Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, January 19, 2020
See the Lamb - January 19, 2020 - Second Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: John 1:29-42
Last week we were witnesses of Jesus’ Baptism and we were reminded of our own Baptism and the fact that at our Baptism we were claimed, or chosen by God, that He put His name on us, that He gave us forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. This week we shift from Matthew’s Gospel to John’s Gospel where today we are given the gift from the Lord of His Word which reminds us that Jesus is the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” These words bring to mind several images, such as the nice image of a pure white, cute little cuddly lamb, but also the contrasting image of a lamb ready to be sacrificed, ready to have its blood spilled for the forgiveness of sins. John’s words are very specific. He does not say, “Behold the symbol of the Lamb of God.” John says, “Behold the Lamb of God.” And John is specific about His purpose, “to take away the sin of the world.”
Our text begins on the next day, that is, the day after the events of the previous verses. We read beginning at verse twenty-nine (v. 29-34), “29The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.” 31I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ 32And John bore witness: ‘I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” 34And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.’”
Let us look at several points that John makes. We have already begun talking about John’s words that tell us that Jesus is the Lamb of God. The people of John’s day understood full well what it meant to be a lamb. They raised lambs in order to use the wool to make clothing. They raised lambs in order to have meat to eat. And they also used them for sacrifices in the temple. The children of Israel understood, and we today understand, that this sacrifice of a lamb was not and did not bring forgiveness. All these Old Testament sacrifices were merely to remind the people and us that the price for our sins, that what our sins cost is death. Blood had to be shed. I suppose that none of us really ever thinks about that fact when we are in the middle of our sinning. I know I do not. Think about it, how often are you in the middle of sinning and you stop and think, “you know, God is watching me and Jesus blood had to be shed because of what I am doing.” We just do not think in those terms. For the children of Israel, there was this ever present reminder, the daily sacrifices in the temple, that the price for sin is death, even eternal death, hell, that blood had to be shed. So, for Jesus, to be the lamb of God meant that Jesus was the lamb that God sent to be sacrificed for the sins of the whole world. As we remember that the price for sin is death, human death for human sin, then we are better able to understand that Jesus had to be truly human. Thus, the difference between all the other lamb sacrifices in the temple and the sacrifice of Jesus, the lamb of God, is that all the other lamb sacrifices were merely images of the ultimate sacrifice of the lamb of God. In other words, all the other sacrificial lambs meant nothing, they merely pointed to the one ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, the only Son of God, the lamb of God.
About this lamb of God, John says, “After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.” John’s words indicate to us that Jesus is true God along with His being true man, and being the lamb of God. Jesus was born on this earth as a true man about six months after John was born on this earth, thus in this way John was before Jesus. At the same time John knew that Jesus was true God, being before John, being at the beginning of time, being at the creation of the world, with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
John confesses, “I myself did not know Him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” John’s confession is interesting, especially when we compare it to Peter’s confession. Remember Peter’s confession? When Jesus asked the disciples, “who do you say that I am.” Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:16). And Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (Matt. 16:17). Peter’s confession as well as John’s confession were not confessions of flesh and blood, but were revelations of the Holy Spirit.
About Jesus, John says, He will baptize with the Holy Spirit. The ultimate baptism of the Holy Spirit we know was on Pentecost. Personally, each one of us, at our own baptism, received the Holy Spirit. John’s words remind us that the work of the Holy Spirit is a work that is a part of the working of the means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments. Another way of saying that is, that outside the means of Grace, outside the Word, the Bible, and outside the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, there is no receiving of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to us by the means that Jesus gives Him, through the means of Grace.
Just in case you missed it, in our text, John tells his disciples and us clearly that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the one who has come to save the world and He will save the world by the sacrifice of His life for us and for our forgiveness.
Continuing on in our text we come to the next day, two days after the events of the previous verses. We pick up at verse thirty-five (v. 35-42), “35The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ 37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’ And they said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ 39He said to them, ‘Come and you will see.’ So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). 42He brought him to Jesus.”
John says it again, Jesus is “the Lamb of God.” John came for the very purpose of preparing the way for Jesus. John came to point out the Savior of the world. John came to make sure that the children of Israel did not miss Jesus, which, as we can see, too many did, but he came also so that we did not miss Him. John came to point us to, to show us that Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the lamb of God who was sent to be sacrificed for the sins of the whole world, and for our sins, your sins and my sins in particular.
Interestingly enough, as John continued to point Jesus out to his disciples, they began to follow Jesus. This is what John desired as he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John knew that he was not born for his own self promotion, rather he came to prepare the way and to point to the Christ, the lamb of God, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. For John, to have his disciples leave to follow Jesus was a mission accomplished.
As these two disciples approached Jesus they came with a question, “Where are you staying?” The deeper question or the question behind the question really was, “Who are you?” “Are you the Lamb of God, the Christ, the Messiah, as John has been telling us?” These disciples had been following John, they knew what John had been telling them, but they wanted to know for themselves if this was really true. What better way to find out the answer than by hanging around Him for a while.
Jesus response to these two disciples was, “Come and see.” The deeper answer to their question was, “Come and see that I am the Lamb of God.” Jesus came not to promote Himself by His words, but to let His actions, His signs and wonders show Him to be who He was, the Son of God. Jesus knew that if these disciples of John came with Him, spent some time with Him, and saw the things that He did, the signs that He performed, the healing and wonders that He did, they would know that He is the Christ, the Messiah, the promised one of old, just as John had been saying.
We are told that one of the disciples was Andrew, but we are not told the name of the other. We know it was the Gospel writer John, because he never mentions his name. After coming and seeing that Jesus is who John the Baptist says He is, Andrew goes to find his brother Peter. Andrew tells him, “we have found the Messiah.”
Andrew brings Peter to Jesus. Our text ends at this point, but the story continues. Our story continues on the next day, that next day being today. Today, we continue to sin, and sin boldly. We daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. Jesus comes to us through the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments. As we read our Bibles, as we attend divine service and Bible class, as we have family and private devotions, as we confess our sins and hear God’s words of absolution, as we remember our Baptism, as we attend and partake of the Lord’s body and blood in His Holy Supper, the Holy Spirit comes to us through these means to forgive our sins, to strengthen us and to preserve us in our faith.
Today Jesus shows Himself as the Lamb of God. As we hear the Word of the Lord read to us, as we read the Word of the Lord for ourselves, we actually see that Jesus is the Lamb of God. We see that as the Lamb of God, He was sacrificed once for all, for our sins. Jesus was crucified on the cross for the sins of the whole world, but more than that, He was crucified for my sins and yours. Blood was shed. Jesus’ blood was shed. Jesus died for each one of us, for you and for me, personally.
Today the Holy Spirit works our confession in us. Just as John confessed that Jesus was the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” And just as Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:16). So too, we confess that Jesus is the Lamb of God, the Son of the Living God, the Savior of the world and our own personal Savior. We make this confession, not because we are able to make this confession on our own, but because this has been revealed to us by the Father in heaven. John’s confession, Peter’s confession, and our confession are not confessions of flesh and blood, but are confessions of revelation of the Holy Spirit.
Today, just as Andrew responded to the knowledge of Jesus as the Messiah, so we respond as we go out and find our brothers and sisters and tell them the good news, that Jesus is the Christ, the lamb of God, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. And we respond by telling them that Christ has found us.
Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Listen to Him. To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.