Look, the Lamb of God!
A sermon based on John 1:29-41
Sunday, January 16, 2011 – Epiphany 2A
Imagine if someone described you as lamb. Would you take that as a compliment? Sure they may look cute and cuddly, but think about it… Lambs aren't that bright. Not even as smart as a fully grown sheep (and that's saying something). They usually don't smell all that pretty. And let's face it guys, it wouldn't be very macho to be called a lamb, would it?
And yet, that's what John the Baptist called Jesus. He didn't call him the Lion that would come out of Judah. He didn't call him the bright Morning Star. He didn't call him the Alpha and the Omega. He didn't say Jesus was the man. Instead he called him the Lamb.
John's goal of course, was not to boost Jesus' ego, but to reveal Jesus for who he was—the Savior of the world; the one who would take away their sins. This morning I invite you to now look at the Lamb of God. Come gain an audience with the Lamb to see what he's all about. And go, to gain an audience for the Lamb and bring others to their Savior. Listen now to John 1v29-41…
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel." 32 Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God." 35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!" 37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?" They said, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?" 39 "Come," he replied, "and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour. 40 Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ).
I. Gain an Audience with the Lamb
Last week we heard how John the Baptist prevented Jesus from being Baptized. He knew he needed Jesus, not vice versa. But doesn't it seem strange then in this morning's text that John says "I myself did not know him…" that he wouldn't have known Jesus unless the Holy Spirit descended and remained on him. After all, that anointing of the Spirit happened at Jesus Baptism, after John suggested Jesus didn't need baptism. John must have known his cousin Jesus by then. So what's John saying?
He's saying that Jesus had to be revealed to him. That his cousin was the Messiah and what the Messiah would do were concepts John couldn't have figured out on his own. Maybe John didn't really understand what Jesus had come to do until his Baptism. God the Father had to reveal to John who Jesus was and what he would do. And though we don't know exactly how, in his grace, God did.
The same was true of first John's, then Jesus' disciples. Andrew and who most believe to be the apostle John were disciples of John the Baptist. They went out to the desert to hear what this strange locust-eating man in camel's hair had to say. And they believed him and wanted to learn more. And what a discovery they found in the desert! Jesus, their Savior! And this wasn't something they could have figured out by themselves either. It was revealed to them by John the Baptist. "Look, the Lamb of God!" When there was no way for them to figure out God's plan on their own, Jesus revealed it to them. "Come… and… see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. What an awesome day that must have been! And they never could have had such an experience on their own. That audience with Jesus was given them by Jesus through John the Baptist.
And friends, the same is true of us. When we could never know Jesus or what he's done for us on our own, God revealed him to us. For most of us, through the waters of Baptism where he created faith in our hearts, and through the loving instruction of parents and school teachers we came to know Jesus. For others through the loving witness of a friend or co-worker, or even more directly, through the words read in a dusty Bible sitting on the shelf, you've come to know Jesus. No matter what the way, for all of us here, Jesus was revealed to us through the Word, either heard or read when we couldn't have known him by ourselves. We gained an audience with Jesus by his grace, not our own genius or will-power. And by his grace God's revealed to us what Jesus is all about.
"Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" When you think lamb, you may think cute and cuddly, but more likely you think "Baaaah!" A stupid animal that's totally dependant on a shepherd as it bleats away in ignorance. But is that any description for Jesus?! After all, Jesus called us sinners sheep and lambs. So why does John call Jesus the Lamb?
Well, think like a first century Jew grounded in the Old Testament Scriptures for a second. What would they think when they heard the word "lamb"? Maybe they'd recall the Passover lamb that was killed the night the angel of death passed through Egypt, whose blood was spilled and painted on the door frames of the Israelite homes to save them from death. Perhaps they thought of the daily sacrifices where lambs were slain as sin offerings to atone for sin and as burnt offerings after they'd been purified. Perhaps they thought of Isaiah 53:7 which spoke of the coming Messiah: "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth."
This is the one John revealed, not just any lamb, but THE Lamb. This is the Lamb that's been revealed to you: "The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" Now note what John didn't say: He didn't say "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the problems of the world" or "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away your pain and suffering." No, but much better! "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
Jesus came not to bring you peace on earth, but peace with God. He came not to give you a millennial kingdom here, but an eternal kingdom in heaven. And he did it by paying for your sins and for mine—for every time we've failed to follow him and spend time with him when he's invited us to have an audience with him in worship, in Bible class, in time spent in his Word. We are forgiven for failing to share him with others the way John the Baptizer did and the way Andrew did. We are forgiven for every sin we've ever committed because the Lamb of God took those sins away by his sacrifice, by his death on the cross in our place.
And because the Lamb of God is the Son of God, as John testified, we know it's sufficient payment for the sins of the world. Because he paid for the sins of the world, we, who live in the world, can be certain that we're included in that payment. He lifted our sins on himself, carried them to the cross, and took away our sins for ever! You and I have gained an audience with the Lamb and have seen what he's done for us!
A tourist visited a church in Germany and was surprised to see the carved figure of a lamb near the top of the church's tower. He asked why it was there and was told that when the church was being built, a workman fell from a high scaffold. His co-workers rushed down, expecting to find him dead. But to their surprise and joy, he had not only survived, but was barely injured. How did he survive? It just so happened that a flock of sheep was passing beneath the tower at the time he fell, and he landed on top of a lamb. The lamb broke his fall and was crushed to death, but the man was saved. To commemorate that miraculous escape, they carved a lamb on the tower at the exact height from which the man fell.
The Lamb of God has done more than just save us from falling to our deaths. He's saved us from our sins and thus, from falling into hell. And notice the tense: It doesn't say, "The Lamb of God, who [took] away the sin of the world!" but "The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" He not only forgave us, but continues to forgive us day after day. We live in his grace. And as we continue to gain an audience with the Lamb in his Word and grow to appreciate what he has done for us and what he still does for us more and more, we can't help but share it with others and gain an audience for the Lamb...
II. Gain an Audience for the Lamb
Just as Jesus was revealed to John the Baptist by God the Father as the Lamb of God who would take away his sins, John couldn't help but reveal Jesus to others in turn. In fact, John said that was his goal in life—"I live to point people to the Lamb." He said, "The reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed…" He said of Jesus, "He must become greater; I must become less."
It's been said that while Leonardo da Vinci was working on his famous painting, The Lord's Supper, his single goal was to attract and hold people's attention to the Savior. In fact, when the painting was first displayed he watched as the people crowded close to see a tiny ship he'd painted in the background and hear them say, "Just look at the detail! Truly he's a master artist!" And when they'd all left that day, he quickly took out a brush and blotted out the little ship that took him weeks to paint and is quoted as saying, "No one shall find reason for admiring anything except Christ alone."
That's how John the Baptist felt. And we see Andrew have a similar reaction to having gained an audience with the Lamb. He couldn't help but share the Lamb with others either. He started with his brother. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah." Notice Andrew didn't have any special training. He didn't have weighty theological arguments, but simply shared what he knew.
It takes no more qualifications to share the Lamb, than it takes for a witness to speak in court—you see something for yourself and tell others what you've seen. Andrew is mentioned only two other times in the Gospel of John (6:8 and 12:22) and every time we read of Andrew he's bringing someone to Jesus. And what a service he did to the church! What a chain reaction he started. Though Andrew wrote no epistles that we know of, he brought the gospel to Peter, a pillar in the church.
And friends, this morning I want to encourage you to follow John the Baptists' and Andrews' examples. When you gain an audience with the Lamb and grow to appreciate the forgiveness of sins that's your in him, go and gain an audience for the Lamb. It requires no special training, no more qualifications than knowing what your Savior has done for you. And who knows what chain reactions you might set in motion! Who knows what future pastor or missionary or witness you'll share the gospel with!
Have you seen the McDonald's commercial where two guys are talking while they wait for the bus? The conversation goes something like this: "How about that game last night?" "Yeah. It was good." "Hey did you hear about Bob?" "Yeah. Too bad." "So… uh… what did you have for breakfast?" "Oh, man! I had this awesome sandwich! Hot bacon and eggs on a fresh biscuit made from scratch with a delicious hashed brown patty chased by a cup of fresh hot, gourmet coffee. Mmmmm..! I love McDonalds!"
The point is you can't help but talk about what excites you. Your football team's victory is exciting, but not as exciting as the victory that the Lamb of God won for you. Your kid's big achievement that makes you so proud is fun to share, but not as fun as the achievement made by the Lamb. Your new car or boat is thrilling, but not as thrilling as the new life and the heaven that's yours through Jesus. So share what you know!
Inside your bulletin this morning is an insert describing what's been called The Andrew Plan. (Click here to read more.) It asks you to invite a friend to a Bible class. Invite someone to come with you to see the Christ, just as Andrew did. It's simple and easy to do. We'll be starting a new Bible Information Class in March, but in the meantime you can invite a friend to worship or Wednesday night Bible class, invite a friend to a fellowship event or to your house. Take the insert home, read it through, and prayerfully consider it. Consider the plan and consider who you can invite.
Continue to gain an audience with the Lamb in his Word, dear friends. And as you look at the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and are reminded how your every sin is forgiven, taken away, and gone forever, then go excited to win an audience for the Lamb in thanks to him. Pray that others might also share in the joy that we have and the eternal life that's yet to come through Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. In his name, dear friends, amen.