John had been preaching a message of repentance. He confronted everyone with the truth that they were sinners. John condemned any attempt to claim good works as a way of earning God’s favor. His message was clear, everyone must confess that they are sinners both by birth and by the way they live their lives.
John preached the Law in order to crush the sinful heart. He preached that the sinner cannot free himself from the curse of the Law. John did not claim that he was the one who could free the sinner either. He proclaimed that One was coming who could do it all.
Then the unexpected happened to John. Jesus came to be baptized, to step into the Jordan River as if he was a sinner who needed God’s forgiveness. John resisted but Jesus insisted. Jesus stepped into the river because he was the One who had come to take upon himself the sins of the whole world. “He who knew no sin became sin for us.”
In today’s gospel reading John preaches the answer for the sinner. John sees Jesus and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Twice we hear him say it, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
In the baptism of Jesus, God revealed to John that Jesus was indeed the One that John was preparing the world to see. John heard the voice of the father saying, “This is my beloved Son.”
A lamb was given by God to Abraham to spare the life of his son Isaac. Lambs were killed in Egypt. The shedding of the blood of the lambs showed God’s mercy. It meant that death would pass over those who trusted in God’s word about the blood. Lambs were offered as sacrifices.
On the Day of Atonement, a priest would lay his hands on the head of a goat confessing than the people of Israel were full of sin. All their transgressions were placed on this scapegoat that was then sent into the wilderness. It was a sign that by God’s grace their sins had been taken away.
Twice John called out, “Behold the Lamb of God!” It had been revealed to John and he did not want to keep it a secret. Jesus had come to carry away the sins of the whole world.
Martin Luther wrote about the taking away of sin. He wrote these words, “[The Son of God] says to me, “You are no longer a sinner, but I am. I am your substitute … All your sins are to rest on Me and not on you.””
This is what God revealed to John. John could not come to this understanding through his own reason. What he would have looked for and hope for from a savior would never have matched the abundant grace and mercy that God showed him.
The second half of today’s gospel reading tells us about how John’s witness led others to Jesus. We read how two of John’s disciples were standing by him when he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” “The two disciples heard [John] say this and they followed Jesus.”
Jesus asked them a very interesting question, “What are you seeking?” I say this is interesting because Jesus asks “What” and not “Who,” although in him the what and the who cannot be separated. Jesus was asking them what they expected from him. That is an important question, “What do you expect from Jesus.”
What Do You Want?
What are you seeking from Jesus, what are you expecting from him, what do you want from Jesus? Left to your own will, your answer will be very different from what God reveals to you about the Lamb of God.
Apart from God’s revelation to you, you will seek Jesus for the things of this world. You will want Jesus to make life more comfortable for you. You would like Jesus to be yours first and if there is any of him left over then he can help others.
Let me give you a simple example from the world of sports. Team A and B are playing each other for the championship. Athletes on both team pray that Jesus will give them the victory. Jesus did not come to give victories to sports teams or their fans.
Jesus did not come to make you his favorite child. Jesus came to die for you and for your dreaded enemy so that both of you might be saved. He calls both of you to repent and believe in him as the Lamb of God. Jesus did come to make you and all believers his beloved children.
It may sound drastic when I put it this way. Any god that we seek who is not first the Lamb of God, the sacrifice for our sins is a false god, an idol that we are chasing after.. And if we worship and idol we are idolaters.
Come and See
Jesus said to the two disciples, “Come and you will see.” Your gracious and merciful God calls to you each week to “Come and you will see.” He chases after you with gifts. He opens his Word so that you can see and believe what Jesus came to give you. Jesus came into the world to give you peace and joy knowing that your sins are forgiven.
He came to forgive your idolatry by dying on the cross for you. Jesus came to be your savior from sin and death. He said, “Seek you first the kingdom of God.” God reveals to you in his Word that first you must seek the One who forgives your sins and who brings you into his kingdom.
John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” God reveals his Son to you in the Lord’s Supper. In a few minutes, after I have consecrated the bread and the wine I will hold the chalice and the host for all of you to see. I will hold it there so you can behold the Lamb of God who takes away your sin. You will sing “Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us.”
It is he who grants you peace, peace beyond all understanding. It is the Lamb of God who has washed away your sins and cleansed you from all unrighteousness in your baptism.
Let’s Not End Here
The heavenly Father revealed to John the Baptist that Jesus was the Lamb of God. John told his disciple Andrew about the one who came to take away the sin of the world. Andrew brought his brother Simon Peter to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Peter and the rest of the disciples who witnessed the Lamb of God die and then rise again went to the four corners of the earth to tell the good news about the Lamb of God who sacrificed his life for the life of all people.
The heavenly Father has revealed to you that Jesus is the Lamb of God. You have heard the message, you have been given the gift of faith. There were Andrews in your life – pastors, parents, teachers, others – who said to you, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”.
Maybe there’s a Peter in your life, a relative or neighbor that you can tell about Jesus. You and I have good news to share with the world, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
All Is Provided
God has provided. He has provide the who – the sacrificial Lamb. He has provided the what – the forgiveness of our sins. We have seen the salvation of the Lord. Go in his peace.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria