29 The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘The one coming after me outranks me because he existed before me.’ 31 I myself did not know who he was, but I came baptizing with water so that he would be revealed to Israel.” 32 John also testified, “I saw the Spirit descend like a dove from heaven and remain on him. 33 I myself did not recognize him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this myself and have testified that this is the Son of God.” 35 The next day, John was standing there again with two of his disciples. 36 When John saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look! The Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned around and saw them following him, he asked, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” 39 He told them, “Come, and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying. They stayed with him that day. It was about the tenth hour. 40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his own brother Simon and say to him, “We have found the Messiah!” (which is translated “the Christ”). (EHV)
Dear Friends in Christ,
The word translated Look! both in Hebrew and in Greek has a special significance that just can’t be fully translated with the word “Look.” The word is like the upside-down exclamation point at the beginning of a sentence in Spanish. Before you hear or read a word, it draws your attention to the fact that what follows is of special significance. In our text John uses that word, which in our older translations came out as “behold.” John wanted people to look at Jesus, but more than that. He wanted them to stop, take a deep breath, clear their minds of all distractions. “Now, Behold! Take a serious, long, look at the one at whom I am pointing. Stop and really think about the words I am about to use to describe him. This man is “the Lamb of God.”
He Takes Away the Sin of the World
The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! If you were clueless about the Bible, that would be an extremely unusual thing you just heard. But of course, I’m not talking to people who know nothing of the Bible, and neither was John. Like them, you know that lambs played a significant role in Old Testament worship. The Lamb was the center of the Passover celebration. The first Passover in Egypt was the night that the Lord sent the final and most horrible of the 10 plagues. That was the night of the destruction of all the first born males in Egypt—both men and animals. The only way to escape that horrible plague, was to kill a lamb that evening, and smear the blood on the doorframes of their houses. If you did that, the angel of death would pass over your house and spare those inside.
That Passover foreshadowed how those who trust in Jesus’ blood, the blood of the Lamb of God, are spared from everlasting death today. Until Jesus came, God’s Old Testament people needed to sacrifice lambs again and again, not only at the Passover but throughout the year, to remind them of God’s promise that one day, the Lamb of God would come and offer Himself once and for all for their sins and the sins of the whole world. We don’t celebrate the Passover anymore. We don’t sacrifice lambs anymore, because Jesus—the Lamb of God—came to offer Himself once for all. That’s what John meant, as he pointed to Jesus and said Behold the Lamb of God, Who Takes Away the Sin of the World.
What John exclaimed was foretold by the prophets and has been the center of Gospel preaching ever since. Just think of the first evangelism experience recorded in Scripture, the account of Philip and the Eunuch of Ethiopia. The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture (Acts 8:32–35) “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (Isaiah 53:7).
Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, has been sacrificed on the cross. Through faith in His blood, we have forgiveness and eternal life. Peter wrote: For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, But with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18–19).
Behold the Lamb of God, Who Takes Away the Sin of the World. Sin can’t be undone. What’s done is done. But thank God, sin can be atoned for and taken away. And Christ came to do just that. Either sin is around our neck dragging us down to eternal death in hell, or it is on Christ who takes it completely away. That’s why John pointed at Jesus again and again. 35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples…. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he [again] said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” A faithful witness will always come with the same unchanging invitation to trust in Jesus, the Savior.
How many tourists parade through cathedrals in Europe, pass before a beautiful altar painting of Jesus, and see nothing there but beautiful, yet to them meaningless, ancient art? How many people listen to or even sing Handel’s Messiah and think nothing more than “this is pretty, classical music”? A famous musician loved to play the music of J.S. Bach, who signed every one of His pieces with SDG—soli Deo gloria, “to God alone be the glory.” The musician was asked if He believed in God. He answered, “Bach is God. Bach is my religion.” Bach would roll over in his grave and scream! Bach wrote his entire St. Matthew Passion about the Lamb of God. To enjoy that music more than the message it sings is to Look at the Lamb of God, but not to behold him. To behold Him is to look at His hands and His feet and see your sins as the nails which put Him there. Behold His body hanging there dead and see the penalty your sins deserved. Behold His blood and see the reason the angel of death will pass over you. Behold His resurrection and see the forgiveness which He won for you. Don’t just look at the Lamb of God. Rather, Behold the Lamb of God.
He Calls Us to Be His Disciples
Those who do, are called believers, and believers learn from Jesus and follow Him as His disciples. 35 The next day, John was standing there again with two of his disciples. 36 When John saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look! The Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned around and saw them following him, he asked, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” 39 He told them, “Come, and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying. They stayed with him that day. It was about the tenth hour.
What were John’s disciples looking for? They weren’t really only interested in seeing what type of building Jesus lived in, were they? Of course not. What they really wanted was to nicely ask if they might walk with Him for a piece, sit down with Him, talk with Him, and listen to Him. These two men had been following John. They were spiritual men. They were looking for the truth. They were eager to have eternal life. They didn’t become John’s followers because they believed in John. They followed John because they believed what he preached. They were ready to leave John at a moment’s notice to follow the Lamb of God. Jesus, not their pastor John, was the object of their faith. And they quickly learned that their faith was correct—this Jesus was truly the long-awaited Messiah—the Lamb of God.
Jesus took the time to invite them to where He was staying and to teach them and reveal to them who He really is. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” 39 “Come and you will see. So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him.” What an exciting moment that was for them. What a memorable day! To go to the house where Jesus was staying and get to listen to Him teach? Wow!
We also get to come to Jesus’ house and listen to Him teach. This is that place. What are we looking for here? Well, there are a lot of smaller reasons we come to God’s house—but the real reason ought to be to Behold the Lamb of God, listen to Him teach and follow Him as His disciples.
Did you notice how John the Apostle wrote down the very time of day he began following Jesus as His disciple? For him and for Andrew, becoming disciples of Jesus was a huge turning point in their lives. It meant leaving things behind, like their friend and teacher, John. It would mean spending the next three years with Jesus. It would mean nothing would ever be the same for the rest of their lives—and It was about the tenth hour.
Becoming a disciple was a huge turning point in our lives too. It happened when we were baptized, and somewhere the date and time for that was also recorded. It meant leaving behind the desires of our sinful flesh and everything that stands between us and Jesus.
Becoming Jesus’ disciples means pursuing a new way of life. It means promising to listen to Jesus, believing everything He teaches us, and striving to do everything He commands.
Disciples aren’t ashamed to talk about Jesus either. They aren’t embarrassed by the topic. Quite the opposite, disciples—even shy ones—want to invite others to meet their Savior: Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah.” Nobody told Andrew to do that. Disciples don’t have to be ordered to tell other people about their Savior. They speak from the overflow of faith in their hearts.
The very next day, Jesus called Philip as a disciple, and he did the same thing as Andrew! Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” One of the things you quickly notice when visiting a person who has stopped worshiping or fallen into some other sin, is their reluctance to talk about Jesus. If we’re hesitant to talk about Jesus, that tells strikingly how much our faith still needs to deepen and grow. It tells us how much we need His Word and His Sacrament, where we can Behold the Lamb of God Who Takes away the Sin of the World and Who Calls Us to Be His Disciples.
May we keep learning both about Him and from Him. May we let Him keep filling us with His Word, so we speak of Him from the overflow of our own hearts and invite others to “Behold the Lamb of God.” Amen.