Wednesday, January 22, 2014
The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world...
A strange line from the Gospel stuck out at me. John the Baptist says of Jesus "I myself did not know Him." What does this mean? What about when John jumped in Elizabeth's womb when a pregnant Mary came to visit? They cousins. Did Joseph and Mary not load up the family in the minivan and visit the relatives? What is John saying?
Jesus is about 30 when He comes to meet John in the waters of the Jordan River. But we know precious little about his life up to that point and the most details we know relate to the final week in His life. Jesus will only be known when and how He reveals Himself to us. We are consumed with chronology but God deals in the fullness of time, the moment ripe for His action. John knew Jesus but how John knew Jesus was forever altered when in the full of time God disclosed Jesus as His Son and the Messiah long promised. The fullness of Christ's identity was to remain hidden until in the fullness of time God revealed Him.
Reveal Him, John did. It was unmistakable. Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! You cannot get more obvious! Jesus is the spotless Lamb – the one without blemish or stain of sin but whose shoulders will bear the sin of the entire world. All the sacrificial lambs of old looked to this fullness of time and this Lamb for power to cleanse from sin. It is highly significant that Jesus is first revealed to us as the Son of God and the Lamb of God.
Jesus discloses Himself as none other than the promised Lamb of old. His is the sacrifice to which all previous sacrifices looked; they only have power because of Christ to come. Unlike the sacrificial lamb's of old, the people did not choose Him but He came of His own will, fulfilling His Father’s will, to suffer for our sins and die there on our behalf. He is the God who saves His people and Jesus is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.
Though tempted to think of sin as some preliminary matter to be disposed of, Jesus insists that it is this for which He is incarnate. Jesus came for sin, to wear it for us and bear it for us, that we might wear His righteousness and bear the baptismal mark of the people of God. No, Jesus is not come to be some sort of example of goodness for us to strive for, no role model for us to become. Jesus is come to do what only He can do and we cannot.
Jesus' is no inspirational story designed to draw out the good in us and lead us emulate Him. Jesus is not some prototype of what we can be if only we tried harder. No, Jesus is not come to shine the light on goodness but to expose sin to His Light, to suffer for sin, to die its death for us, and to be raised to draw us unto Himself. Jesus does not ask you to emulate Him but to believe in Him, not to do what He does but to receive what only He can give – by faith.
In ancient times the people offered the sin offering but not now. Jesus offers Himself to death for us and our salvation. He is not a shining example of goodness but the sin-bearer for all. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is not some motivational coach to help us discern the wise path to success. No, He is now here to draw out our good side. He is here to wear our sin and die in our place. His calling is not to showcase His virtues but carry the terrible burden of our sin.
This Jesus is better than John could have ever imagined. While John might have expected somebody good to follow, instead he got the Son of God. John points to Him whose revelation finds the chronological time transect the fullness of time, by God’s plan.
So John sends His reluctant disciples to Jesus because there is no other who does the work of the Kingdom, no one whose Word fulfills the promise of the prophets. They remained hesitant but John is adamant. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and Jesus is the Son of God in human flesh. These two truths only God can reveal.
God has not forgotten us. God will not turn away from us and our sin forever. The promise given has become the promise kept. The sins that once killed us have been have in turn been killed and the Light of Christ now shines and darkness cannot overcome it. Not then, not now, and not ever! The Lord has seen the suffering of His people and intervened by grace.
The question facing is simple – where do you find this Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? Is He a creation of your own imagination? No, I will tell you where the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world reall is – He is there hidden in the fullness of time, living for the ripe moment of our own redemptive grace. So John tells us what He saw when His prophetic heart ran out of ink and was forced to write in blood. Responding, the Church proclaims blessed is He and the Church still points to where this Christ is – in the cup, on the Table the Church still screams: Blessed is He comes in the Name of the Lord. Amen.