The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
The Lamb of God Appears
About fourteen hundred years before Jesus was born, God told his people to use animal sacrifices when they worshiped him. Under this sacrificial system, the priests started and ended every day the same way: take a lamb, slit the lamb’s throat, drain the lamb’s blood, sprinkle the blood on the altar, then burn all of the lamb’s meat until it was nothing but ashes.
In addition to these daily offerings, there were other sacrifices mandated for different religious festivals and life occasions. Following God’s laws resulted in a minimum of 1,273 animal sacrifices every year, not counting the thousands of voluntary sacrifices that the people offered on top of all that.
Over the centuries, God’s people shed an ocean of sacrificial blood. It was supposed to deal with their sin, but it was never enough because “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). But that does not mean that the sacrifices were a waste of time. God was using them to teach his people something important.
Repeated sacrifices reminded them that they had sins that needed to be taken care of. The gallons of spilled blood taught them that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). The constant slaying clearly showed that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Most importantly, the countless lambs offered to God pointed to the Lamb of God, who would take away their sins.
So when that Lamb of God finally appeared, John the Baptist made sure that everyone knew who he was. Jesus was the sacrifice the people had been waiting for. He was the Lamb of God, not only because he was chosen by God, but also because he was God.
His sacrifice on the cross took away the world’s sin because it was God who shed his blood and gave his life. It is impossible for the blood of animals to take away sins, but “the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; grant me your peace. Amen.