Epiphany 2, 2017
January 15, 2017
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
Psalm 40:1-11, Isaiah 49:1-7, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, John 1:29-42
“Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
When the children of Israel were in slavery in Egypt the Lord sent plagues against hard-hearted Pharaoh and all the Egyptians. The final plague was the Lord coming against the Egyptians to kill the firstborn both of man and animal.
The children of Israel were protected from this plague by the blood of lambs. Each family selected an unblemished year old male lamb and killed it at twilight. They painted the lintel and doorposts of their homes with the blood and roasted the lambs to eat with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The Lord that night passed over the houses of the children of Israel protected by the blood of the lamb.
Each year the Jews remembered God’s deliverance from Egypt by killing a lamb and roasting it and eating it to remember the first Passover when God protected them by the blood of lambs from the Plague of the death of the first born.
In accordance with the Lord’s instruction in Exodus 29 early each morning the Jewish priest would make his way to the sheep pen. Each and every morning the temple priest selected a year old lamb, carried it out of the pen, bond its legs, took a knife and sacrificed it on the temple altar. He did this every morning. He did the same thing every evening. He selected a lamb and sacrificed it on the temple altar. Every morning and every evening the priest sacrificed a lamb. Two lambs a day, 14 lambs a week, 60 lambs a month, 730 lambs a year. This was a regular burnt offering on the temple altar to remember that the Lord YHWH is God. He is the one who brought the children of Israel up out of the land of Egypt so that He might dwell with them.
730 lambs a year as a daily remembrance of God’s deliverance; thousands of lambs sacrificed each year for the Passover meal. So many lambs…shedding so much blood.
John the Baptist sees Jesus coming towards him. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
John the Baptist here says a mouthful as he sees Jesus coming towards him, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Behold is one of those words that we don’t really use much in our daily language. Behold! Anyone who is listening, take notice! This is important. Behold!
The Lamb of God. The Lamb of God. All the blood of thousands upon thousands of lambs sacrificed daily and at Passover all culminate in this one Lamb, who is not a lamb, but a man; who is not only a man, but God in flesh. The Lamb of God. How can this be? What does this mean? How can Jesus of Nazareth, be The Lamb of God. The Lambs are killed. What is going to happen to Jesus?
And what does it mean that He is the Lamb of God? Is this a Lamb owned by God or a Lamb provided by God? As we learn more about this Jesus of Nazareth we learn that indeed He is the Lamb provided by God. Jesus is the Lamb offered by God.
The Passover Lambs shed their blood to protect the children of Israel from the Lord’s wrath against Egypt. What is this Lamb going to do?
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Takes away the sin of the world.”
What an amazing thing to say about Jesus. He is going to take away the sin of the world.
All the original Passover lambs gave their lives to protect the children of Israel in Egypt. Jesus is going to take away the sin of the world. Not just Israel, but all the world. The world is not only a huge idea, but it is also a sin-filled place. We talk about the causes of sin being the devil, the world and our own sinful nature. The world is not an agent of good as much as an agent of temptation and sin.
Jesus of Nazareth is going to take away the sin of the world. This is a overwhelming concept. The quantity of my own sin and rebellion is devastating. If one person’s sin is crushing what about the sin of the whole world? What does one person’s sin look like? A wheelbarrow load of muck? A truckload? A pile? A mountain? What does the sin of the world look like? What does this sin of 100 billion people look like.
“Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” How does a lamb take away sin? By shedding its blood. The title of Lamb of God is not a title of distinction. It is a title of service; a title of sacrifice. Jesus is the one anointed by the Holy Spirit to be the sacrifice for the sin of the world. Jesus of Nazareth is the one chosen to shed His blood to cover the sins of the world. This man walking toward John the Baptist is anointed to be sacrificed on the altar of the cross to be the perfect, final offering. He is God in flesh. He is the Christ. Christ the victim, Christ the priest.
This one sentence of John the Baptist has so much in it. “Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Think of this verse when you see a crucifix; a depiction of Jesus Christ dying on the cross. “Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Think of this verse when you see the letter IHS on a cross which are the first three letters in Greek for Jesus. “Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Think of this verse as you look at the front stained glass and see God the Son represented as a lamb. “Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Think of this verse when you see a crucifix; a depiction of Jesus Christ dying on the cross. “Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
What an amazing verse. Enough here to chew on for a lifetime of meditation. This is a lot to ponder for a very long time.
Because just saying it doesn’t mean we understand it. Understanding it doesn’t mean we have full comprehension. How can we comprehend that kind of love?
Now, reading our Gospel lesson today, it seems like we have the story of Jesus pretty much wrapped up by the end of the first chapter in John. We can wonder how it is that the book of John needs to continue. The people already seem to have Jesus figured out. He is the Lamb of God, he is Son of God, he is Rabbi, He is Messiah, He is Christ. It seems that John the Baptist and the disciples already know all they need to know about Jesus. But even though they know these titles, they, like us, still have a lot to learn. We know that they don’t fully understand. We know the rest of the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection and ascension, and we don’t fully understand. But we do know that it is true. “Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” We all need to continue to bask in the love of God shown in sending Jesus to be the sacrificial Lamb.
We all need to continue to receive the gifts of God given through Jesus; His washing in Holy Baptism, His Word of forgiveness, His body and blood in Holy Communion. We live in love and forgiveness protected by the blood of the Lamb.
Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!