Calvary Road Baptist Church

“BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD”

John 1.19-36

 

John the Baptist’s prophetic ministry had lasted about six months before he was beheaded. During his brief ministry, he was thought by many to be the Old Testament prophet Elijah because of the content of his preaching, because of the roughness of his lifestyle, and because of the prophet Malachi’s prediction that Elijah would return before Messiah’s coming.[1] Because his ministry was conducted in Bethabara on the East side of the Jordan River across from Jericho, where he baptized his converts and where streams of travelers to and from Jerusalem passed by, he always had an interested audience of listeners. Religious leaders in Jerusalem eventually became aware of him and sent a delegation to investigate. By the time the Jerusalem delegation arrived on the scene the Lord Jesus Christ had already been baptized by John, He had already returned from forty days in the wilderness and His temptations by the Devil, and He was among those who comprised John the Baptist’s audience when both the Jerusalem delegation and at least four of the Savior’s future apostles were in attendance.

My text for today is John 1.19-36. When you arrive at that passage, I invite you to stand with me to read along silently while I read aloud:

 

19    And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?

20    And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

21    And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.

22    Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?

23    He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

24    And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.

25    And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?

26    John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;

27    He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.

28    These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.

29    The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

30    This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.

31    And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.

32    And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.

33    And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

34    And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

35    Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;

36    And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!

 

This account recorded by the Apostle John covers important events over three days. The Jerusalem delegation arrived to question the Baptist and inquire who he was, verse 19. He denied he was the Messiah, verse 20. He also denied he was Elijah or the prophet predicted in Deuteronomy 18.15 and 18. When the Jerusalem delegation asked him why he baptized if he was not the Messiah, Elijah, or the prophet predicted in Deuteronomy, his answer is most interesting. John 1.26 reads,

 

“John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not.”

 

Recently returned from His temptations in the wilderness, the Lord Jesus Christ was standing nearby as the Baptist spoke of Him to the Pharisees sent from Jerusalem. We now read John 1.29, and then skip down to verse 34:

 

“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

 

“And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.”

 

Now look at verses 35-36:

 

35    Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;

36    And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!

 

We can only speculate about most of what happened over the course of those three days, whether John the Baptist and his cousin from Nazareth met and spoke to each other, or whether they saw each other from a distance but did not approach. But we do know three things for sure: First, they were in close proximity to each other over a span of three days. Second, John the Baptist clearly announced to his audience that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. Third, John the Baptist twice identified Him with the words “Behold the Lamb of God.”

At the very beginning of the Lord Jesus Christ’s public ministry, the man sent from God whose name was John emphasized one thing more than another thing. He emphasized that Jesus Christ was the Lamb of God more than he emphasized that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. This is not to say that the one was a more important reality than the other, but that it was at that time more important to declare Jesus Christ to be the Lamb of God than it was to declare Him to be the Son of God. Those of us familiar with the Bible and Christian truth recognize that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He is the eternal Son of God, meaning that His relationship with God the Father has always been an eternal relationship of Father to Son. Important to grasp, however, is that the public ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, begun in earnest after His baptism in the Jordan River and His temptation in the wilderness, was launched with the two declarations, “Behold the Lamb of God.”

Allow me to expand on this declaration by a Jewish prophet known to us as John the Baptist under five headings:

 

First, THE LAMB OF GOD HEARKENS BACK TO ABRAHAM AND ISAAC

 

Of course, Abram was called by God to the Promised Land from Ur of the Chaldees, was the first Hebrew, was the friend of God, was given by God an unconditional covenant referred to by theologians as the Abrahamic Covenant and was the father of the second of Israel’s patriarchs, Isaac. Though he came to the Promised Land by faith, Hebrews 11.8, Abram did not have saving faith for about ten years, when he believed in the LORD, and it was counted to him for righteousness, Genesis 15.6, following his rescue of his nephew Lot and the LORD’s promise to him of an heir. That heir, of course, was Isaac, the only son of his wife, Sarah.

After 15-20 years the LORD then tested Abraham’s faith by commanding him to offer up his son, his only son, Isaac. On their third day of travel to the place of sacrifice,

 

“Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together,” Genesis 22.6.

 

Genesis 22.7-8:

 

7      And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

8      And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.

 

God did precisely that, sparing Isaac’s life with a substitute to sacrifice to God. When John the Baptist cried, “Behold the Lamb of God,” many in his mostly Jewish audience would think of God’s provision of a lamb to substitute for Abraham’s son Isaac.

 

Next, THE LAMB OF GOD HEARKENS BACK TO MOSES AND THE PASSOVER

 

Roughly four centuries after Abraham’s faith was tested on Mount Moriah, and after the Jewish people had been in Egypt for a long time, God dispatched Moses to deliver the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery by means of ten plagues directed against false Egyptian gods and ending with what is spoken of as the Passover. The Egyptians had attempted to curtail the population growth among the Israelites by murdering their infant sons. However, God had other plans, and one of those targeted for assassination was rescued, raised as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter, educated in the household of Pharaoh, after which time he spent forty years as a shepherd in the Midian desert. His name was Moses.

Moses came upon the burning bush that was not consumed by the fire one day, where the eternal I AM spoke to him, called him, and then him sent back to Egypt to redeem his people. There was a great conflict between the true God and the false gods of Egypt energized by the Devil and his demons. Each time God sent a plague an Egyptian god was shown to be powerless. In the end, because the Egyptians had murdered Jewish baby boys eighty years earlier, God would send His death angel to slay all the first-born of Egypt. Moses instructed the children of Israel to slay a lamb, apply its blood to the door posts and lintels of their homes, and roast and eat the lamb. When the death angel came that night, he would pass over those houses where he saw the blood. Following that plague, the Jewish exodus from Egypt began. The Passover is commemorated by observant Jewish every year to remember that great deliverance by God.[2]

When John the Baptist cried, “Behold the Lamb of God,” many in his mostly Jewish audience would think of God’s provision of a lamb for each household and the Passover to redeem the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery.

 

Third, THE LAMB OF GOD HEARKENS BACK TO THE LAW AND ATONEMENT FOR SIN

 

After the Passover and the crossing of the Red Sea, the children of Israel were brought to Mount Sinai for a year. During that year, God gave to Moses the Law, the two tables on which the Ten Commandments were written. The design of the Tabernacle and its furniture were also given, and the mercy seat, the ark of the covenant, the table of shewbread, the altar of incense, the golden lamp stand, and the brazen laver were fashioned. Morning and evening sacrifices were instituted whereby offering for the people were made, and all during the day individuals brought sacrifices to atone for their sins. Some sacrifices were sin offerings. Other sacrifices were trespass offerings. And while a variety of animals could be offered to atone for sins, the animal most frequently offered in compliance with the Law of Moses was the sacrifice of an innocent lamb without spot or blemish.

Why the sacrifice of animals, more frequently the lamb? Because God is holy and hates the sins of His people, whether they are committed accidentally or intentionally. So He could be approached and worshiped He devised a plan whereby the blood of an innocent substitute was shed and properly applied to atone, which is to say cover, the sins and temporarily hide those sins from His sight. Once a year on the Day of Atonement the high priest would enter the holy of holies and make atonement for the entire nation for one year.

Thus, when John the Baptist cried, “Behold the Lamb of God,” many in his mostly Jewish audience would think of God’s provision of a lamb for sacrifice to make an atonement for sin. Indeed, though I am not Jewish and was not raised in a religious home by any means, my immediate understanding when confronted with John the Baptist’s description of Jesus Christ using this phrase as a lost man was that He came to die for sins. And indeed, He did.

 

Fourth, THE LAMB OF GOD HEARKENS BACK TO THE ISAIAH PROPHECY

 

It is not at all unusual for Orthodox Jewish families to read through the Hebrew Old Testament as a family, with the observant father commenting on passages as they are read. Neither is it unusual for most Orthodox Jewish families to completely skip over Isaiah 52.13 through Isaiah 53.12. Why so? Because that passage is the most explicit prediction of the substitutionary death of the Jewish Messiah found anywhere in the Hebrew text, the same Messiah those Jewish people deny, Jesus of Nazareth. Deep within that astonishing prediction by Isaiah, some seven centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem and His rearing in Nazareth, is a particularly pointed description of Him. I read from Isaiah 53.7:

 

“he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”

 

I wish we had the time to read the entire prediction. I urge you to read it for yourself, you husbands should read it to your wives, and you parents should read it to your children when you get home. It is only fifteen verses long, but is an awesome description of the Lord Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. When John the Baptist cried, “Behold the Lamb of God,” many if not all in his mostly Jewish audience would think of Isaiah’s prediction of one described as a lamb led to slaughter whose soul the LORD would make an offering for sin.

 

Finally, THE LAMB OF GOD PROCLAIMS THE SAVIOR’S SUBSTITUTIONARY SACRIFICE

 

We have seen how identifying the Lord Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God would produce a predictable effect in the minds of a Jewish audience, especially a Jewish audience that experts tell us was an audience that longed for and greatly anticipated the arrival on the scene of the Jewish Messiah they had waited for so long. Jewish listeners knew what lambs were for with respect to one’s dealings with the holy God of Israel. Sin separates condemns, defiles, corrupts, corrodes, and destroys. Lambs were useful for atonement, that temporary covering of sins so one can worship and serve God. This One spoken of by the Baptist, pointed out by the Baptist, revealed by the Baptist, had to be something of a substitute, had to be something of a remedy for sin, had to be something related to redemption, and had to be the One spoken of and predicted by the great prophet Isaiah.

However, the Lamb of God John wanted his audience to behold was not one to merely atone for sin. He would do so much more than merely cover sin, which is what atonement means. Recall, if you will, what the Baptist said the first time he identified Him to his audience, in John 1.29:

 

“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

 

My friends, someone who takes sins away is someone who does so much more than atone for sins, who does so much more than merely hide sins from sight for a while. To take sins away is the result of washing them clean away, the result of completely remitting them. With atonement, there is the memory of sin and the need to deal with it once more. With remission, however, the sins are clean gone away and forgotten. No wonder the writer to the Hebrews twice writes, in Hebrews 8.12,

 

“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more,”

 

and in Hebrews 10.17,

 

“And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”

 

And why, pray tell? Hebrews 10.18:

 

“Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.”

 

Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, does not atone for sins. He remits sins. He washes sins away. That is why, after the remission of sins by the blood of Christ, there is no more offering for sin.

 

I find it astonishing that the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ had such difficulty accepting their Lord’s sacrifice for sins. It was so hard for them to accept what He told them, despite the fact that we can be certain that James and John and Peter and Andrew, who had previously been John the Baptist’s disciples and without doubt were aware of these words said about their Savior, knew from the beginning that Jesus of Nazareth was the Lamb of God, and what lambs were for.

Difficult as it is to accept, it is nevertheless true. Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God. As such He came to die. He was born of the Virgin Mary to die for our sins. He lived and walked among men so that He might die for our sins on Calvary’s cross at just the right time and in just the right way. Thus, it is no accident He was crucified. It was no mistake on His part or God’s part that His life was forfeit. His substitutionary sacrifice was seen in type with Abraham and Isaac, was seen in type in the Passover, and was seen in type in the sacrifices called for by the Law of Moses. The fulfillment of the type was predicted by the prophet Isaiah and was anticipated by the last and the greatest of the prophets, John the Baptist.

My friends, the Lord Jesus Christ came and did what He planned to do, came and did what He prepared to do, and came and did what He purposed to do. He shed His blood for the remission of sins. For you to receive the benefit of His doing and dying, you must turn from your sins and trust Him. You must rely upon Him to do for you what you cannot do for yourself, wash your sins away. Regardless of what you have, if you do not have Jesus Christ you have nothing. Regardless of what you do not have, if you have Jesus Christ you have everything. Consider the claims of Jesus Christ this morning. Consider what the Bible reveals about Him, what Isaiah predicted about Him, and what His cousin John the Baptist declared about Him. However, I urge you to do more than consider Him. I urge you to cast yourself upon Him, to trust Him, to believe in Him to the saving of your eternal and undying soul.

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[1] Malachi 4.5

[2] Exodus 12.3-23

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org