Behold, Lamb of God…
Once upon a time, there was a boy who spent many hours building a model sailboat. When he put it in the local river, however, it moved away from him quickly. He chased it along the bank, but the strong wind and current carried the boat away. The heartbroken boy knew how hard he would have to work to build another sailboat. Downriver, a man found the beautiful boat, took it to town and sold it to a toy store. Later, the boy was walking through town and noticed the boat in the store window. He explained the situation, but the shopkeeper didn't believe him and said that the only way to get the boat back was to buy it. The boy wanted it back so much that he did exactly that. Then he looked at the boat and said, "Little boat, now you're twice mine: I made you and I bought you."
God created us in his image and likeness. And when we were lost He came to bring us back, He paid with His blood. Today John the Baptist introduces Jesus, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." Christ as Lamb of God is a title familiar to us.
The first place we come upon the concept of the Lamb of God is in the 53rd chapter of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Although this was written six hundred years before Jesus, it describes the feelings of God’s people as they look at Jesus on the cross. It’s short, so let me quote it:
“It was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole; by his stripes, we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all.
Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers; he was silent and opened not his mouth.”
“Lamb of God” for Jews, this brings a familiar image. The phrase 'Lamb of God' was not new; it was a reference to the Passover lamb, the lamb in Exodus which was slain and whose blood set the people free from slavery in Egypt. Every year at Passover the Jews recalled this event, and a lamb was slaughtered in the Temple. Here in Jesus, says John the Baptist, we have the real "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." This phrase also echoed Isaiah's prophecy about the Suffering Servant: "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter" (53:5).
The ancient instructions for killing and eating the Passover lamb said, "You must not break any bone of it" (Ex 12:46). And so, John says, the soldiers did not break Jesus' legs as he hung on the Cross but pierced him instead with a lance. Later, near the end of the century, in John's apocalyptic vision he saw "between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered" (Rev 5:6) that is, dead and raised up again.
In the Eucharist, at "the breaking of the bread" we proclaim the Baptist’s testimony. Our traditional fraction anthem is the Agnus Dei – “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, has mercy on us/grant us peace.” In this prayer, we give expression to our deepest understanding of the identity and purpose of Jesus Christ as our Lamb and Lord. By his life of love and sacrifice, we believe and affirm that he is the one who came and continues to come into a broken life/world to take our sins upon himself.
Thank You! I would like to express gratitude to everyone who participated in the Ministry Survey last weekend, and if you were not in church, please consider filling out one now. They are available at the entrances. Everyone’s participation brings vibrant life to our ministries. Thank You!