In this series from John’s Gospel called, “Who is this Man Named Jesus?” we’re looking at the words and works of Jesus to determine who he is, and what he wants for and from us. In the first sermon we looked at Jesus as the “Logos”—the Word—of God (John 1:1-14). The Greco-Roman world of the first century theorized that there must be a spiritual, cosmic principle of order to explain the universe. They called that cosmic principle “logos”. They concluded that this purpose or reason or logic for life was impersonal. John’s gospel corrected all that. We learned that Jesus, the Logos of God, is a person. He is eternal God and Creator. He is the life and light of the world. Although he was rejected by his own people—the Jewish nation of the first century—whoever does receive him, to them he gives the right to become a child of God. In fact, the purpose of entire John’s Gospel is evangelistic (John 20:30-31).
Today’s text, John 1:19-37, is all about “identity politics”. The Jewish leaders wanted to know who John the Baptist claimed to be (v. 19-22). John insisted that his identify didn’t matter—he was just “a voice” (v. 23). John said that there is the One whose identity really matters: the Lord (v. 23; Greek, kurios). John pointed out that he was quoting from Isaiah—and that tells us a lot more about this “lord’s” identity. He is Yahweh, the Great “I AM”, he is God (Isaiah 40:3). Then John said, “And look—there he is!” and pointed at Jesus (John 1:29). So, Jesus = Lord, God, Yahweh! To the Jewish mind, this was scandalous—it could get you killed!
Let’s briefly explore the biblical idea of “the Lamb of God”. For several hundred years at the beginning of their history, the Jews lived in Egypt. As their population grew, the Egyptian king felt threatened by their presence, and so he enslaved them. The Jews cried out to God for deliverance, and God raised up Moses. The Egyptians, of course, didn’t want to lose all their slaves, but it took some plagues to convince them to let the Jews go. God warned that his “death angel” would “pass over” Egypt and kill the oldest child in each home if it didn’t have a special mark of blood on the door. God made provision to save children for Jews and Egyptians alike if they would kill a lamb as substitute. The “passover lamb” would die in their place, instead of them. It worked! The Jews were let go from slavery, and “Passover” became an annual celebration.
The Jews were glad to be rescued from the hard, manual labor of slavery in Egypt but God wanted them to know that they had a deeper, more profound “slavery”—slavery to sin. The Bible says that “everyone who sins is a slave to sin”. God used their slavery in Egypt to direct their attention to this deeper slavery. Just as the Passover Lamb died as a substitute for the first-born of the Jews, this idea of a lamb substituting for them, dying for their sins, became the chief element of Jewish religious life. Whenever a Jew sinned, an animal could die as his substitute (Hebrews 9:22b). But because we keep on sinning, the bloody sacrifices were endless. Each year, more than 250,000 lambs were killed in just one week for Passover! The idea of an innocent lamb substituting for mankind’s sin is explicit in Isaiah 53. Fast-forward several centuries, and we learn that Jesus is the true Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19). The old Jewish system required that sacrifices keep on being made. And, every time Jews celebrated and remembered their rescue from Egypt, they also were reminded of their current slavery to sin. But with Jesus, there was only one sacrifice for all time! (Hebrews 10:11-13). Jesus is different from all those pathetic lambs who were slaughtered for centuries: Although Jesus is the “lamb who was slain”—he is victorious, not pathetic! The book of Revelation speaks of the victorious “Lamb who was slain” thirty times.
In John’s day, as in ours, people have different responses to God’s provision of redemption: Hard-hearted people “did not know him” (John 1:26), but soft-hearted people such as John and his followers gladly honored him (John 1:27, 35-37; 3:30). Remember that hang-up the Jewish leaders had with baptism (John 1:24-25)? Jews though that others were “unclean” and so needed to be washed in order to join God’s people. But John was telling Jews that they needed to be washed, too! Our willingness to admit that we are unclean and need to be “washed in the blood of the lamb of God” is the most determinative thing about us (Revelation 7:14). It determines whether we accept or reject all of God’s ways (Luke 7:29-30).
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- Do you know him? If not, you’ve either never heard, or else you’re hard-hearted. If you don’t know enough to believe, then read some of John’s Gospel each day (John 20:30-31). If you can’t honestly claim ignorance, then you need to soften your heart, repent, and believe. If you would like to know God personally, contact us here (connect.tcc.org). Scroll down to the Ministry Information Request section and mark the first or second checkbox. We look forward to helping!
- If you do know him, how well do you know him? As Pastor Doug often says: “You’re as close to God as you really want to be.” In your daily Bible reading, “always keep one finger in the gospels.”
- Tell others about him. Everyone has sin, so everyone needs a substitute to absorb God’s wrath. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the only way to God.
- Watch JESUS, by far the most-watched film in human history. Click here.
- Gather the kids for the children’s version of the film, JESUS. Click here.
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)