The Lamb of God
Portraits of Christ | The Lamb of God
Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
The portrait John gives to us of Jesus as the Lamb of God has its roots in the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. The Jews offered four types of sacrifices to God: (1) drink offerings; (2) incense offerings; (3) meal or vegetable offerings; (4) and animal offerings. The animal sacrifices were further distinguished as burnt offerings, sin offerings, peace offerings, or guilt offerings. A lamb had to be carefully selected, without spot or blemish, which was offered up to atone for sins. Smoke from the altar in the temple was continually ascending upward to Heaven.
Going back further to Adam and Eve, God Himself clothed them and covered their nakedness with animal skins. To do this, it implies that an animal was killed, most likely a lamb, in order to cover their shame. In Leviticus 17:11, God stated "It is the blood that makes atonement for one's life." So this scarlet thread of redemption is woven throughout the Old Testament until it takes us to Calvary's hill where the perfect Lamb of God was sacrificed for the sins of the whole world. From that point onward, never again would a lamb have to be sacrificed. The blood of animals could never take away sins; it could only cover them. But the blood of Jesus washes our sins away. The writer of Hebrews penned, "Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God's right hand. (Hebrews 10:11-12).
Isaiah prophesied of the coming Messiah, "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7). The apostle Peter referred back to the Old Testament symbolism when he said that we were redeemed "with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." (1 Peter 1:19).
In the book of Revelation, John refers to Jesus as a lamb numerous times. He paints us a wonderful picture, "Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" (Revelation 5:11-12).
"He was wounded for my transgressions," Isaiah penned so long ago. (Isaiah 53:5). As our Lamb of God, Jesus took on himself our burden and penalty of sin. He carried it for us. He bore our sorrow. He suffered our condemnation. He endured our agony. He died our death.
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.