“Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:29 HCSB
Just before the conclusion of John the Baptist’s ministry as herald for the soon-coming Messiah, he announced to all who came to him, “Look! The Lamb of God” (John 1:36 HCSB). The Baptist had been called to a life of separation from the world – his years were spent in the desert, seeking God and waiting for His Messiah. His job was to identify the Messiah and proclaim His arrival to Israel. After their brief encounter as babes within their mothers’ wombs when he is said to have leaped for joy as the virgin Mary greeted his mother Elizabeth, it is unlikely that they had ever met.
As John prayed and reflected on the scriptures, the Lord revealed to him what the Messiah would be like, and how He would fulfil His purpose. The scriptures described the Christ as the ‘Wonderful, Counsellor, Prince of Peace, Everlasting Father and the Mighty God.’ He would be King after David’s line, and of the increase of His government and peace, there would be no end. He would be the Son, whom all mankind would kiss, for the nations would be His inheritance. He would be both a High Priest and a conquering King.
These wonderful names and titles had always been His, and so He was acknowledged both in heaven and by Israel. What then, John pondered, could be specific purpose of the Messiah’s coming to this earth? The laws and duties were given to Moses, as well as instructions about the sacrifices. His own father, Zechariah, was a high priest who offered sacrifices and ministered before God. What more was needed? What had been lacking? So many prophets had come and gone, but their words had no effect on sinful humanity.
Many times God had indicated His displeasure with the sacrifices offered by Israel, as these were not accompanied by true repentance and obedience (Isaiah 1:11 and 1 Samuel 15:2).How long would such ineffectual sacrifices continue? Could there be a perfect sacrifice that would be perfectly pleasing to God, because it came from a perfectly obedient heart? A final sacrifice?
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows… he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth…” Isaiah 53:4-7 ESV
As the words of the Prophet Isaiah flashed through John’s mind a strong conviction was birthed that this long awaited Messiah would indeed be that Final Sacrifice. At that everything made perfect sense. The sins of Israel had never been atoned for, despite the blood of the millions of bulls, rams and sheep poured out through the centuries. Sin – always sin – remained a barrier between the God of heavens and our fallen race. But every unblemished animal slaughtered for sin had been a foreshadowing of the Perfect Sacrifice – when the Sinless One would bear the sin of all humanity.
The priests, who shared the sinfulness of fallen mankind, but marked by the blood of the slain animal, were allowed entrance into the Holy of Holies, into the very presence of God to intercede on behalf of Israel; but their work was never finished. As the Sinless Lamb entered the Holy of Holies with His own blood, His perfect sacrifice would demolish the final barrier separating God and man. The heavens would receive this blood as a final, perfect sacrifice and the impenetrable curtain would be stripped apart for all – who put their trust in Christ and His atoning sacrifice – to enter the presence of God.
This would be the end of John’s work. When Jesus appeared before him at the River Jordan, where multitudes were being baptised, the heavens opened as John declared, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
There was nothing more for him to do. The Lamb had done it all!
Father, thank You for the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world. Remember His perfect sacrifice and receive us, who have received Him. Let His blood cover and protect us, deliver us from all sin and make us worthy to stand on that final day.