Have you ever noticed how you can say a word over and over and it starts to lose its meaning?
Or you can have an object that in your house that you see day after day and you forget it’s there.
Today, we are going to look at something that can be like that.
In our gospel John calls Jesus the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
The image of the lamb of God is one of those things that can lose its meaning, or even change meaning over time.
It’s one of those things that when you don’t pay attention to it, you know what it means.
Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Right, Jesus died on the cross, shed his blood, to pay for our sin. Next question.
Every once in a while it is important to stop and look closely at these familiar symbols and make sure we are really seeing what’s there.
We are going to look at the Gospel found in John 1:29-42.
It happens in two movements.
A Confusing Statement and A Compelling Question
A Confusing Statement
It starts with John the Baptist.
He’s the wild man in the desert, eating locusts and honey, wearing a camel skin tunic.
When John the Baptist sees Jesus, he shouts out,
“Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”
Does that seem a little random to you?
I have to be honest.
When I look at that picture, it doesn’t really inspire me.
That’s not exactly the kind of greeting or proclamation you would want publicly.
Imagine if you were running for office and someone shouted out,
“oh look, there’s our candidate, the cute, fuzzy bunny, who’s going to make everything unicorns and rainbows again.”
In our culture, that’s kind of what the image of a lamb conjures up.
Why does John call Jesus a lamb?
The lamb was a significant symbol for the nation of Israel.
We project ideas onto animals all the time.
The United States looks at the Bald Eagle as a symbol.
The truth about eagles is that they are scavenger birds who will dig through any kind of garbage for food.
But, as a nation we have collectively placed ideas onto this creature and for us it symbolizes freedom and power. It inspires awe in our citizens and fear in our enemies.
The high school I went to in Michigan my freshman year was the Dondero Oaks.
What do you do with an oak tree.
Hey, we’re gonna drop acorns on your head! Wow.
I was so glad when I moved here and became a cardinal. At least then we could scratch you or something.
For Israel it was a lamb.
A lamb represented the continual process of God rescuing His people from oppression.
When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, God told the people to take the blood of a lamb and spread it on their doorposts.
When the death angel came through the land to kill the firstborn son, if it saw the lamb’s blood on the doorposts it would Passover the house and spare the child.
Because of this story, the lamb became a symbol of God’s faithfulness and deliverance.
Then, many years later, after Israel had become exiled in Babylon, the prophet Isaiah said that God would raise up a servant to deliver the people. He would be a suffering servant.
What’s really interesting about this is that when John the Baptist spoke, he actually spoke the Aramaic language. The word for lamb in that language meant both lamb and servant.
So, in essence, John was proclaiming to the nation of Israel.
“Hey everybody, we all know that we are under the oppression of Rome, right. And, we all know that God promised to bring another ‘lamb’ to bail us out, right? Well, here he is!”
Now, we could stop right there and say we get it.
Jesus is the lamb of God. He shed his blood so that we could be forgiven of our sins. This is a true statement, but the story continues.
What happens next gives us something to think about.
That leads us to the next movement of the story.
A Compelling Question
Down in v. 35, it is the next day.
John’s out doing his thing and his disciples are gathered around him, like they always are.
Then Jesus shows up again, and John shouts out, again, “Behold, the lamb of God.”
This time, two of John’s disciples leave John and start following Jesus.
The next scene is a quick dialogue.
Jesus turns to the men and says, “What are you looking for?”
They say, “Teacher, where are you staying.”
Jesus says, “Come and See.”
Then they go spend the day with Jesus and Andrew is so changed by it he goes to get Simon.
At first glance this may seem like and incidental scene with trivial information in it.
But, we have to understand that the author of this Gospel, did not put any trivial information in this story. Everything has meaning.
In fact, I believe in this little scene we see the whole gospel story played out.
When Jesus sees the two Johnites following him, he turns, looks them both in the eye, and asks:
What are you looking for?
This is really the fundamental question that we need to ask ourselves.
When John the Baptist said that Jesus was the lamb of God, he was touching a core desire in the people’s hearts.
The people wanted deliverance from pain and suffering.
They wanted God to ease their pain.
We see throughout Jesus’ life that most people wanted him for what they could get out of him.
Today, I don’t think it is much different. When we look at Jesus, it is very tempting to see him only as the lamb that was slain for our sins, so that we can be saved from pain and suffering.
In his book The Great Omission, author Dallas Willard says this about our views on salvation. Listen in:
The gospel of sin management produces vampire Christians who want Jesus for his blood and little else…
Willard is basically saying that we have reduced the Gospel to a self-centered gospel.
We think it is only about saving ourselves, and that’s it.
Jesus looks at the disciples, he looks at you and me, and asks, “What are you looking for?”
The Gospel, the good news, is found in how the disciples respond.
They don’t give him an answer. They ask him a question.
“Teacher, where do you stay?”
The word they use here is very significant. It is the word “meno” it means abide, dwell, remain.
This is the central theme for John’s Gospel.
In John 15, at the end of the story, Jesus tells his disciples, “if you remain in me, and I in you, then you will bear much fruit.”
In this story, the two disciples approach Jesus with a desire to know where Jesus dwells.
Then Jesus responds, “Come and See.” And they go hang out with him for a day, and they are transformed.
Do you see the difference?
I think that too many times in our modern world, the Gospel has been reduced to a transaction with God.
Whether you are on the fundamentalist side or the liberal side of the Gospel equation, we have reduced the Gospel to a simple exchange of goods.
We have a sin need.
God pays the price.
We cash in, and we’re done.
We’re baptized and confirmed. Thanks, God, it was a pleasure doing business with you.
That’s like showing up at a wedding ceremony, meeting your bride, saying “I do” then leaving.
Are you legally married? Yes.
Do you have a marriage? No.
The Gospel is so much more than that.
Jesus invites us into a relationship with God.
He says, “Come and See.”
A relationship is dynamic and vital, and it transforms us from the inside out.
So, we have this familiar icon. The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
What do we see when we look at it?
Do we just see blood that saves us from sin?
Or, do we see a God who invites us into a relationship. He delivers us from our own selfishness and promises to transform us from the inside out and show us what real life is all about.
Jesus looks at us and asks, “What are you looking for?”