The Lamb of God

“Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” —John 1:29

THESE words were spoken by John the Baptist when he saw Jesus coming toward him, as John ministered to his disciples and baptized repentant Jews in the river Jordan. For the first time, the meaning of the symbol of a lamb—as found throughout the pages of the Jewish Scriptures, the Old Testament—was clarified, and could be understood. Jesus was identified as the reality; literal lambs were only used as pictures.

At the time of the first sacrifice, mentioned in the Book of Genesis, Cain and Abel each brought an offering to the Lord. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice of a sheep, but rejected Cain’s offering of fruits and vegetables. Cain was told he must perform a certain action before any offering could be accepted. Although not all Hebrew scholars agree, Rotherham suggests that Genesis 4:7 should be read as if God were telling Cain that he must first sacrifice a sin offering—a lamb—which he could secure from his brother, Abel. Although Cain did not do this, we can clearly see in the incident a picture of the need for a lamb to be slain as an offering, to give sinful man a standing before God.

In Genesis, chapter twenty-two, we have a record of the beautiful picture that was made when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his and Sarah’s only son. Although he was a strong, mature young man, Isaac did not resist this seemingly terrible and incomprehensible request. We read that just as Abraham was about to slay his son, an angel stayed his hand. A ram caught in a nearby thicket was substituted on the altar, instead of Isaac. Here we have a further corroboration that a lamb foreshadowed God’s sacrifice of his only begotten Son many centuries later, and that Son’s willing compliance with his Father’s plan.

One of the most important events in Israel’s history occurred when God freed them from Egyptian slavery. We learn in Exodus, chapter twelve, how the Israelites prepared themselves for the Lord’s Passover, according to the directions given. Each household selected a whole, unblemished, male lamb on the tenth day of the month, and killed it on the fourteenth day. Its blood was sprinkled on the upper lintel and two side posts of the door to the house. They then ate the roasted lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. When the angel of the Lord went through the land that night, he passed over each home where blood was sprinkled. If there were no signs of blood on the doorposts and lintel, the firstborn within that house died.

Here again, Jesus is pictured by the slain lamb. He was “selected” by Israel when he rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on the tenth day of the month, and was slain on the fourteenth day. Since his death and resurrection, we who believe there is merit in his sacrifice, have sprinkled his blood on the lintel and doorposts of our hearts. As Christians, we partake of the lamb—Jesus; of the unleavened bread—sometimes another picture of Jesus, and sometimes a picture of the words he spoke that give us life; and of bitter herbs—bitter experiences that drive us to feed more fully and richly on the lamb.

The Apostle Peter explained that we are redeemed through the blood of the one who is pictured by a slain lamb. He said, “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.”—I Pet. 1:18,19, NIV

Bread Also Pictures Jesus

On one occasion in Capernaum, Jesus referred to himself as ‘bread’ that a man must eat to live forever. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51) Many in the audience did not understand what Jesus meant. The next verse says, “The Jews therefore strove among themselves saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” That Jesus was using ‘bread’ in a symbolic sense is shown by these words: “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit and they are life.”—vs. 63

Our Lord participated in several Passover celebrations with his disciples and each must have been a solemn occasion to him, because he knew the meaning of the symbols. From the prophecy of the seventy weeks (Dan. 9), he knew he would be “cut off’ in the middle of the last week—after three and one-half years his sacrifice would cease. He knew he was the “lamb of God” which would be slain as a sin-offering, so others might live.

Matthew recorded some of his words while he was with his disciples the night before his crucifixion—Passover night. “As they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, Take, eat; this is my body.” (Matt. 26:26) Just as manna in the wilderness sustained the life of those who ate it, Jesus will give everlasting life to all who appropriate him to themselves.

‘Eating’ the true bread from heaven frees us from sin, thus providing our justification which gives us a standing with God. We then have something worthwhile that God can accept in sacrifice. If we enter into a covenant of sacrifice by consecrating ourselves to God, he considers us part of the Christ. The Scriptures use the illustration of a head and a body: “As the body is one and bath many members and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.”—I Cor. 12:12-14

As we partake of this bread, we assimilate it and it becomes part of us. We also become part of it—part of the one loaf that is to be broken so the world of mankind might eat and receive life.

Jesus Pictured by the Cup

“He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matt. 26:27,28, NIV) The fruit of the vine within the cup pictures the perfect life of Jesus, poured out, sacrificed.

When Jesus offered his human life to the Heavenly Father at his baptism, he sacrificed all claim he had to live on the earth. Because he was perfect, his life was acceptable to God’s justice as a corresponding price, a ransom, for Adam. When he offered his perfect human life as a ransom, he could never live again as a human being. But at Jordan he was begotten by God’s Holy Spirit to a new life—he became a new creature. It was this new creature that was resurrected out of death and received spirit life of the highest form the divine nature!

The resurrection of Jesus is just as important as his death. Now, as a divine being, he is in the position of being able to bless the world of mankind. First he applied the merit of his shed blood on behalf of his church, and later—in the Millennial Age—he will apply his merit on behalf of all the remainder of mankind. He is now the glorious fulfillment of Israel’s high priest, but a high priest “after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb. 7), not after the order of Aaron.

Joint-sacrifice Invited

When Jesus offered the cup to his disciples, he was offering them an opportunity to participate with him in sacrificially laying down their lives. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” (I Cor. 10:16) The Greek word translated “communion,” has the thought of ‘common union’, ‘partnership’. Those disciples, and all who have accepted Jesus’ offer during the Gospel Age, have agreed to walk the narrow way of sacrifice, laying down their lives as he did his. Jesus proved himself faithful by being submissive in all his trials and tribulations, and in completely fulfilling the commission the Father had given him. Likewise, we must prove our faithfulness in performing the tasks the Lord has placed in our hands, and in showing submission during our trials. This is how the Heavenly Father tests us.

Our commission is much the same as Jesus’: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Luke 28:19,20) And again, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”—Acts 1:8

There was a time when James and John went to Jesus, asking for a special reward in glory. (Mark 10:35-37) Although their request may have been motivated by pride, Jesus recognized they were not yet blessed with the Holy Spirit, and did not understand all of God’s plans for them and the world. So he asked them: “Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (vs. 38) They answered, “Yes,” although at the time they probably did not understand everything implied by this question. We understand now that drinking of this sacrificial cup and being baptized into Jesus’ death is a lifetime commitment.

“Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” (John 6:53) The Israelites who heard these words were dying. No one of Adam’s children has had life as God gave it to our first parents. It is only by accepting Jesus and the merit of his sacrifice that we can be said to have life.

The reality of Jesus as the lamb of God is a wonderful symbolism in the Scriptures. It shows that God foreknew all that would happen, and that his Son would be faithful even unto death. By providing the ransom price for father Adam, Jesus Christ has received a reward far above every name that is named! And what is most astounding: others have been called to participate in like manner, as part of this great sacrifice for sin. If faithful, they, too, will receive a heavenly reward.

May we, as footstep followers of the Master, take our responsibilities seriously, looking to God for strength and guidance as we continue to lay down our lives in sacrifice faithfully unto death.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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