A Voice in the
"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" "Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, Behold the Lamb of God!" (Jn1:29,36)
Let us be reminded, again, the context of everything we read in the Gospels. When Jesus "came to His own" (1:11), His "own" was Israel. He was born of a Jewish mother, and at eight days, He was circumcised as any proper Jewish boy was; and was dedicated as any first-born was who "opened the womb". (Lk2:21-24)
To the Jew, the lamb was a most precious sacrifice and remembrance. It was a "memorial". (Ex12:14) Passover was when God delivered Israel out of bondage in Egypt. But more specifically, Passover was when the death angel saw the "blood", that he passed-over the house and did not kill. (If you are not familiar with the account, please read in Exodus ch12) Thus, at every Passover, the 'lamb' of the Passover was the honored guest. Special attention was paid to it, to be sure it was "without blemish". (Ex12:5)
So, when John introduces Jesus as the "Lamb of God" who would be taking away sin, he was not pulling this 'figure of speech' out of thin air. The Jews knew the significance of a lamb, even remembering back to Abraham setting about to offer up Isaac, and the ram caught in the bushes providing the substitute; as Abraham had said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb.." (Gen22:8) And here, Jesus is being called -God's- Lamb. As Peter writes to Believing Jews he says of Jesus, "knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your vain way of life received by (Mosaic) tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." (1Pet1:18-19)
Now... 'when', exactly, was it all planned that Jesus would come? "He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world.." (1Pt1:20a) You see, when God created all things... When -Jesus- made all things (1:3), even way back then, before sin had ever come into existence, God knowing that there would be sin, Jesus' coming was already part of the creative plan. And so 'now' (at the time of John), Jesus "..was manifest in these last times for you" (1Pt1:20b) For centuries Israel had been observing Passover annually; by the time Jesus would arrive, they would have killed thousands of lambs. But it was not possible for animals to atone for man's sin. (Heb10:4) Thus, "Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me...Then I said, Behold, I have come; in the volume of the book it is written of Me; to do Your will, O God." (Heb10:5,7) Jesus created (and holds all things together) knowing that He would also have to come, ultimately, and die for the very creation He was breathing life into. (Gen2:7)
Thus, 'what', exactly, was it that John was proclaiming, in introducing Jesus as he did? The "Lamb", of the Jewish sacrificial rituals. For the purpose of "taking away sin". As Jesus would say on occasion, to "give His life a ransom for many". (Mt20:28) For centuries Israel had sacrificed animals according to the Law. And Jesus came to "fulfill" that Law. (Mt5:17)
But, 'how' do we know that 'this' man, here, now, is the Promised One? How do we know that John isn't just merely delusional? After all, he is rather a crazy old coot, living out in the wilderness, eating nothing but locusts and honey. Well, too, the sun has likely 'aged' him; he is actually rather young yet. Thus, he's more likely than not just a radical hippy. Probably been smoking a little too much pot, and is hallucinating with visions of grandeur!! Some of the people said, "..he has a demon.." (Mt11:18, Lk7:33)
Why is he known as "John the -BAPTIST-"? He came immersing for one purpose. John, himself, admits that he did not know who the Christ would be. (1:31) But he came immersing "..that He should be revealed to Israel.." The instructions given to John were 1) to immerse, and 2) "upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and abiding on Him, this is He who immerses in the Holy Spirit." (vs33)
Can you imagine being John? Knowing that his mission is to preach and immerse people. And as he is immersing, wondering at each one, "Is -this- one the Christ?" Now, before Jesus comes to him, he knows that He is special, because he objects, "I need to be immersed by You, and do You come to me?" (Mt3:14) While he had been given his instructions, he apparently only understood the "baptism unto repentance" (Mt3:11) aspect. And so, when Jesus comes to be immersed, he thinks Jesus is also "repenting"..?? But when he submits to Jesus' request, and immerses Jesus, then he sees what God had foretold him; the Spirit descending upon Jesus. And he testifies, "I have seen and borne witness that this is the Son of God". (vs34)
Now, when Jesus was immersed, "a voice came from Heaven which said, You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased" (Lk3:22), fulfilling the prophecy, "I will declare the decree: Jehovah has said to Me, You are My Son, Today I have begotten You." (Ps2:7) As the writer says, that God never gave such a label to any of the angels (Heb1:5). And furthermore, the Father labels the Son, Jesus, as God: "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.." (vs8)
So, why was Jesus immersed? We already know: for John to recognize Him when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him; for Jesus to be "revealed to Israel". But Matthew records another interesting aspect. When John objects to immersing Him, He replies, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." (Mt3:15)
Hebrews ch7-8 speak of Jesus as "High Priest", and compares between the priests of the Mosaic Law and Jesus Christ. We won't look up all the passages at this time; but if you recall reading in the Pentateuch, all the Levitical priestly rituals, you will remember how the priests, in preparation for service, would, among other things, dip themselves in the large pool of water and wash, prior to donning the priestly garments. Jesus is about to begin His ministry. If He is our High Priest, He needed to even fulfill that Law of washing. The Levitical priests washed to symbolically cleanse/sanctify themselves unto (symbolic) purity. Jesus is washing unto a purity; but a different kind; because immediately after being immersed, He goes out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Mk1:12) [For a deeper discussion of this, please see Ch4 of the Matthew series in the Library.] But when the 40 days are completed, it becomes evident that Jesus is, truly, "without sin". (Heb4:15) Proving God's pronouncement at His baptism, that He was "..well-pleased.." with Him.
So, Jesus is the Lamb of God, our High Priest. What sort of High Priest is He? You know, in Israel, the priesthood was the people's ultimate authority on everything. Again, if you read back in the Pentateuch, they decided civil matters as the courts. When there were plagues or illnesses that needed inspecting, they did that. If a man was jealous of his wife, thinking she might have been unfaithful to him, he would bring her to the priests, and they would make her drink a special water to decide her innocence or guilt. They had all sorts of rituals and ordinances which they meticulously followed. Now, the reason they needed the "bitter water that brings a curse" (Num5:18-19), is because the priests were not all-knowing. They could not discern, of their own cognition, the woman's heart and actions.
But notice: "The Word of God (Jesus) is living and powerfully active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature that is not revealed in His presence, but all things are naked and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we must give answer". (Heb4:12-13) Now, if you have always thought this little passage speaks of the 'Bible', remember that last month we observed how the Scriptures are an integral part of Christ's essence. But in this immediate context, notice the passage continues on talking about "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest..." (vs14) ...it is obviously talking about Jesus.
So, as John is introducing the Lamb of God, does Jesus manifest His ability to know the heart and thoughts? As Andrew and Peter start following Jesus to find out more about Him, Jesus calls to Philip, who, in turn, goes and gets Nathanael. And when told that they had found the Messiah, he gives the same argument of disbelief that the scribes and pharisees will give later (Jn7:52), "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (1:46) [link: Come and See] Nathanael was not belittling Nazareth, but indicating that the official Scriptures did not mention Nazareth in relationship to Messiah. While Mt2:23 speaks of "the prophets" saying "He shall be called a Nazarene", those were apparently some prophetic words that didn't get recorded in the scrolls. Let's face it, not everything that every prophet ever spoke became Scripture, just as John himself says that what he wrote was not everything there was to say about Jesus. (Jn21:25)
So, Nathanael comes and Jesus says, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!" (1:47) You see, when Nathanael said what he did, he was essentially doing what the Bereans later would be praised for, "searching the Scriptures...whether [it was so]" (Ac17:11) How can this man be the Messiah? He comes from Nazareth, but the Scriptures say He's supposed to come from Bethlehem...not realizing that Jesus had, indeed, been born in Bethlehem. So Jesus praises Nathanael's pure heart.
'Whaaat? How do You know me?' "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." (1:48) You see, this was the Samaritan woman's testimony, "Come, see a Man who told me everything that I ever did. Is this not the Christ [Messiah]?" (4:29) What is Nathanael's response? "Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" (1:49)
Who else can tell a person their own thoughts with certainty? "God knows your hearts" (Lk16:15) "For, behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind and declares to man what his thought is, He who makes the dawn darkness, and treads on the high places of the earth; Jehovah, the God of Hosts, is His name." (Am4:13) "..God..knows the secrets of the heart" (Ps44:21)
The demon spirits know some things. Their practitioners do a rather impressive job of conjuring at times. But one thing I have always noticed when the TV commercials come on for the psychic hotlines, those women never firmly make statements with certainty and finality. They will make bold pronouncements; but then, cushion the statement with, "Is that right?" You see...they do not 'know'. They can only do a demonically sophisticated job of 'guessing'.
But God -KNOWS-. He doesn't need to guess. He who "declares the end from the beginning" (Is46:10); in God's Son, Jesus Christ, "..had no need that anyone should bear witness of man, for He knew what was in man" (Jn2:25)
You see, when a person comes to God in faith, through Jesus Christ, when it is true saving faith, it is because God "draws" (Jn6:44) the person, and Christ declares to the person "all that I ever did". While the ministry of "soul-winning" might seem like a noble one, the only way a person can be truly saved is when they meet 'Jesus', Himself, "..for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is truly the Christ, the Savior of the world" (4:42), the Lamb of God.