A Lamb for a Saviour
People look for saviours. And the saviours we seek are ones for the challenges of that particular moment.
In a global pandemic, we look to the scientists as our saviours, the men and women who can develop the vaccines that will get everything back to normal. Or perhaps government leaders look like saviours, who keep us safe and reduce poverty and promote the economy. If we were living through a war, you can be sure that our saviours would be warriors and generals—for our deliverance we’d look to the brave and bold.
Yet every premier and scientist and general are leaders with limitations, because mankind’s greatest problem isn’t COVID or climate change or systemic racism. It’s something much worse: the tyranny of Satan, and the horrible hell that sin deserves.
So who can save sinners, and restore us to life and liberty?
The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
These are the words which John the Baptist shouted on that day he saw Jesus walking toward him at the Jordan River (John 1:29).
You know how at the time of Jesus, the Romans were the unwelcome lords of the land of Israel. For decades, Rome’s great emperor had ruled this lowly people. They imposed taxes, harassed them, and offended God’s people with their pagan ways.
For the Jews, being conquered gave definite shape to what they looked for in a saviour. What would the Messiah do but deliver them from the Romans? Just like God was once a warrior against the Egyptians and Assyrians, so Christ would be against Rome. He’d attack their garrisons, remove their officials, and restore the glory days.
This is the kind of saviour many expected, someone gritty and tough. So the Jews were impressed with John. He was bold, had an imposing presence, and he talked about straightening everything out. And then they could hardly contain their excitement when John said he wasn’t even worthy to untie the sandals of the coming Messiah, wasn’t worthy even to polish the brass buttons on his uniform.
Then the day comes for Jesus to make his appearance. And what does John say? “Now here He comes: Behold, the Lamb of God!” Here is the one on whom you’ve pinned all your hopes and dreams. And He’s a lamb.
That brings to mind an unmistakable image: a lamb, a young sheep, maybe just a few months old. You may have seen little lambs before, with their knobby knees and pleading voices. A lamb needs constant care from its mother, with regular intervention from the shepherd, too. If you were looking for the precise opposite picture of strength, aggressiveness, and independence, you’d probably end up with something like a lamb.
In the Israelite world, however, those little lambs had their place. For it was a young lamb always used in the morning and evening sacrifices at the temple. God in his mercy accepted their blood as a substitute for the people’s blood, so such offerings were accepted for sin. Or think about how in the Passover celebration, it was the blood of a lamb sprinkled on the doorposts of the homes, and during the meal they ate the roasted meat of a lamb.
Lambs had their place, but this was the shock for those who set longing eyes on Jesus. The promised Christ isn’t a military commander or heroic king. The Christ is humble, and He is helpless—He’s a lamb.
After that lackluster beginning near the Jordan, it didn’t get much better. Physically, Jesus wasn’t anything to look at. In character, He was gentle and lowly. During his ministry, He rejected more than one offer to be made king. And He didn’t stir up revolution, but encouraged obedience to Rome.
Finally, Jesus did the weakest thing possible: He surrendered! After a short career, Christ was offered up to death. Isaiah 53:7 rang true,
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
Passive. Silent. Humble. This was frailty, not strength! Stupidity, not a strategic plan! For what could a sacrificed lamb possibly accomplish?
We should not pretend that our own insight into Christ is so much better. For we esteem things like physical strength. We value appearance. The people we admire are dynamic and talented. The people we notice have lots of things, and they get lots of things done. We idolize those who perform crazy stunts, and drive supercars, and have a hundred million followers on social media.
But what’s a lamb? A lamb is nothing. A dead Jew on a cross, two thousand years ago, is nothing. Yet this absurd message is God’s truth. God’s truth is that it only takes one sacrifice of precious blood to make possible our eternal salvation! Who would’ve thought that a lamb could rescue the souls of men?
Says John about Christ, “He is the Lamb of God.” That is a small pointer to the author of this salvation plan. He is God’s lamb, so we should know that this modest life is not going to be wasted.
And “He is the Lamb of God who takes away sin.” The Greek word for ‘take away’ means something like ‘lift and remove out of the way, get rid of an obstacle.’ Jesus clears away the impossible guilt of human sin.
And his sacrifice is sufficient to take away all guilt, even “the sin of the world.” The world is not divided into sinners and righteous, the evil and good, but everyone comes up against the same fatal problem of our sin. But Christ can take it away.
Though the Lamb was God himself, though the Lamb was stronger than all the wolves who attacked him, He let himself to be taken to his death. He wouldn’t fight it, so that his offering would be whole. According to 1 Peter 1:19, Jesus would be the lamb,
without blemish and without spot.
And so his blood could be poured out with a saving power that is indestructible.
There is great comfort and hope in what Christ has done. In the sight of God, you are forgiven and whole, washed and restored. Your biggest problem and heaviest burden and worst anxiety have been dealt with. Your life is secure and your future is bright.
And don’t forget to listen to John the Baptist. For on the pages of Scripture, John is still crying out, still urging us to repent, still calling everyone to look to Christ in true faith. That still doesn’t come naturally. Will a lamb really be our Saviour?
Think of the humility it takes to follow a lamb. And how we need faith to trust in a lamb, even to save us. It takes dedication to stick with a lamb, especially when we want security that is more visible, or strength that is more believable.
So are you ready to follow the Lamb of God? He’s the only one who can save us.