The long, boney forefinger of John the Baptist points to the one whom he had just baptized saying, â€œBehold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.â€
I can still remember one of my favorite profs in Seminary saying, â€˜men, you canâ€™t preach a great sermon every Sunday.â€™ Something that I know I have proved to be quite true over the years. But this morning, weâ€™re hearing a great sermon preached to us by John the Baptist. â€œBehold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.â€ Every sermon that is what a sermon is supposed to be does exactly what John does here â€“ points us to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
There are lots of voices preaching lots of sermon, pointing their boney fingers at this or that or the other thing that promises to take away something we want taken away.
â€¢ â€œBehold, the perfect diet THAT TAKES AWAY that weight you gained over the holidays.â€
â€¢ â€œBehold, the miraculous skin cream THAT TAKES AWAY those wrinkles and age spots.â€
â€¢ â€œBehold, the credit card THAT TAKES AWAY every reason for not having everything you want right now.â€
And it gets far more serious and dangerous than that. The boney finger of death points to the law of the land:
â€¢ â€œBehold, the law that gives you the right to TAKE AWAY the fetus in the womb if itâ€™s unhealthy or inconvenient or the wrong gender or for no reason at all.â€
â€¢ â€œBehold, the law that says itâ€™s okay to TAKE AWAY your own life if you decide itâ€™s not worth living.â€
But this morning we John points his finger at Jesus Christ saying, â€œBehold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.â€ And on this â€˜SANCTITY OF LIFE SUNDAY,â€™ this is just the sermon we need to hear.
This is the season of Epiphany which is all about establishing the true identity of the child, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He was not born with a halo around his head which would have made Him more conspicuous and easier to identify. As the prophet Isaiah says, â€œâ€¦he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.â€ (Is. 53:2) The point is, the only way that you will ever recognize this One for who His truly is, is if you listen to the preaching.
So the season of Epiphany began with the Magi, who came from the East looking for â€œthe one who is born King of the Jews. For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.â€
For these Magi, it was a star in the sky that INDENTIFIED Him as the One they were looking for. For John the Baptist, it was the Holy Spirit. â€œI saw the Spirit descend on Him like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself didnâ€™t know Him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, â€˜He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.â€
Which means that in your baptism, the same Holy Spirit has descended ON YOU and REMAINS ON YOU and IDENTIFIES you as a child of God, and the FINGER OF GOD points to you and says, â€œMY DEARLY BELOVED.â€
â€œBehold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.â€ You could preach a hundred sermons on those 13 words and never come anywhere near the bottom of it.
LAMB OF GOD
He is â€œâ€¦The LAMB of Godâ€¦â€ Lambs played a big part in the spiritual life of Israel.
â€¢ There was the PASSOVER LAMB, whose shed blood was painted onto the houses in which sinful men and women lived, and when the Lord saw it, â€˜deathâ€™ â€˜PASSED OVERâ€™ and the sinners inside were spared. (Ex. 12:1-13)
â€¢ There was the DAILY OFFERING of a SLAUGHTERED LAMB in the morning and another in the evening that was to be eaten. (Ex. 29:38-41)
â€¢ There was the BURNT OFFERING of a ROASTED LAMB that was a pleasing aroma to the Lord. (Lev. 1:9)
â€¢ There was the PEACE OFFERING of a SACRIFICED LAMB that made peace with God. (Lev. 3:6,7)
â€¢ There was the SIN OFFERING of a BUTCHERED LAMB that atoned for the sin of the ONE who brought it to the Temple.
â€¢ And all of these lambs had to be YOUNG, MALE and WITHOUT BLEMISH.
And then, once a year, there was the grand-daddy of all offerings â€“ the SACRIFICE OF ATONEMENT â€“ one SLAIN LAMB for the sin of the WHOLE NATION. One for all.
And then the same High Priest who slew the lamb, would place his bloody hands over the head of a second lamb and pronounce ALL THE SINS of ALL THE PEOPLE onto the head of this lamb, and the SCAPEGOAT would to be led it into the wilderness, never to be seen again.
â€œBehold, the Lamb of Godâ€¦â€ Jesus Christ is all of these OFFERINGS rolled into One, young, male, without blemish. He is the One that all of those lambs from the Passover Lamb to the Scapegoat pointed to. The Lamb whom God Himself brings to the Temple and sacrifices â€“
â€¢ whose blood causes death to pass over the sinner,
â€¢ whose aroma brings a smile to his face,
â€¢ whose sacrifice brings peace between God and man,
â€¢ who bears THE SIN OF THE WHOLE WORLD on His head and takes it away as far as the east is from the west,
â€¢ who PUTS AN END to all sacrificing for sin,
so that now the only sacrificing left to do is the sacrifice you make in love for your neighbor.
â€œBehold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.â€ â€œâ€¦of the whole, entire world, from the first sin of Adam and Eve to the last sin ever committed before He comes again in glory and the word sin is rendered obsolete. Itâ€™s hard to get your head around that but itâ€™s important to try. There is NO SIN that the Lamb has not atoned for and NO SINNER for whom this Lamb has not made peace with God.
Even the sin of â€˜murderâ€™ in every form from abortion to euthanasia to suicide, to the violent vocabulary that inflicts such harm and kills the spirit â€“ even the one who has had an abortion or tried to end his life or tried to kill someone with words – â€œI FORGIVE YOU ALL OF YOUR SINSâ€¦â€
In a few minutes weâ€™ll lay claim to this forgiveness and life and peace with God as we sing the â€œAGNUS DEIâ€ before His body and blood, â€œLamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us. Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us your peace.â€
And in so singing, we point our own boney fingers at the One who COMES TOWARD US in the bread and the wine just as He CAME TOWARD JOHN and together with John, we bear witness that â€œthis is the Son of God.â€
WHAT ARE YOU SEEKING
It has always been my sincere desire and our mission together to grow this congregation. As we say here, â€œOur Mission Is To Open Heartsâ€ and we do that â€œthrough message of Christ Crucified.â€ And we hope that as word gets out that we preach Christ and Him crucified for the sin of the world, that people who are tired of the endless chase of trying to justify themselves before themselves and before others and most of all, before God, will come and breath that welcome sigh of relief as they hear that they are already completely justified by â€˜the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.â€
Thereâ€™s lots of other ways to grow a congregation, but this is the only way that we are called and authorized by God to do so.
But when John preached, â€œBehold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,â€ he wasnâ€™t trying to grow his congregation. In fact, he preached Jesus Christ because he wanted his congregation to leave. He was only an interim pastor just â€œpreparing the way for the Lord.â€ â€œHe must increase but I must decrease.â€ (John 3:30).
And so, â€œthe next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, â€˜Behold, the Lamb of God.â€™ Pointing that boney finger of his at Jesus, he was saying, â€œThere He is. The One Iâ€™ve been talking about, â€œwhose sandals I am not worthy to loose.â€ Why are you still hanging around with me? Go! Follow Him!â€
And â€œthe two disciples heard him say this and they followed Jesus.â€
Who knows how far they had followed Jesus, but at some point, Jesus â€œturned, and saw them following and said to them, â€˜What are you seeking?â€™â€ As if to say, â€œWhy are you following me?â€ â€œWhat do you want from Me?â€
Weâ€™ll hear their response in just a minute, but before we do, we should consider His question for ourselves. â€˜What are you seekingâ€™ from Jesus? Why are you following Him? What do you want from Him? Itâ€™s a penetrating question that bears serious consideration among us today.
As we follow Jesus to the cross and the grave, weâ€™ll see that there are lots of people who â€˜seekâ€™ things from Jesus that frankly, He DID NOT come into this world to give â€“ â€˜earthly prosperity,â€™ â€˜political power,â€™ â€˜success,â€™ â€˜relief from all my problems.â€™
So, what about you? â€œWhat are you seeking?â€
I was very tempted to ask the Greeters this morning to welcome everyone who came in the door this morning, not with a â€˜good morning,â€™ but with, â€œWhat are you seeking?â€ â€œWhy are you here?â€ People come to church for all kinds of reasons, seeking all kinds of things. What about you?
C.S. Lewis touches on the way this question challenges AND exposes us when he writes, â€œthere comes a moment when the children who have been playing cops and robbers suddenly freezeâ€¦ was that a real footstep in the hallway? And they realize that the game theyâ€™ve been playing might suddenly have just become real. There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion suddenly draw back in fear. â€˜Suppose we really found Him? We never meant it to actually come to that!â€™ And then an even deeper fear comes over them, â€˜worse yet, what if He found us.â€™â€ (C.S. Lewis – Miracles)
The two disciples hardly hesitate to answer the question. John had prepared them well. â€œRabbi, where are you staying?â€
All that they know is that they are seeking HIM. All that they want is to be with Him and get to know Him and learn from Him. Which is to say, they want Him to teach them what they should be seeking from Him.
â€œCome and you will see,â€ He answers them â€“ AND US. Itâ€™s a gracious invitation. â€œCome and you will seeâ€ where the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is staying. And if you will, you will discover what it is that you are seeking.