Monday, Feb 25, 2019. The New Testament uses the term “lamb of God” for Jesus. The image of a lamb comes many times. You have probably heard it. Some of us have heard it so many times that we have forgotten what is means! Others never realized the term. So let us check it out for a moment.
The term lamb can be seen as an image by itself. I like this idea, to take it out of context first. A lamb is an animal, which is usually very soft, very innocent and very sweet. If you have ever been with your kids looking at lambs and sheep on a farm, you will have an unforgettable experience. The kids love the lambs, they are excited. And there is no sign of any fear. You do not have to fear a lamb!
The image …
But before we continue to explore the meaning, let us look into a passage of the New Testament, where the term lamb is used for Jesus. In the Gospel of John, we see John the Baptist using the term early in the ministry of Jesus:
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him [John the Baptist], and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son9 of God.” (from John 1)
John here refers to Jesus as the lamb of God. It is a prophetic statement, one which is about the immediate presence already, but the path of Jesus is not complete yet. Jesus just started his ministry. When John said this about Jesus after the baptism of Jesus, it is prophetic.
Takes Away the Sin …
John the Baptist refers to the role of Jesus using the term “lamb of God”. His role is to be the innocent sacrifice, to take away the sin of the world by dying at the cross of Calvary. That is the core Christian message, which has been communicated in mature form from the very beginning of Christianity. According to the passage above it has already been communicated with the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, who preached for 3 years before he was crucified.
The lamb of God refers back to thousands of years of sacrifice in Jewish history and beyond. It refers back to the lamb which was taken for burnt offerings already 2000 years before Christ. Offerings were given by humans, in particular lamb offerings. And we learn from the history of the Jewish people that God himself took up the offerings, as an image to prepare the story of Christ.
Today, offerings are abolished in modern society. And indeed, offerings have been abolished with Jesus himself, who is the final offering, one for all and forever. His death at the cross stops the ritual, there is no space any more for it.
It would be great to sit over a tea or beer and continue the discussion. Is it clear to me, to you, to all of us, why the death of Jesus at the cross is so important? Is it clear to us what sin is, why it is important to understand? Is it clear to us what sin destroys, why we want to get away from sin? Why? And where to go? Let us continue this discussion! (Roland Potthast) ... further texts