Meditating on Great Themes in John: 2. Revealing the Lamb
John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Moving away from the prologue John the writer picks up the thread of John the Baptist that was there in verses 5 to 8 of the Prologue but before he moves fully into John’s testimony he gives us a summary in verses 15 to 18, first of how John proclaimed Jesus (v.15) and then in his own words how Jesus has brought grace and blessing to us (v.16). The Law had come through Moses but Jesus brought grace and truth (v.17). That’s the third time he has mentioned grace and the second time he has mentioned truth in just a few verses. Another way of putting that? All of God’s goodness and reality. Finally, Jesus is the only one to have seen God and now he’s at his Father’s right hand (v.18) There is enough in those few verses for a few meditations but we are simply seeking the big themes here so we will move on.
Verses 19 to 35 show us John the Baptist’s testimony. First of all it is negative – he is NOT the expected one. Some think John the writer is including this in this way to counter those who had created a cult of following John as the Messiah. John the writer’s aim here is to steer us through John’s testimony to Jesus. John had spoken about the coming one who was already there (v.26,27), but suddenly we get the first of a number of testimonies or declarations about Jesus that fill the remainder of this first chapter. He sees Jesus coming the first time and declares, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (v.29) He links this statement with all he has said before about the coming one – this is he, this Lamb of God (v.30).
He then testifies how he saw the Spirit come down on Jesus (v.32) and explains how God had warned him to watch for this to happen, for this would be the sign that this was the one he had been speaking about (v.33). But now he has seen this and he makes this amazing testimony, “I testify that this is the Son of God.” (v.34) Whether he fully understands what this means in reality or not we don’t know but he testifies in this way.
But then the next day John sees Jesus passing by and again heralds him, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (v.36) and with that John fades out of the picture for the time being at least. But consider what John has said about Jesus:
- He, John, is not the Messiah.
- The Messiah is coming and He will baptize people in the power of the Spirit
- He heralds Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world
- He testifies to seeing the Holy Spirit come down on Jesus
- He declares him to be the Son of God
- And a second time he heralds him as the Lamb of God.
John the writer has painted that amazing picture of the Word who was God who had now come to earth but has now turned up the magnification, so to speak, to show how this man, the Word, first came into the public eye through the ministry of John the Baptist. He moves from Greek philosophical concepts to Hebrew historical language – Messiah – Lamb of God. He doesn’t explain these concepts, he simply introduces them via the means of the narrative of what happened. Jesus has said and done nothing yet but be baptized and heralded by John. We know nothing of him so far beyond what the two Johns have said; first the writer John through his lofty language of the Prologue, and then through the Baptist as part of his ministry of revealing him.
Within what John the Baptist says of him, the twofold work of Jesus is merely hinted at. He will take away our sin and he will baptize us in the Holy Spirit. They are mentioned in that order and indeed the reference to being baptized in the Spirit is sandwiched, so to speak between two declarations about Jesus being the Lamb of God. The truth is, of course, that we are only saved and can have a conversion experience because Jesus has died for us, and then we receive the Holy Spirit to empower us and enable us to have transformed lives,, but all the way through life we still have to rely upon the finished work of Christ on the Cross.
The picture of the sacrificial lamb comes, of course, from the Passover (see Ex 12) where the blood of a perfect lamb was shed so that the destroying angel would pass-over the homes of the Israelites and they would be saved when he saw the blood and passed them by. The apostle Paul understood this when he wrote, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Cor 5:7) Likewise the apostle Peter: “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.” (1 Pet 1:18,19)
The pinnacle of this comes in Revelation before the throne of God: “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne…. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb….. And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Rev 5:6-9) There is no question that the Lamb is Jesus and in the chapters that follow it is ‘the Lamb’ who is mentioned again and again as the one who undoes the seals on the end time scroll.
So, from the great description of Jesus as the word, the light bringing life, John quickly moves us to the key reason for the coming of Jesus, the Son of God, to give his life as a sacrifice for sin, to take the punishment due to us. It is there from the word go in this first chapter – he is God, he has come in the form of a man and he has come to offer his life as a sacrifice for sin to win us back. Hallelujah!