************ Sermon on John 1:29 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 14, 2021
"The Lamb of God"
Verses 19-37 looks at three consecutive days in the ministry of John the Baptist "at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan where [he] was baptizing" (Jn 1:28). Day one starts in verse 19; day two in verse 29; day three in verse 35.
Each day a different testimony is made about the Messiah. On day one John the Baptist says, "Not me but He is here." On day two John the Baptist says, "Look at Him." On day three John the Baptist says, "Follow Him." Three days, three testimonies.
And, John the Baptist makes each testimony to a different group. On day one it is made to hostile representatives of the Jews in Jerusalem. On day two it is made to a crowd of people. On day three it is made to two of John's own disciples. Three days, three testimonies, three groups.
A John the Baptist. Day two. The second testimony. To the crowds that were there. It begins with "Look."
John 1:29 (NIV84) — 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look"Look. Behold." John is saying, "Focus on Jesus. Look to Him."
Do you know what John the Baptist is doing? He points away from himself and to Christ. It starts already with day one. The priests and Levites representing Jerusalem asked John, "Who are you?" (Jn 1:21). Now, they were in his face when they asked this. So the real question was, "Who do you think you are that you are doing all these baptisms? Are you the Christ? Are you Elijah? Are you the Prophet?" Their reasoning is that the Christ, Elijah, and the Prophet have the authority to baptize but John the Baptist doesn't have this authority. The priests and Levites are wrong about John. Did you notice what John mentions in verse 33: "the one who sent me to baptize with water"? John was sent to baptize. He was sent by God to baptize. As such, John did have authority to baptize -- authority from God.
"Who are you?" "Are you the Christ? Are you Elijah? Are you the Prophet?" "No," said John. "Who are you?" Are you ready for John's answer? "I am the voice ..." That's how John the Baptist describes himself. Nothing but a voice.
John 1:23 (NIV84) — 23 “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ”I am nothing but a voice that tells people to get ready for Christ. John points people away from himself and to Christ.
B This is not the only time John the Baptist does this. For instance, there is the delightful statement in chapter 3; John the Baptist says about Jesus, "He must become greater; I must become less" (Jn 3:30). And look at verse 30 in our Bible reading:
John 1:30 (NIV84) — 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ (Cf Jn 1:15)
Jesus is so much greater than John that John says he is not even worthy to untie Jesus' sandals and wash Jesus' feet (Jn 1:27).
Look. Look to Jesus. Don't look at John. Because John is simply a voice; because John is nothing next to Jesus.
On this Lord's Supper Sunday I say, "Look. Behold." Look to Jesus. Don't look at John. Don't look at Adrian Dieleman. Don't look at Joel Weaver. Don't look at the elders and deacons. Don't look at the organist or the ushers. "Look. Look at Him. Behold."
II The Lamb of God
A "Look, behold, the Lamb of God ..."
What a shocking thing to say about the Messiah. "Look. Behold. Look at Him. He is the Lamb of God." That's not what the crowd expected to hear. They expected John to say, "Behold, the King." "Behold, the Anointed One." "Behold, the Exalted One." "Behold, the Ruler." But John says, "Behold, the Lamb of God."
The Messiah is a Lamb? How can that be? Is that even possible? A lamb is so weak, helpless, dumb, powerless, feeble. What do you mean the Messiah is a Lamb?
The crowd wanted a triumphant king, they got a Lamb. They wanted a mighty prophet, they got a Lamb. They wanted Elijah, they got a Lamb. They wanted the exalted Christ, they got a Lamb. They didn't realize they couldn't have what they wanted until they had a Lamb.
B "Look, behold, the Lamb of God ..." Did you notice the confession John makes about himself? "I myself did not know him" (Jn 1:31). John admits there was a time he didn't see and understand Jesus as the Lamb of God either. Think about this. John and Jesus were cousins. The two families got together. John grew up hearing the stories of Jesus' birth and Jesus' mission. So John knew Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lamb of God. He knew because his mother told him; maybe Mary told him too. This was not a family secret. But then comes thirty years of nothing happening, thirty years in a carpenter shop, thirty years of anonymity. So John starts having questions and doubts: "I myself did not know him."
Even after Jesus started His ministry John the Baptist had questions and doubts. Jesus didn't seem to be doing anything, He didn't change anything in Israel, His impact was zilch. So John sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus a question: "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" (Lk 7:22). Do you remember Jesus' answer to John's question?
Luke 7:22 (NIV84) — 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.Jesus is saying, "Look at what I am doing. Listen to what I am saying. Can there be any doubt? I am the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lamb of God."
III Who Takes Away the Sin of the World
A "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."
The day two crowd knew all about lambs who take away sin. For this to happen, they knew lambs were slain. They were killed. They were offered.
Lambs played a very important role in Jewish sacrifices since the time of Abraham already. Remember how Isaac was bound on the altar? Abraham took a knife to slay his son. When God stopped him, Abraham looked up and there in a thicket saw a ram caught by its horns. He took the ram and sacrificed it as burn offering instead of his son (Gen 22).
John's audience would also think of the Exodus. Remember the Passover Lamb that was killed Israel's last night in Egypt? Every family took a spotless lamb. They would slay it and they would apply its blood to the doorposts of their houses (Ex 12). All the firstborn in Egypt -- including Israel's firstborn -- were to be killed by the angel of the Lord that night but the angel passed over every home that had the blood of the Passover lamb on its doorposts.
John's audience celebrated the Passover every year. Jews flocked to Jerusalem for Passover week. A quarter million lambs were slaughtered during that one week. This required the service of all 18,000 priests. They slaughtered lambs all day long. The streets and gutters and sewers of Jerusalem ran red with all the blood.
John's audience knew of the daily sacrifice every morning and evening in the temple. They knew all about the sin offerings, burnt offerings, peace offerings, and guilt offerings. They knew lambs were slain. Day after day. Year after year. Century after century. Thousands of them. The crowds knew all of this. They knew what Isaiah 53 said about a lamb to the slaughter. They knew all this.
B The crowd came to John the Baptist for his baptism of repentance. This tells me they knew they were sinners. They knew it was not a light and momentary thing to sin against God. They knew their sin was an offense to God. Their sin bothered them. So they flocked to the Jordan River for cleansing.
Why did they do that when Jerusalem offered all those sacrifices, all those lambs, all the blood? Because, deep down, they all knew the entire Jewish system of sacrifice was hopeless, entirely and totally hopeless. Never was sin taken away. Never was the price fully paid. Never were the souls of people truly ransomed. As Hebrews 10:4 puts it, "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins."
The crowd knew something more was needed. Something better was needed. Something more than all those sacrifices. When it comes right down to it, something more than John and his baptism was needed too.
What was needed? You know. John tells us: "Look, behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the one, the only one, who takes away sin. That's the message of John. That's the message of the Lord's Supper. Only Jesus forgives. Only Jesus saves.
"Look, the Lamb of God!" Two times John says this. At the start of our Bible reading. At the end of our Bible reading.
The second time John says this was the third day, the third testimony, the one to two of his own disciples. "Look, the Lamb of God!" John again was pointing away from himself and to Jesus. John was saying, "Jesus is the Lamb of God. So why are you still here? So why are you still hanging around with me? Follow Him!"
When the two disciples heard John say this, they followed Jesus.
That's the whole point of this passage congregation. We need to come to the same point as John's disciples. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. So what do we do? Simple: Follow Him!
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