Will the guilty person step forward: Behold the Lamb of God

John 1.29

The phrase “the Lamb of God” has meant so much to generations of followers of Jesus, since John the Witness (Baptist) first said it when they met in the wilderness by the Jordon river. I wonder though how that phrase can be made meaningful to people not brought up in the Christian faith. To the crowds who went to hear John preach in the desert it would have readily been understood because it represents the culmination of Israel’s Old Testament history, prophesy and worship rituals as laid down in the Mosaic law. The bible makes clear that it is an eternal title for Jesus, a name by which Jesus is revered and worshipped in heaven. Revelation 15.3 However that seems very remote from most of everyday modern life. There is no exact modern parallel to the meaning of the Lamb of God that I know of but a story of a prisoner in a second world war Japanese prisoner of war camp captures some of the meaning. The camp was on its daily parade following a breach of camp rules. It was made clear to the prisoners that a number of them would be executed unless the person who breached the rules stepped forward to own up and nobody did. When it became clear that the threat would be carried out immediately an innocent man took that step forward to take the punishment and at least temporarily save the lives of his fellow prisoners.

How is this similar to Jesus being the Lamb of God? An unblemished lamb was an offering that was made for the sin of the people on the eve of Passover. It also reminded the Jewish people of how God freed them from slavery in Egypt and the Angel of Death “passed over” their homes prior to their leaving for the promised land. The blood of the lamb was painted on their door posts and its presence protected them from God’s judgement. Jesus as the Lamb of God was to become the vicarious sacrifice for people’s sin. He took the judgement and punishment of God for others voluntarily. The brave prisoner of war was not a completely innocent man in the same way that no human is, however he was innocent of whatever misdemeanour the Japanese guards deemed had taken place. He chose to be a vicarious sacrifice for the sake of others. It was an act of extreme bravery. It came from love for others. Whether knowingly or not he was obedient to Jesus’ own command to his disciples, ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.’ John 15.12,13

How is the story not similar to Jesus being the Lamb of God? Firstly Jesus’ death whilst being unjust and the work of an evil corrupt set of religious and political leaders, was at the same time Jesus taking upon himself the just and fair judgement of God the Father for the sins of all who trust in him. Jesus was not only innocent of the “crimes” the authorities accused him of, he was also innocent of any sin. Jesus was not only an innocent man he is also the Son of God, creator of all things and therefore taking such a punishment was an act of supreme humility. Jesus’ sacrifice not only benefited his “friends” temporarily it opened the door to eternal life.

It took the Holy Spirit to reveal to John that Jesus was the Lamb of God even though John would have known Jesus his whole life as he was his cousin. ‘John bore witness: I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me (God, John 1.6) to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.’ v32-34 Similarly it takes the intervention of the Holy Spirit for every individual who understands and believes that Jesus is the Lamb of God.

Are we praying that the Holy Spirit reveals the true Jesus to our friends?

Have we taken on board Jesus command to love one another as he has loved us?

How would you explain the phrase, the Lamb of God, to someone who had no knowledge of the bible?

Lamb of God – Twila Paris

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