John 1:29-42 “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
More often than not, it feels like Christians gather around an idea. We’re the Lutheran kind of Christian. We believe in justification by grace alone through faith apart from works. We believe in baptizing babies. We don’t believe in accepting Jesus into your heart, open communion, or getting rebaptized. We should do this. We shouldn’t do that.
Statements of fact can be completely true, but still don’t seem to help when your family disagrees, or when your church has a reputation in town you’re not proud of. And when you yourself don’t live up to your beliefs, if this is just a house of ideas, it’s gonna make this place seem bitter and empty of anything worthwhile.
This isn’t about being less honest about what we believe, or even less strict. John was about as straightforward as they came, and many were offended by the truths he told. He called folks nice little pet names like “hypocrites” and “brood of vipers”. He warned of fiery hell for unbelief. He preached about God.
But John was not sent out into the wilderness to relay a series of ideas. He was sent to to give Jesus to sinners. He baptized for the forgiveness of sins. So when Jesus shows up, even while John’s hand is still dripping with water from the river, he stops what he’s doing. John would have prevented him. “I need to be baptized by you, not the other way around.” It’s his cousin. Their moms hung out. But it was so unlike what John expected that even he has to admit “I myself did not know him” like this. Baptized with a booming voice from heaven and a Holy Spirit filled bird. Jesus is not just a man. He is not just a set of teachings. John points a finger and explains it. Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Christians don’t gather around an idea, but the lamb. Jesus showing up is the whole point. This is why we’re here. We need something from Him. The picture painted is ugly. The bible’s not big on plot twists. The lamb isn’t there for you to pet it. A lamb in the bible is like seeing a promiscuous teen in an old scary movie. It’s like seeing a guy in a red shirt in an away mission. It’s like hearing “hey ya’ll watch this” at a party. It’s like seeing me do anything athletic. The details might change a bit, but know gonna end bloody.
Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The Son of God is not here to be a set of teachings or ideals or morals. He’s here to bleed. That’s how we’re saved. It’s a fact of nature that we try really hard to avoid, but still see a sense of it in the country that people hide from in the city. Something has to die for you to live. God did that. A lamb wasn’t just an animal, it was an almighty act made to work peace between sinners and God. God made this animal to die, so that we might live.
Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. See Jesus, the Passover lamb, blood protecting us from death. The lamb, killed to make skins to cover the shame of Adam and Eve. The lamb provided to save Abraham’s son from death and fire. The Lamb, sacrificed on the day of atonement to make sure there was blood on the altar to make every sinner in the camp of Israel righteous. THIS lamb, Jesus, not made, but God almighty taken flesh, slain before the foundation of the world, here, for you, and for all the world. He is the fullness of every promise, and the God every lamb hinted at. The Spirit remains on Him. He is at work to do the work of God. Bleed. It has to be this way.
Christianity has to be more than a set of ideas. It has to be more than a group of people who get together and talk about their faith. All the ideas in the world only point to the fact that things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. That word sin tells us something is wrong. It’s a diagnoses. We do evil. Think evil. We will away God’s truths because they’re uncomfortable. We try to leverage that into hurting each other. We try to leverage each other into helping ourselves. We sin. It’s a mess. It’s death. Christianity isn’t a mental exercise or discipline to outthink evil or rise above the world that will never be as good as you. The wages of sin is death. If you’re still gonna die, you haven’t escaped. Nobody will be saved by having faith in their faith. This is not about you. This is not about your reason or heart or strength or trust. This is about Jesus. John points. Trust in Jesus, not in how much you’re able to trust Jesus.
Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The whole world. All the sin of all the sinners is gathered up, heaped on Jesus, and he takes it away to calvary. He bleeds there. Dies there. For you. For me. For your family. For your enemies. For all. Jesus died for sinners so that you can find more than just a place that shares your ideals, but shelter in your day of trouble, forgiveness for every time you’ve fallen short of God’s law, and hope to escape every threat John makes for those who don’t believe. The axe is laid at the root of the cross, the tree, where God bore the sins of the world. It will not be chopped down. It bore the fruit of eternal life. Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. Your sins are forgiven you. You will rise too.
Christianity is Jesus for sinners. Lutheranism is Jesus for sinners. It’s worth defending the truths we teach. It’s worth recognizing that truth that powerful changes things. This isn’t about being right. Truth powerful enough to rip you out of your grave is powerful enough to help with what’s wrong. This isn’t a house of ideas. A house of God. The altar still has blood on it to save you, so we sing John’s song each week.
O Christ thou lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy on us, grant us peace. We sing because Jesus is here. Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Behold the body and blood of Jesus in with and under bread and wine. It’s true, but more, it’s help. It’s forgiveness. It’s shelter. It’s life. We stop what we’re doing. This matters. The truth is made flesh here for you. For everything that’s wrong. It’s more than a statement of belief. It’s Jesus here to save you. It’s the cross made here and now and for you. It’s doctrine actualized and delivered for you. We call it communion, but it means God is here to help and forgive and save. Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The peace of the Lord be with you always. This is not a house of ideas. It’s where God shows up to save. It stands for those who know things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be, but who can’t fix it. It stands to bring Jesus to you. Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus for sinners. Jesus for the world. Jesus for you.