By Gregg Bing
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
While the ministry of John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Lord Jesus Christ, was specifically directed toward the nation of Israel, his admonition to “Behold! The Lamb of God,” is one that we still should heed today, during this age of grace.
The word “behold” means “to look at, to see with the eyes,” but it means much more. It also carries the idea of “turning your eyes toward” something, to “pay attention to.” It means to see and perceive something with a clear and pure vision. Thus, it means to get to know, even to cherish something. Let’s consider four truths about the Lamb of God we need to “Behold.”
A Special Lamb
Why is Jesus referred to as a lamb? The lamb reminds us of the Old Testament sacrifices and offerings for sin, particularly the Passover lamb (Exo. 12:3). The lamb reminds us of God’s required payment for sin, which is death (Rom. 6:23); the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22). The animal sacrifices of the Old Testament were provided to atone for (or cover) the sins of the people, but these sacrifices could never take away sins.
“But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” (Heb. 10:3-4)
In Genesis 22, we read the story of God’s testing of Abraham in asking him to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. As they travelled up the mountain, Isaac asked his father, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham’s response was, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” This is exactly what God did for us; He provided the Lamb for Himself, a very special Lamb—His only begotten Son! This is why John referred to Him as the Lamb of God.
A Sinless Lamb
When Moses gave the children of Israel instructions for the first Passover observance in Egypt, he specified that the lambs to be sacrificed must be “without blemish” (Exo. 12:5). These lambs pictured the Lamb that God would one day provide for Himself—the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1 Pet. 1:18-19)
The redemption price paid to free us from our sins was the “precious blood of Christ,” the Lamb of God who was “without blemish and without spot.” The Lord Jesus Christ was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). He was the sinless Son of God, who alone was able to pay the penalty for our sins. This is why His blood is called “precious,” for it was of great price; of great value. It was precious to God because it was the blood of His own dear Son. It was precious to us because, unlike the blood of the sacrificial lambs of the Old Testament, Jesus’ blood was sufficient to pay for our sins completely and thus take them away.
A Silent Lamb
Isaiah 53 prophesies that the Christ would suffer and die for our sins. In verse 7 of this chapter, it says of the Lord Jesus, “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” When Jesus stood before Pilate, the Roman procurator, the Jewish leaders accused Him of many things, but “He answered nothing.” Pilate questioned Him about His silence, but Jesus would not respond.
Why would Jesus remain silent, seeing that Pilate seemed determined to let Him go? Jesus knew that He must die. It was God’s determined will (Acts 2:23). Certainly Jesus knew how terrible His sufferings would be. When He made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, He declared, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27).
“Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—In the volume of the book it is written of Me—To do Your will, O God.’ … By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb. 10:5-7,10)
Jesus stood as a silent Lamb before Pilate, for He came into the world to do His Father’s will. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the will of the Father, “to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-8). He willingly offered up Himself to God for us (Heb. 7:26-28).
A Sacrificial Lamb
When John the Baptist told Israel to “Behold! the Lamb of God,” he went on to say “who takes away the sin of the world.” There are two aspects to the meaning of the expression “takes away.” The first meaning is “to take up, to bear, to take upon one’s self.” In the Old Testament, when people brought their animal sacrifices to the Lord, they would lay their hands on the head of the animal, signifying that their sins were placed upon the animal for it to bear in their place (Lev. 1:4; Lev. 16:21). This is what the Lord Jesus did for us on the cross of Calvary.
“Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” (1 Pet. 2:24)
The second aspect of the expression “take away” is that once something is “taken up, to bear,” it is then “taken way or removed.” The Old Testament animal sacrifices could never “take away” or remove sins completely (Heb. 10:4). But, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, appeared once, at the end of the ages, “to put away sins by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26).
Whose sins did He take away? The sins of the world (1 John 2:1-2, John 3:16). Jesus Christ took all the sins of the whole world upon Himself and died for them all. When He cried out from the cross, “It is finished!” He was, in effect, saying that the debt for those sins was: “PAID IN FULL!”
This is why the offer of John 3:16 says that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” If you have never trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, then I ask you, as John did Israel, to “Behold! The Lamb of God.” Turn your eyes and your attention upon Him and what He did for you on the cross of Calvary (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Let the Word of God speak to your heart that you may see and know Him. Trust in Him as your Savior today that you may not perish, but have the gift of eternal life.