What’s This “Lamb” Business About?

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! …And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29, 34)

Everyone knows what a king is. There’s not a whole lot of them around anymore. But we’ve heard about them and seen them on TV. And we all know what it means when someone is called a “Chosen One.” It means they are an extremely important person who has something extremely important to do. And most people who have hung around a church for a while know what a messiah is. “Messiah” is what we call the person God promised to send to rescue his people.

So when we hear Jesus called “the king of Israel,” the “Messiah,” and “God’s Chosen One” in John 1, we can connect the dots and pretty much understand what John is talking about. Jesus is the one God has chosen to rescue his people and reign over them with love and justice and peace forever.

But… What’s this “lamb” business? Twice in chapter 1, John calls Jesus “the Lamb of God.” What’s that all about? Anyone who’s been a church-goer for a while has heard that term, but hardly anyone stops to think much about what that means. Right?

The apostle John seemed to know something about Jesus that no one else did at that stage of the game. Like many others, he recognized Jesus as the coming King. He knew Jesus was the promised rescuer—the messiah. He believed Jesus was the special “chosen” servant of God. But he knew something else too that no one else had put together yet. And what he knew reminded him of a very old promise:

He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. …For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. (Isa. 52:7, 8)

John knew that unlike any other king the world had ever known, Jesus had come not only to reign, but to reign by dying. John knew that what most people thought about what the messiah was going to be and do—that he would arrive with violence and devastation and judgment—wasn’t quite right (at least not yet). He knew that the messiah came to lay down his life for his beloved. And he knew that while Jesus was the Chosen One, what he was chosen for was sacrifice.

Jesus is the “Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). It was always God’s plan to offer up his Son for the rescue of his people. And because the Lamb died and rose he saves, he rescues, and he will reign forever and ever. Amen.

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