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Who Do You Say I Am?

Reflections on Jesus' titles throughout the Scriptures

Lamb of God

by Dr. Joseph Matos, DBU Faculty

Today's Reading

John 1:29

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

All four Gospels mention John the Baptist as the forerunner to Jesus, making the path ready for him. John cried out, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:4). He performed a baptism of repentance and declared that one was coming after him who was greater than he and who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. When Jesus appeared, he insisted that John baptize him “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). John hesitated, then baptized Jesus. After Jesus rose from the water the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove and God the Father spoke from heaven, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

Sometime after this, as Jesus was approaching John, he identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The Gospel of John never depicts John’s baptism of Jesus. But John the Baptist acknowledged to the people by way of reminiscence that God previously revealed to him how he would know who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. It would be the one on whom the Spirit descended as a dove. Thus, consistent with God’s own words in those other Gospels, John could say of Jesus, “I have seen and testify that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34). Of course, that occurred at the baptism.

 As a result, we learn that while the other Gospels show that Jesus was revealed as the Son of God when John came baptizing, the Gospel of John makes explicit that Jesus’ being revealed is why John came baptizing. John the Baptist said, “I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel” (John 1:31).

 Only the Gospel of John records the identification of Jesus as the Lamb of God. In doing so, it adds a rich description of who Jesus was, advance notice as to why he came, and how he would accomplish his mission. For by referring to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, John reveals that Jesus would die. This draws on the Old Testament imagery of sacrifice in general, and of the Passover in particular (see also Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:7). In fact, Jesus’ death would occur during the time of Passover.

Passover commemorated the time when, on the night before God sent the death angel, the final plague, to kill the firstborn in all the land of Egypt. God commanded Moses to instruct the Hebrews to put the blood of a lamb on their door frames. When the death angel saw the blood, it would pass over that house and spare the firstborn in the home (Exodus 12). To get the blood from the lamb, the lamb had to die.

From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, it was apparent that death was at the center of why he came.

He came to die that we might live.

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