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"Spotlighting God's Lamb: Takes Sin, Gives Spirit"

Jan.11, 2015 Jn.1:29-39


The world was shocked this past Wednesday when gunmen forced their way into the headquarters of a satirical weekly magazine in France (Charlie Hebdo) and killed 12 people, including the editor who was under police protection. The magazine was apparently targeted because in the past it had published caricatures of the prophet Muhammad. Video shows the men shouting in French before they drive away, "Hey! We avenged the Prophet Muhammad! We killed Charlie Hebdo!"

It's one thing to be zealous to protect your religious leader's honour and reputation. It's quite another to resort to terrorist violence when one's prophet has been the subject of satire. Should Christians be eager to defend Jesus' honour and reputation? Definitely; but He would NOT be honoured if we used terrorist tactics to frighten mockers into submission. The apostle Peter in 1Pet 2:9 wrote, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that [here's a purpose statement following] - that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." Declare his praises, proclaim His excellence, promote and uphold His honour; how do we do that, if not by shooting detractors?

In today's reading we hear John the Baptist's approach. He was continually pointing away from himself to Jesus. Jn 3:30 "He must become greater; I must become less." John the Baptist was willing to take a back seat once Jesus appeared on the scene, even encourage his own disciples to follow Jesus instead. He told others in 1:30, "This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me'" - 'before' not so much in the sense of time as being greater in rank and dignity, ahead of me in status. Just a few verses earlier in 1:27 he said, "He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie." John the Baptist honoured Jesus not with a machine gun, but by meaningful words of witness, drawing attention to Jesus' worthiness.


The introductory words are striking: 1:29 "...John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'" And again the next day, he says to two of his disciples in v36, "Look, the Lamb of God!"

Why "lamb" rather than "calf" or "kid" (if it were a goat) or, for that matter, "puppy"? What is it about lambs that might make a prophet cast Jesus in that light? This past week I talked to a couple of people who'd had experience raising sheep. My general impression from them is that lambs are defenceless, vulnerable, "easy pickings" for a predator; sort of a "lunch on 4 legs" from a coyote's point of view. Lambs tend to follow herd instinct, following the leader: if startled, they'll all rush to the corner of the pen and crowd together. A goat, by contrast, might dash 10 feet away then turn and face the attacker. Goat kids are more independent than lambs, inquisitive, mischievous, clambering over things; one farmer noted, "Goats are the opposite of sheep.Goats are smart." (draw your own conclusions!) He said because of the lambs' vulnerability, it's not wise to have lambs out on their own without a shepherd.

Jesus "God's Lamb" was gentle, humble, made Himself vulnerable, did not defend Himself when under attack at His trial. He entrusted Himself to His "shepherd", His Heavenly Father. The disciples didn't get this: when they were ready to defend Him with swords in the Garden of Gethsemane, He objected in Mt 26:53f, "Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" - after which the disciples deserted Him and fled! Jesus MADE Himself vulnerable to become our substitute.

John the Baptist was speaking to Jews who had a long tradition of lambs being involved in sacrifice. The initial ritual of their escape from slavery in Egypt at Passover involved the blood of a lamb smeared on the doorposts, marking their house as one to be spared or "passed over" by the destroying angel (Ex 12:3,5,7,13). Daily in the temple, morning and evening, a burnt offering was sacrificed which was - a lamb "without defect"! (Num 28:3) So the Baptizer introduces Jesus as God's lamb who takes away, removes, "the sin of the world" - not "sins" plural as in each individual's various sins, but "sin" singular - our collective burden, 'hamartia' (in the Greek) - missing the mark, going astray off the patch, taking a wrong turn or even ditching our vehicle altogether in a moral sense.

The New Testament writers pick up and develop this imagery of Jesus as God's sacrificial lamb. Paul in 1Cor 5:7 "For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed." Heb 9:28 "Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people..." And John in the book of Revelation relates it as THE title used for Jesus in heaven: Rev 5:6,9 "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders...And they sang a new song: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.'" The Lamb takes away the sin of the world - not just Jews, but Gentiles too. That takes effect for each person who receives Jesus, who believes in His name.

Honouring Christ begins with 'fessing up to our own sin. 1Jn 1:8 "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us."


Those who proclaim Christ's excellency, who honour Him as He truly is, are also SPIRIT-SOAKED. Vv32-33 John the Baptist said, "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'"

Jesus received a fresh infusion of the Holy Spirit at His water-baptism in the form of a dove: another gentle creature closely related to sacrifice. And Jesus passes along the Holy Spirit to those who belong to Him - starting at Pentecost, and ever since. To "baptize" means to submerge, plunge, be sunk into the substance: so Christians are to be Holy Spirit "soaked" or "saturated". The Spirit convicts us, counsels us, and conforms us to Christ.

The Spirit convicts us of our trespasses. Jesus predicted in Jn 16:8, "When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment..." The Spirit counsels or teaches us: Jn 14:26 "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." We need reminding! And the Spirit conforms us ever more closely to Jesus' character: Rom 8:29 (a great chapter on life in the Spirit) "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." And Romans 12:2 "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will."


Jesus invites us to stay with Him, remain or dwell with Him. In Jn 1:38 He asks the two disciples of John the Baptist who are trailing Him, "What do you want?" Literally, "What are you seeking?" They reply, "Rabbi...Where are you staying?" That's the Greek verb 'meno' to abide, remain, dwell. It occurs twice more in v39: Jesus invites them, "Come and see;" so they went and "saw where He was staying [meno], and spent that day with Him" - literally REMAINED [meno] with Him (NRSV).

Jesus doesn't send us out into risky situations where He hasn't already been, or won't accompany us (Haiti, for example!). He invites us to follow Him, come with Him, stay with Him, learn alongside Him. In the preceding testimony, Gary & Maureen shared how the Lord has helped them through struggles in their lives and family. It's in holding fast to Jesus we find grace to grow, forgive, and be fruitful. He taught in Jn 15:4,6 "Remain [stay / 'meno'] in me, and I will remain in you.No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me...If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." Which is it in your life? Let's abide, remain, stay connected and bear fruit, rather than become dried-up firewood!


Who are we? People whose SINS ARE FORGIVEN THROUGH THE LAMB; who are SPIRIT-SOAKED; who STAY WITH JESUS; and, last, who SPEAK AND SPOTLIGHT HIS SIGNIFICANCE. Notice how John the Baptist is always pointing away from Himself to Jesus as the Christ. Vv29&36 "Look!" (Behold, see) He directs attention so intentionally that even his own disciples start leaving him to go to this new teacher...And the Baptizer's OK with that. He's all about TESTIFYING. Vv32,34 "Then John gave this testimony...I have seen and testify..." The Greek verb is martureo, to be a martyr or witness; "to affirm that one has seen or heard or experienced something." Specifically, what is John testifying? V34 "that this is the Son of God." That's a clear title reserved for the Messiah, God's unique chosen and anointed Deliverer. It would draw a charge of blasphemy: Caiaphas uses the label to indict Jesus in Matthew 26(63f) and Jesus "owns" it - even though doing so renders Him deserving of capital punishment in the Jewish leaders' eyes.

How can you shine a spotlight on Jesus' uniqueness in your life? Will you speak up to declare all He's done for you as Gary and Maureen did earlier? Paul commands Timothy, "So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord..."


Last month my father had cataract surgery in one eye - a procedure with wonderful results, helping people see again. A Chinese farmer, after having cataracts removed from his eyes, made his way from the Christian compound to the far interior of China. Only a few days elapsed, however, before the missionary doctor looked out of his bamboo window and noticed this formerly blind man holding the front end of a long rope. In single file and holding to the rope behind him were several dozen blind folk whom the farmer had rounded up and led for miles to the doctor who had worked the 'miracle' on his eyes. What a recommendation! Restored sight was cause enough for this man to share what had happened to him with those of like condition.

Just so with the gospel of Christ...

"You are writing a Gospel, A chapter each day, / By deeds that you do, By words that you say.

Men read what you write, Whether faithless or true, / Say! What is the gospel According to YOU?"

Let's pray.