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John Bible Study: Why Is Jesus Called the Lamb of God? (John 1:29)
Reading the book of John, it immediately becomes self-evident that Jesus is the main character. But we also meet other people who are part of the story of Jesus’ three-year ministry. We meet Mary, the mother of Jesus, in chapter 2. We meet the twelve apostles throughout the book. But the first supporting character we meet is John the Baptist, whom John the Apostle introduces in chapter 1 as one who “is not the light,” but one who “came as a witness, to bear witness to the light, that that all may believe (1:7-8).
John the Baptist makes it clear to everyone that he is not the Christ (1:20). He also makes it clear that Jesus is the One who deserves all the attention because this man is divine: “I saw and testified that this is the Son of God” (1:34).
John the Baptist uses a unique way to identify Jesus as the Main Sight. Twice in John 1 (v. 29 and v. 36), John calls Jesus “the lamb of God.” Note verse 29: “Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
Remember that John the Apostle wants not only to tell us who Jesus is (the person of Christ) but also what Jesus did (the work of Christ). In telling us that John the Baptist called Jesus “the lamb of God,” John the Apostle now draws our attention to what Jesus came to do — his work.
Why did John the Baptist call Jesus “the Lamb of God”? And why does he describe this Lamb as one who takes away the sin of the world?
The answer to these questions is found in the Old Testament. Remember that John the Baptist and Jesus the Godman are first century Jews living in Israel. The Hebrews were the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the people God promised would inherit the land of Canaan (later called Palestine) and be a blessing to all peoples on earth.
God said to Abraham: “And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, that you may be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and he who dishonors you I will curse. and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3). Also note Genesis 15:18 — “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates .”
But 500 years later, the Jews find themselves living as slaves in the land of Egypt! God is a faithful God and must keep his promise to give the promised land to the Hebrews, so he raises up Moses to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt and back to Canaan. This amazing event is known as the Exodus and you can read about it in the book of Exodus, the second book of the Bible.
On the way to Canaan, the Jews stop at Mount Sinai and God gives his people the Law he expects them to obey, beginning with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17).
Have you ever considered the simple fact that it is humanly impossible to obey the Ten Commandments perfectly? In light of our failure to consistently obey his laws, why did God give the Jews (and us) these rules to live by?
Think about it: Have you ever lied? (Commandment #9). Be honest. How many lies have you told in your life? Dozens? Hundreds;
And what is a lie? We like to call it a “white lie” or a “hype” or an exaggeration. The Bible calls it a violation of God’s law, and “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).
Have you ever stolen anything? (Commandment #8). Maybe you’ve never robbed a bank, but maybe you’ve stolen something from your parents or your employer or a store. Do we call it “shoplifting”? the Bible calls it “theft.”
Have you ever taken God’s name in vain? (Commandment #3). You take the name of the God who gave you life and use it as a swindle. Do we call it “slang”? the Bible calls it “blasphemy.”
If you have examined yourself honestly, you must now see yourself as a liar, a thief, and a blasphemer, and we have only examined three of the Ten Commandments.
Have you ever committed adultery? (Commandment #7). Maybe not in the physical sense. But remember that Jesus said “whoever looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). So lust is “mental adultery.” Who is not to blame for this?
How about murder? (Commandment #6). You may not have committed physical murder, but the Apostle John wrote “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). Have you ever hated someone? Then you are guilty of “heart killer”.
This moral self-examination is not meant to embarrass you. Instead, I think it makes us ask again, “Why did God give us such difficult rules to follow?” No one can consistently and completely obey the Ten Commandments. You’ve broken them. I have broken them. We’ve all broken them countless times.
And so Israel, like us, was guilty of breaking God’s Law and faced the terrifying prospect of being punished by God for their disobedience. If Israel could obey God, he promised a blessing (Deuteronomy 28:1-6). But if they did not obey, he promised a curse: “if you do not obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands and decrees that I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overwhelm you” (Deuteronomy 28 :15).
And so we, like Israel, face the fact that we have broken God’s Law and also deserve to be punished for our sin. Because God is holy, just, and righteous (Psalm 5:4-6, Psalm 7:17, Psalm 11:7), He must punish sin. This is the clear teaching of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Note Ezekiel 18:4 – “the soul that sinneth shall die” and Romans 6:23 – “the wages of sin is death.”
But God is also merciful and gracious, and provided a way for the law-breaking Jews to receive forgiveness of sins. The repentant Jew could be forgiven by offering an animal sacrifice. He could bring a lamb to the altar and lay his hand on the animal’s head, signifying his identification with the lamb and the transfer of his sin and guilt to the innocent lamb, which would be without blemish or blemish.
The Jew would then kill the lamb, and the shedding of innocent blood was considered by God to be a sufficient sacrifice to cover or atone for the sin of the person offering the sacrifice.
The book of Leviticus contains detailed instructions regarding these animal sacrifices, and repeatedly God told Israel that the sacrificial animal “shall be accepted to make atonement (covering sin) for him” (Leviticus 1:4).
Now fast forward 1400 years and we see John the Baptist looking at Jesus and declaring “Behold the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” (1:29).
Do you see the significance of this statement? At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, God revealed to John the Baptist that this Jesus was not only the Son of God, God in human flesh, but He was also the One who would die as a sacrificial lamb to provide the atonement, or atonement , of our sins, so that God can offer forgiveness to guilty sinners like you and me.
To receive forgiveness of sins through the death of Jesus the Lamb, the Bible says you must do two things, “Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15).
What does this mean?
To repent is to change your attitude and your entire orientation toward sin, no longer being indifferent to it, but confessing it, mourning it, renouncing it, and hating it. Repentance is a strong desire to turn from your sinful behavior as you hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness. To repent is to experience a radical change of heart, mind, and behavior in relation to sin and righteousness. (See Luke 13:3)
To believe is to put your faith and trust in Jesus as the only God-man, as the all-sufficient sacrificial Lamb of God, as the only one who can save you from the penalty of sin, which is God’s wrath and eternal punishment to hell.
That’s why the gospel is good news!
For follow-up questions suitable for individual study and/or small group discussion, visit
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