The Gospel of John gives its own unique account of Jesus’ coming to the Jordan for baptism. One day John sees Jesus approaching him. He declares, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.'” (John 1: 29-30 ESV)
Most of the other references in the New Testament to Jesus as Lamb are found in the Book of Revelation where He stands in heaven as the powerful, victorious One, but also the One who shed His blood to ransom a people. The one reference to the image of the Lamb for Christ in Paul is found in I Corinthians where Paul exclaims, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival . . .” (I Corinthians 5: 7b-8a ESV) These words are set in the context of ethical admonition, calling on the Corinthian church to dispose of the leaven of malice and evil and replace it with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (I Corinthians 5: 6ff)
John the Baptist knows who Jesus is because God told him. He witnesses to the One on whom the Spirit descends, the Son of God. The Lamb is the Son of God and also the Word that was in the beginning.
The next day accompanied by two disciples John again declares Jesus as the Lamb of God. When they hear this, they follow Jesus and stay with Him. Andrew, one of the two, went to his brother Peter and invites him to come and see. This text is one of witness to Jesus, first by John the Baptist, then by one of his disciples.
It is interesting to note that John never speaks to Jesus in the text, but witnesses to who He is. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away our sins. The sacrificial elements of this title are found later in the Gospel at the time of the crucifixion. It is noted there that the day Jesus was brought before Pilate was the Day of Preparation for the Passover. Later at the time of Jesus’ death, an Old Testament passage from Exodus, recalling the sacrificial Passover lamb, are quoted by the evangelist. “Not one of his bones will be broken.” (John 19: 36 ESV) Neither were Jesus’ legs broken. He is the Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
The Christ is the sacrificial lamb who dies for the sins of the world. We sing these words just before receiving Holy Communion where we partke of Christ body, given for us, and His blood, shed for us. The Lamb is the victorious conqueror of our sins and of death.
In artistic reprsentations the Lamb’s head is surrounded by a nimbus, or halo, representing divinity. Often a cross is found on the halo. The Lamb bears a banner or cross and can be depicted with a wound in His side.
Our text reminds us of Christ as the author of our salvation. It also emphasizes the witness of John and others to the life-giving character of the Lamb. We apologists and witnesses stand on the firm ground of a faith that gives meaning to life, makes sense of the world, and saves us from our sins. No philosophy or ideology is capable of the same thing. Confusion retreats before our Christian confession.
Michael G. Tavella
January 30, 2020