After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
It must have been a remarkable scene. John had been preaching, teaching and baptizing all day, stopping only briefly to snack on locusts and wild honey. To the others in the crowd, Jesus just looked like another Galilean, waiting for his turn. John recognized that Jesus was the one for whom he was preparing the way. And when Jesus came up from the water and the heavens opened, the crowd knew it too. When Jesus came to earth, he opened up the opportunity for us to become sons and daughters of the most high God (Rom 8:16-17). The words the Father speaks about Jesus, he also speaks about you: “This is my beloved son,” “This is my beloved daughter.” Say those words out loud. Then imagine God looking into your eyes and speaking those words.
Read John 1:26-34.
John the Baptist calls Jesus the “Lamb of God,” a title with many layers of meaning.
Jesus, the Lamb of God, is identified with the victorious Lamb who vanquishes evil: They will fight with the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and king of kings, and those with him are called, chosen, and faithful. (Rev 17:14)
Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the ultimate fulfillment of the Passover lamb, sacrificed to save Israel: Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and procure lambs for your families, and slaughter the Passover victims. Then take a bunch of hyssop, and dipping it in the blood that is in the basin, apply some of this blood to the lintel and the two doorposts. And none of you shall go outdoors until morning. For when the Lord goes by to strike down the Eguptians, seeing the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over that door and not let the destroyer come into your houses to strike you down. (Ex 12:21-23)
Isaiah spoke of Jesus, the Lamb of God, as the suffering servant: Though harshly treated, he submitted and did not open his mouth; Like a lamb led to slaughter or a sheep silent before shearers, he did not open his mouth… By making his life as a reparation offering, he shall see his offspring, shall lengthen his days, and the Lord’s will shall be accomplished through him. (Isaiah 53:7,10)
Although much of the context has been lost or at least diluted over the ages, at the time, identifying Jesus as the Lamb of God was enough to cause two of John’s disciples to leave his side and follow Jesus.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world. Have mercy on us.
Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.
The next time you pray or hear these prayers at church, think about Jesus, the Passover lamb who saves his people, the suffering servant who is like a lamb led to slaughter, and the victorious apocalyptic Lamb.
Today marks the end of the Christmas season. Thank you for giving me the privilege of joining you on your journey through Advent and Christmas this year. I hope you have been blessed by what you’ve seen and heard.