forms an outline to our Christian faith. We don't believe in God in some vague way. On the same note, although there have been some who claim "We believe in God," a distinction emerges if we claim "We believe in Jesus." Thus, it becomes decisively important how we believe in Jesus. When we try to live by faith, we must listen earnestly to the messages the Bible gives concerning this person of Jesus. Today's passage is one of those [messages]. The Bible points to him and says this about him, "Behold, he is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world," (1:29).
Those Who Hoped For The Messiah
2. When the activities of John the Baptist at the Jordan River were gathering in the attention of the people, the Jews in Jerusalem sent the priests and the rabbis to John and had them ask him, "Who are you?" It says that a little before in verse nineteen. In reply John declared that "I am not the messiah." This exchange between them where they ask "Who are you?" and he answers, "I'm not the messiah" is not something we easily understand in [our cultural context today] because we're not sensitive to messianic expectations and hopes in our culture. But, for the general public back then, the mindset of expecting a messiah was deeply connected to every day life and reality. Therefore, when a powerful character came on the scene, rumors would start over whether the person might be the messiah or not. It was the same even for John.
3. Of course, back then the peoples' understanding of the messiah came in more than one form. Many people were simply hoping for a political liberator. There were also others hoping really hard that the Roman system of government would collapse and that the Gentiles would be destroyed. All these different expectations and hopes for the messiah are not affirmed in scripture just exactly like that. But, we should not under evaluate at all the fact that they had kept hoping in a messiah, even if the way they had hoped was not exactly scripturally balanced; because at least that means that they were strongly self conscious that they "were in a state where they needed to be saved." Since they were aware that they were not where they were supposed to be as human beings and as the people of God, they were hoping in God's salvation and in the messiah.
4. The people who had given up already were not hoping.
Some had no hope in salvation, shrugging it off with
"Who cares? That's just the way it is" when it comes to "me" or the society "I'm in." Two things are indispensable for anyone to truly believe for something or to live with hope. One is to earnestly accept the fact that neither they nor the world they are in are in its best shape, no one and no society is in the condition it is supposed to be in. And second, one should never just give up and throw off [all hopes]. First of all we must start by looking intently at the every day reality of humanity without deceiving ourselves or giving up.
Behold, He Is The Lamb Of God
5. With that in mind, let's turn ahead to the words of John. He didn't simply just say, "Behold, this One is indeed the messiah you have been hoping for." He said, "He is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." We have here the messiah that we had better listen up to. What was John trying to say with the words "lamb of God?
6. The time was about when the Passover Festival was near, (2:13). The Passover is a holiday still celebrated today by the Jews. During this holiday a lamb is slaughtered as a sacrifice. Thus, "the lamb" which John meant should be thought of as pointing to the lamb for the sacrifice in the Passover.
7. There is no time for me to give the details regarding the origin of observing the Passover. Quoting one passage from the Bible, I'll give one big point alone. Please look in Exodus chapter twelve from verses twenty-one to twenty-three.
"Moses summoned the elders of Israel together and commanded them. 'So, take a sheep for each family and slay the Passover sacrifice. Then take a bundle of hyssop, dip it in a bowl of blood, and dab the blood from the bowl onto the lintel and both posts to the entrance. Let no one out of the entrance of the house until the next morning. When the Lord goes around to strike the Egyptians, he will see the blood smeared on the lintel and both posts and will pass over that entrance. It is so that the destroyer will not enter the house to destroy you,'" (Exodus 12:21-23).
9. The Israelites were slaves of Egypt. In order to free them God sent Moses. Through Moses God said to the king of Egypt "Let my people go." But, the Egyptian king continued to be stubborn and hardened. Consequently, God finally sent judgment down upon the whole land of Egypt. Upon this occasion the words we just read were commanded by God to the Israelites. Its contents were simple. God commanded them to slay a lamb and smear its blood on the lintel and entrance posts. The important part here is the word "pass over." What was passing over? The judgment of God was passing over. The judgment was not passing over the Israelites because they were good people, but because God saw the blood of the lamb. The judgment of God passed over them with the sign of the blood of the lamb. When John said, "Behold, he is the lamb of God", in this same way it signified the sacrificial lamb that would make the judgment of God pass over them.
10. However, with this alone we are not able to understand the words "that take away the sin of the world" because there is no sense of "taking away sin" in the Passover sacrifice. So then, we will read from another passage, from Isaiah chapter fifty-three and verses six to eight.
"We, flocks of sheep have erred on the way and head into all different directions. The Lord has put the responsibility of all our sins on him. He is leaning over charged with our hard toil, but does not open his mouth. Like a lamb being pulled into the slaughter house, like a lamb which says nothing to the one shearing its wool he does not open his mouth. He is arrested, tried, and his life is taken. Who in his time would have wondered that because of the rebellion of my people he had God's hand on him but was cut off from the land of the living?"
12. From Isaiah chapter fifty-two and verse thirteen to all of chapter fifty-three, we call it "The Song Of The Suffering Servant." The servant of God is depicted here as silently accepting hardships unto death just like a lamb being slaughtered alone by itself. The reason he was suffering was not for his own sins. The song says, "The Lord laid our sins on him."
13. John said, "Behold, he is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." The word translated as "take away" has the meaning of "carry on one's shoulder" or "carry away." Sin doesn't flow away in water. Sin cannot just simply be removed. Unless someone substitutes and carries it for someone else and unless someone carries it away, sin cannot be removed. Like a lamb himself alone, he was the one to die in pain bearing the burden for our sin. John's words point to him who bore our sins in this manner.
14. This is the one we know as Jesus. Our savior is like the sacrificial lamb who made the judgment pass over, who bore the burden of our sin, who died silently like a sheep dragged off to the slaughter house, indeed he is none other than the servant of God as depicted in Isaiah.
For Our Salvation
15. Earlier I talked about the Jews' hopes for the messiah. I mentioned that they were conscious of being in a state where they needed to be saved. Many people in this country probably have a bare awareness of this at most. But, if you think about it, whether we are aware of it or not, the reality of our need for salvation is still true. The wretched condition of humanity so in need of salvation can never be resolved by averting our attention from this reality, or deceiving ourselves over it some way or another, or by saying resolutely, "Nothing really matters what we do any way." Since nothing is resolved, the time is coming when the truth that nothing is resolved will be revealed. For example, when we are exposed to a crisis in life, or when we lie down on our sick bed or face death, it will become clear to us that we are in a wretched condition in need of salvation and are without any solution on hand at all.
16. We can't keep up this self-deception to the end. When we look at who we are and what this world is without fooling ourselves or giving up on things, we will notice that what is lying at the bottom of our wretched condition is this problem of sin that the Bible is talking about here. In other words, the problem does not lie in the people around us and the environment we're in, but in our sin. Our real wretchedness lies in the fact that our relationship with God has been broken. The text in Isaiah says, we "have erred on the way and head into all different directions." The root of the problem really lies in that fact that we have separated from God, turned against him or ignored him and gone on our own selfish, separate, and several ways.
17. We need to be saved from this condition we're in. Ultimate salvation for humanity lies only in regaining a relationship with God and in truly living with him at our side. And the one who has truly come for this purpose is the One who is "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Forgiveness of sin is what we need in order to truly live with God at our side. What we need for salvation is to have our sins taken away.
18. When the blood was smeared on the lintel and posts, the judgment passed over. By the blood of Christ who became the sacrificial lamb for us, the judgment passes over us, too. It is Christ's blood that we need. Believing in Christ is the same as having Christ's blood applied. God sees Christ's blood. Because of Christ's blood, we will not have to stand before God as condemned any longer. We will stand as forgiven, loved, and accepted. We will be able to live with God at our side. Because Christ bore our sins and has carried them away.
19. Uemura Masahisa, [the famous pastor, 1858 - 1925], once said, "'Behold, he is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.' When you have experienced these words deeply within, all your worries will be solved, with absolutely nothing thing left to worry about." Let's truly accept these words given to us here and experience them fully; shall we not try to live together from here on in this grace which is expressed in this passage?