"The next day, he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
(John 1:29, ESV)
What a statement this is by John the Baptist! The more I’ve thought about this verse over the last few weeks, the more I’ve come to see it as a truly pivotal moment in the history of the world. Since the fall of man in Genesis 3, all of scripture, truly the entire course of history had been leading up to the arrival of the One true, sacrificial lamb who could and would take away the sins of the world.
The term lamb that John uses would have been very familiar to the Jews. They saw lambs sacrificed during Passover celebrations, they knew of the prophecies of a lamb being led to slaughter in Isaiah and they were certainly familiar with the bloodshed that came from the daily sacrifices for the sins of the nation. John Piper notes, “But every serious believer knew that the blood of animals could not really take away sin (Hebrews 10:4). That whole system was pointing forward to what would happen someday in a final sacrifice for sin. And John is saying: It’s happening now. God is sending his own Lamb into the world to take away sin, once and for all.”
John the Baptist was declaring, “He’s here! He’s finally here.” He had come to be sacrificed. John is making it clear here that not only will Jesus die, but he will be slaughtered like a lamb for the sins of the world. This does not mean that everyone in the world will be saved, but rather everyone in the world - Jew or Gentile - will be saved if they believe in Jesus and follow Him. In other words, Jesus’s sacrifice reaches to all of mankind without distinction, but will ultimately be only for those who will receive Christ.
In order to truly appreciate and understand the gravity of this verse, we have to begin to grasp the complete inability of man. In and of ourselves, we are dead in our sins. No amount of religious sacrifice can satisfy the wrath of God. Jesus had to come and be that Lamb, that sacrifice. We are lost and in desperate need of a Savior.
The hymn writer, Horatio Spafford puts it so beautifully:
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
I pray that amid the many distractions of this world that lure our hearts and minds, that we will listen to the words of John the Baptist and truly Behold! the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.