Text: Jn 1.29-34
For two thousand years people have come up with some creative answers to the question, "Who was Jesus?" Look around today and you'll find many different opinions. Some people think that Jesus wanted simply to be a teacher of morality. Some think that Jesus wanted to teach his own new ideas about God, and was put to death because those ideas didn't agree with the religious establishment of his day. Some think that Jesus was God's messenger, but nothing more. Some think that Jesus never even existed at all. Most people who look for answers to the question, "Who was Jesus?" spend so much time looking because they don't want to listen to the Bible's answer to that question. The Bible shows us that Jesus came to be much more than a religious teacher--he came to be our Savior and our sacrifice for sin. Jesus was much more than a simple prophet--he was God's own Son. In today's sermon text, through the words of John the Baptist, God Reveals His Son. Despite all the debate and wondering about Jesus' true identity, the Bible reveals that Jesus is God's Son. He takes away our sin, and he brings us forgiveness.
John the Baptist came to be a forerunner of Jesus. God sent John to prepare the way for Jesus to come as Prophet, Priest and King of Israel and all nations. John the Baptist baptized Jesus at the beginning of his ministry here on earth and in today's sermon text we see John the Baptist announce Jesus' mission during his time on earth. The words are familiar: "John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'"
In simple terms, John the Baptist expresses an eternal truth. Jesus came to be the Lamb of God. If you look at all the times the word "lamb" is used in the Bible, you find some interesting facts. In the Old Testament, most of the time the word "lamb" is used, it is used in connection with sacrifices. The Israelites used lambs during their Passover celebrations, to remember the day when God commanded them to use lamb's blood on their doorposts as a sign to protect their firstborn from the angel who brought death to the firstborn of all Egypt. After the Israelites came out of Egypt, God commanded them to offer lambs as sacrifices for sin.
The Israelites brought perfect lambs, without defect of any kind, and gave them as offerings which showed their need for God's forgiveness. God commanded the Israelites to be perfect and without any defect. He commanded them to obey him without fail, to be holy just like he is. The Israelites failed to obey that command. When you read the Bible, you see the Israelites disobey God many, many times. We don't do any better than they did. The Israelites failed to trust God and so do we: we often trust others or ourselves more than God, we make money or pleasure or possessions more important than anything else, even God. The Israelites' failures have been written in the Bible and have been public examples for thousands of years. But our own sins, even though they may be less visible than the Israelites' sins, make us just as guilty. Sin earns God's anger and punishment. Sin deserves death and punishment forever in hell. Every human being, including every one of us, deserves that punishment because everyone sins and disobeys God.
Yet God forgives sin. God commanded the Old Testament Israelites to sacrifice perfect lambs, to kill them on an altar and burn them up. To some, this must have seemed like a big waste. Why destroy a perfectly good animal--in fact, the best lamb, which would be worth the most money? Some people disobeyed God's command and brought imperfect lambs--sick lambs, blind or crippled lambs.
Yet God commanded the Israelites to sacrifice perfect lambs for a reason--to direct their faith toward the coming Messiah, the Savior from sin. God wanted the Israelites to see that their sin deserved death. To pay for their sins, an innocent, sinless and blameless human being would have to die as a sacrifice, just as those perfect lambs were sacrificed. Through those sacrifices, God pointed his people to Jesus.
In the Old Testament, most of the times the word "lamb" is used, it refers to sacrifices but in the New Testament, most of the times the word "lamb" is used, it refers to Jesus. Jesus' mission on this earth was clear to John the Baptist, who called Jesus "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." Jesus came to be our sacrifice and to take away our sin.
A lamb for sacrifice had to be perfect. The Savior of humanity had to be perfect too, sinless in every way. That was Jesus. Peter in his first letter calls Jesus "a lamb without blemish or defect." Jesus obeyed God's will perfectly, the way we were supposed to obey. John the evangelist wrote in his first letter, "in him is no sin."
John the Baptist called Jesus "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." In Old Testament times, many thousands of perfect lambs were sacrificed. They were a picture of the one sacrifice Jesus would make. God sent his own Son to be the sacrifice for all people. Jesus took our sins and guilt upon himself willingly and suffered our punishment. Isaiah writes, "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth." On a cross among criminals, forsaken by God, Jesus gave up his perfect life as a payment for the sins of all people. On the cross Jesus died for your sins, suffering God's punishment so you wouldn't have to.
One of my college professors once said that people will believe anything as long as it's not in the Bible. Human beings can dream up all kinds of different opinions about Jesus' death when they don't want to believe the Bible. To unbelievers, Jesus' death was useless, pointless. Even to many Christians, Jesus' death was an accident, a mistake, something which didn't need to happen. Yet the Bible tells us that Jesus' death did have a purpose. One of the Bible's best-known verses points it out clearly: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." When Jesus died, he paid for our sins. He took away our guilt. He earned God's forgiveness for us. As God's Son, Jesus brings us forgiveness.
When Jesus rose from the dead and came out of his grave, he showed us that God has forgiven our sins. Jesus himself bought that forgiveness for us, as Peter wrote, "you were redeemed...with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God." Jesus didn't just win God's forgiveness for you by his sacrifice, but he also brings God's forgiveness to you through the Holy Spirit.
John the Baptist said, "I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God." When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove. God had told John the Baptist in advance that the person to whom that happened would be the Savior. When John baptized Jesus, he saw the Holy Spirit come down and rest on Jesus. God showed him and all people that Jesus is the Savior, the one "who will baptize with the Holy Spirit."
Many people who don't understand baptism also misunderstand what it means that Jesus "will baptize with the Holy Spirit." Many think that baptism in water is only for adults who decide to believe in Jesus, and that another baptism may follow, a baptism with the Holy Spirit. This baptism with the Holy Spirit supposedly gives really good Christians miraculous abilities: power to heal sick people, ability to receive direct messages from God.
The Bible doesn't teach such fantasies. The Bible shows us that 10 days after Jesus returned to heaven, on the day of Pentecost, he sent that Holy Spirit he promised. The Holy Spirit taught Jesus' disciples what to say, so they could tell the good news of forgiveness to others.
Jesus brings forgiveness to us today through the Holy Spirit. Through the gospel message, through the Word of God, Jesus sends his Holy Spirit to human beings to work faith. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit in baptism to bring faith to the young. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit in the Lord's Supper to give us stronger faith. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit when we read his Word to teach us and help us grow in faith and knowledge. By sending us faith through his Holy Spirit, Jesus brings us the forgiveness he won for us on the cross. Jesus brings us the promise of eternal life, the promise that we will rise again from our graves when he returns and will live forever with him in heaven. In Revelation 5 John the evangelist describes the song of believers in heaven: "they sang: Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" In heaven we will praise the Lamb of God for taking away our sins and for bringing us forgiveness.
Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to us every day through faith to help us turn away from sin and say no to temptation, so we may live as Christians and show others our faith through our actions and words. Through the Holy Spirit's work, John the Baptist said in today's sermon text: "I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God." When one of John's disciples, Andrew, become a follower of Jesus he told his brother "We have found the Messiah (that is, the Christ)." That brother, Simon Peter, later confessed about Jesus, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Let your own life as a Christian be a confession of your faith in Jesus, because through Christian words and actions today, as well as through the words of John the Baptist 2000 years ago, God Reveals His Son, Jesus, who takes away our sins and who brings us forgiveness through the Holy Spirit.