As I continue preaching through the Gospel of John, I am awestruck once again by the simple, yet elegant words of John the Baptist in 1:29:
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
We have grown so use to the expression, that we have often failed to appreciate how far reaching a statement it really was. D. A. Carson notes,
Modern Christians are so familiar with the entire clause that it takes an effort of the imagination to recognize that, before the coming and death of Jesus, it was not an obvious messianic designation (John, PNTC, 148).
The first thing to notice is that John calls for his hearers to “behold.” The little interjection (ἴδε) points out to the listener that “here is” (BDAG) someone very unique that they should watch very closely!
And to whom does John call their attention? None other than the “Lamb of God.” The term “lamb” (ἀμνός) was used in the LXX 101 times, almost always for a literal lamb (Gen 30:40; Ex 29:38; Lev 9:3; Deut 14:4). Interestingly, it is used only four times in the New Testament and always for Christ (John 1:36; Acts 8:32; 1 Peter 1:19). The term denotes a lamb up to one year of age (BDAG) which is the age of a passover lamb (Ex 12:5). [A different term for “lamb” (ἀρνίον) is used 30 times in the New Testament]
John is declaring to all that we need to take a good hard look at who is here! He is “the Lamb of God!” He is not just a lamb but the lamb (ὁ). Now the term “lamb” is used in conjunction with the expression, “of God.” The genitive can of course be taken several ways, but perhaps a genitive of source works best: “The Lamb from God.” He is God’s Lamb for the world.
So we see that we are to take a really hard look at Jesus, who is “the Lamb from God.” The entire expression is loaded with sacrificial imagery, as is of course the further description of this Lamb, “who takes away the sin of the world.”
All four uses of the term ἀμνός are found in sacrificial contexts. First, the uses here in 1:29 and 1:36 surround John the Baptist’s explanation of “the Lamb of God” being the One “who takes away the sin of the world.” Next, the use in Acts 8:32 is a citation from Isaiah 53:7 that declares,
“HE WAS LED AS A SHEEP TO SLAUGHTER;
AND AS A LAMB BEFORE ITS SHEARER IS SILENT,
SO HE DOES NOT OPEN HIS MOUTH.
And finally, the use in 1 Peter 1:19 states that our redemption from sin through Jesus Christ is “with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”
So brethren, let us look at Jesus alone, who gave his life as a sacrificial lamb for our sins. And as we look to him, let us worship him. Our trust is in no earthly king, but king Jesus. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”