As we approach Easter, it is important to stop and take note of just who Jesus is and what he did for us on the cross. The Bible says, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”(John 1:29)
As the Lamb of God, Jesus is the perfect and complete sacrifice for the sins of the world. For most of us today, the idea of a sacrificial lamb is unfamiliar. However, the Israelites understood exactly what John meant when he called Jesus the “Lamb of God.” After all, it was God who established the sacrificial system in the Old Testament to paint a clear picture of what would eventually need to happen to pay for the sins of mankind.
For the Jewish people who heard the words “the lamb of God,” they might have thought of several important sacrificial lambs. First, they might have immediately thought of the Passover lamb that reminded them of Egypt. The Passover feast was a major Jewish holiday that celebrated and remembered God’s deliverance of the Israelites from their slavery and bondage to the Egyptians. In Egypt, when the blood of the lamb was applied to the doorpost of the houses, it provided protection for those in the house from the Angel of Death. In the same way, when Jesus died on the cross as the sacrificial lamb, He provided a way of escape from spiritual death for all those who believe on Him.
11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:11-13)
The Jewish listeners might have also thought of the daily sacrifices that were made at the temple. Every morning a lamb was sacrificed in the temple for the sins of God’s people. (Exodus 29:38-42). Just like the Passover Lamb, the daily sacrifices reminded the Israelites that they were sinners in need of a sacrifice.
The Jews of Jesus’ day might have also quickly recalled the prophets who spoke of a lamb that would be led to the slaughter in order to bring redemption through the shed blood.
“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 its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth…9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer …(Isaiah 53:7-10)
Today we do not live with a constant reminder of lambs being sacrificed but we do understand the concept of payments and wages. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”(Romans 6:23). In this one verse, we can see the Gospel presented very clearly. The verse starts off by saying, “For the wages of sin is death…” In other words, the price or the payment for sin is death-but not simply physical death it is also spiritual death. Spiritual death is being separated from God eternally. That is what sin does to us and the Bible is very clear that we all sin by stating, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”(Romans 3:23)
If we stopped right there, we would all be in trouble because we all sin and the price for that sin is eternal death or separation from God. However, the latter part of Romans 6:23 says, “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The key is the “gift of God” which drives us back to our opening thought of the “lamb of God. Just what does the Lamb of God do? He takes away the sin of the world. When Jesus hung on the cross, He hung there as the sacrificial lamb as the payment for sin.
While on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished,”(John 19:30) which was an accounting term that was often used in governmental affairs when someone had paid their taxes in full. So, when Jesus uttered the words “It is finished,” He was saying that the tax or the price of our sin was once and for all completely paid.
Therefore, when we read the scripture stating, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,” we should be reminded that God not only taught us about the lamb in the Old Testament, but He provided the lamb in the New Testament. Peter wrote, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”(1 Peter 1:18-21)
Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”