Today's Little Lift
by Jim Bullington
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1.29).
There are so many, many wondrous parts of this passage that it is difficult to choose the one on which to focus. For instance, we could direct our attention toward the fact that the word sin is singular in the passage. Jesus takes away the sin of the world. The world surely has more that one sin, but he spoke of the cumulative total of all sin in the singular. Jesus takes away the totality of all the sins that have been committed in one tremendous and nauseating mass!
Or, we could focus on the tense of the verb that John used to declare what Jesus was doing. Jesus was presently (at the time of John's declaration) and actively taking away our sin-burden. Though the cross was the culmination of the plan, every act of Christ, every step that He took, every word that He spoke – all of them were a part of the process. He wasted nothing and nothing was for naught! His life was a sacrifice just as surely was the cross was a sacrifice. He was God's living sacrifice. Had He taken one misstep, had He faltered in any point, He could not have been The Lamb of God! But, He made no misstep and He did not falter in a single point. That is what qualified Him to continue as that perfect sacrifice.
But, now to the figure, the Lamb of God. Animals had been sacrificed from almost as long as time had existed. Cain and Abel are identified as the first worshipers who offered such sacrifices. Although we do not know specifically what was wrong with Cain's offerings, we know that they did not meet God's demands! From the outset, God has set nonnegotiable standards for those things that are offered to Him in worship. Furthermore, He set the bar at its highest so far as man was concerned; his offerings could not have even the slightest of blemishes!
When it came to that which God would offer, time and precedent had to be honored. If God had demanded such special (holy) offerings of man, what must His demands be of His own offering for man! God's honor, fairness, consistency, wisdom, and yes, His very reputation with man was at stake. He had to deliver, or else He was Himself indicted by such a lapse! The demands were such that His devotion to the Son of His bosom was overshadowed by the need to save His creation. As mortal men, we have no idea of the sadness that such a need must have created in the heart of God, but whatever the immensity of that sadness, the joy of knowing the result offset it a million times over. His desire to see humanity saved eclipsed the emptiness that His great heart must have felt in knowing that His only begotten Son would pay the ultimate price!
When Abraham took his son to the altar, he absolutely believed that God would provide an alternative – and He did. However, with God there was no such consolation. Quite the contrary, from eternity, He knew that just the opposite would be true. Unless Heaven provided the sacrifice, none would be had! And furthermore, if no sacrifice was to be had, man's doom was certain. The hope of man was entirely and eternally wrapped up in God's ability to deliver an appropriate sacrifice. Indeed, God sent His Son to be that sacrifice, but man needed that sacrifice. Somewhere in the heart of God there is compassion that we simply cannot understand!
What did we do to deserve such a gift! Paul responds to what we already know to be true; he says, “...while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5.8). The Lamb of God!
1. Why did God provide the Lamb?
2. What need did/does man have for that Lamb?
3. What precedent was set by God's demands regarding sacrifices under the former covenant?
4. What similarities exist between Abraham's offering and God's offering? What dissimilarities exist? A soul-searching question – Would you/Could you have made either sacrifice (Abraham's or God's)?
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