Have you ever had that “a-ha moment,” that moment where everything just seems to click and you get it? If you’re like me, those moments are few and far between. When they happen, it’s like a great epiphany, that now all of a sudden, everything is crystal-clear. For John the Baptist, he has such an “a-ha moment” today in our text.
Just preceding our text for today, John is questioned regarding baptizing people if he is not “the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet.” Of course, the ones asking the question were the Pharisees. They were, in fact, the holy ones of the day. If any person could be called holy, surely it must be a Pharisee. They didn’t seem to be opposed to baptizing, but wondered if John had the authority to do it. In reply, John again turned the spotlight away from himself and onto Christ. He says, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
John could not have been more right when he said, “one you do not know.” The Pharisees didn’t care to know who Jesus was. Why would they want to know Jesus? They did all that they could throughout Jesus’ ministry to discredit Him, to trap Him, to prove Him wrong. Yet the very promised Messiah stood before the Pharisees and they did not know Him because of their blind ignorance.
The following day, John sees Jesus coming to Him. While that isn’t too out of the ordinary, it’s what John says that sets the stage for everything that Jesus does: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” What a bold statement to make on John’s part! Jesus is that Lamb of God who came to give Himself as the sacrifice to win forgiveness for a sinful world. He is the Passover Lamb whose blood saves us from death. He is the Lamb of the daily offering, the burnt offering, the fellowship offering. He is the sin offering through which we receive forgiveness.
Jesus lived in the flesh without sin, “a lamb without blemish or spot,” thus fulfilling God’s Law in our stead. How does He do this? He does this through His bloody sacrifice on the cross. There, the Lamb of God, who came from God and who was God, satisfied God’s wrath against the sin of the world, against your sin. This is done to fulfill all righteousness, to fulfill God’s plan of salvation for the sinner.
What insight John had! However, the Pharisees of the day did not have that insight. Many people of the day did not have that insight, comparing Jesus to Moses, Elijah or a prophet. And still many today do not have that insight that John had, looking to Christ as nothing more than a moral example to follow, but definitely not the Son of God.
John goes on to further state whom Jesus is, by recounting what He saw at Jesus’ Baptism. He says, “And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” Up until now, no one has made that claim except one person: God the Father at Jesus’ Baptism. Not even Jesus Himself has made that claim. So how is John able to make such a claim? John can make such a claim because He was in the presence of the Trinity at Jesus’ Baptism. He saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus. He heard the voice of the Father declare that Jesus is His beloved Son.
Let us stop and think about what it means that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This means that the Lamb takes the load, the curse, the damnation of the total massive amount of sin onto himself. He lifts the awful burden from us and carries it to the cross. There our sin is crucified with the Lamb. There our sin is put to death. This one act of lifting and carrying away our sin is good for all time.
When John said these words, he considered the taking away to already be a done deal. The forgiveness of sins that comes as a result of the Lamb’s sacrifice was already available to all. All the saints of the Old Testament received salvation because this Lamb’s sacrifice is good for all time and all places and all people. God’s promise is as if John had already heard Jesus declare his victory from the cross with the words, “It is finished.”
Jesus is the Savior, and the Savior is the Lamb of God. The Lamb is destined to suffer and die. Who’s going to follow a Savior like that? By faith, John’s disciples do. Trusting in the Word of the Lord proclaimed by John, they are willing to abandon all and follow Him. They don’t keep it to themselves, either: right away, Andrew is telling Peter. It doesn’t seem to make sense: They follow a Savior who will never amount to much in worldly terms, a King who will never gather an army to fight and conquer. They’ll put their trust in the Son of God who will allow Himself to be arrested, beaten, spat upon and killed. And after He is risen, what will happen to His disciples? They’ll tell others of Jesus, and they too will be arrested, beaten, spat upon and killed. Not real attractive to the world.
But that is how Jesus saves. He doesn’t save through worldly means, but with His shed blood on the cross. The only way to make peace between God and man is for Jesus to sacrifice Himself. And so He does what is required of you and I. He does what is necessary and He goes to do what only He can – He gives Himself as a sacrifice. He is the perfect Lamb who goes to slaughter.
So Jesus has forgiveness for you, which leads us to the second thing for us to address: rejoice! The Lord is present with you to give you forgiveness! No one at the Jordan recognized Jesus until John the Baptist pointed Him out. When John’s disciples heard the Word about the Lamb of God, though, they believed it. Thus, they went to Jesus, came into His presence, to hear more and be strengthened in that faith.
The same has happened to you. You cannot see your Savior in remarkable glory, but you have heard the Word; you have heard your Savior take bread and say, “This is My body, given for you.” You have heard Him take the cup and say, “This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
All of this was done for you, with you in mind. We are able to echo the words of Andrew, “We have found the Messiah.” We have found Him doing what he John says He will: taking away the sins of the world. The Son of God is with us to give us life, both now and forever. Behold. The Lamb of God declares to you that you are forgiven for all of your sins. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.