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Sunday, May 6, 2018

posted May 7, 2018, 1:10 AM by Site Administrator

LOOK, THE LAMB OF GOD!

 

John 1:19-34

Key Verse 1:29

 

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

 

In the previous passage, we learned that Jesus is the true light that gives light to every man. He gives anyone who believes in him, the right to become “a child of God.” Through Jesus, we have all received one blessing after another – forgiveness of our sins, eternal life, and true freedom through his grace and truth. Today’s passage is about the ministry of John the Baptist. His ministry was very fruitful and successful. But the key point of his ministry was to testify to Jesus. May God bless us to hear what John has to say about Jesus today.

 

First, “Make straight the way for the Lord” (19-28). John the Baptist was the last prophet of the Old Testament. He was the forerunner of the Christ. He preached the message of repentance, and his ministry grew and grew until it shook the country. When John preached the message of repentance, many people came to him and repented, beating their chests and crying, then John baptized them in the Jordan River. John’s popularity was braking through the roof. Then, the Jewish religious leaders sent investigators to check up on John and his work. They came and asked John who he was in order to find out if he was the Christ, for everyone was talking and speculating that John might be the Christ. What was John’s response to them? He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” Then, they asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” Elijah was a powerful man of God who stood against the nationwide idol worship during the time of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. He had the whole nation turn to God. In Malachi 4:5, God promised that, before the coming of the Messiah, God would send Elijah to prepare people’s heart for him. John said, “I am not.” Then they asked him again, “Are you the Prophet?” Here, “the Prophet” refers to the one whom God talked to Moses about, saying in Deuteronomy 18:18, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers.” Actually, the Prophet like Moses, is Jesus Christ, the Messiah. So, John said, “No.”

 

These three titles, “Christ,” “Elijah,” and “the Prophet” are really great. People love titles of greatness. But how did John respond to such a thing? He said, “I am not the Christ,” “I am not,” “No.” Each time, John’s answer became shorter and shorter, almost as if he was getting repulsed by the idea of him being somebody special, until all he could say was, “No.” In reality, John the Baptist was not the Christ or the Prophet, but he was Elijah who came ahead of the Christ. Before his birth, an angel foretold Zechariah his father what he would do, saying, “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luk 1:17) Jesus himself told his disciples that John was Elijah to come. (Mt 17:10-13) So John could have said, “Yes, I am Elijah to come.” But he said, “I am not.” He refused to reveal his identity as Elijah even if he was Elijah, so that people would not look at him. His whole purpose was to reveal the Christ to people. His life philosophy was, “He must become greater and I must become less.” (Jn 3:30)

 

How could he deny and humble himself so much like this? We see the answer in verse 27. John says, “He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” John knew the greatness of the Messiah, and compared to the greatness of the Messiah, he could not even be qualified to be the lowest slave for him. Then, talking about his own greatness was really embarrassing. So, he never wanted to talk about how great he was.

 

This is the secret of being truly humble. When we do not know the greatness of Jesus, we think of ourselves highly, and pursue our glory. But when we know Jesus, we come to advertise his glory, because we know that it is even so silly to talk about what we do in the light of Jesus’ glory. We want to be humble. But humility is not the matter of doing some lowly actions or saying some humble words, but it is the matter of knowing Jesus Christ. Those who know Jesus become humble, but those who do not know Jesus are self-seeking, proud and unforgiving. John the Baptist talked about himself less and less, and lowered himself to the ground. But later, Jesus said about John the Baptist, “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” He was truly a great man because he knew Jesus’ greatness and served God’s will to the end of his life.

 

How did John identify himself? Look at verse 23. Let’s read this verse together:

 

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

 

John knew who he was and what he must do. He found his identity in the word of God. When one word of God was given to him, everything became clear in his eyes – who he was-he was the voice, why he was born into the world, and what he must do with his life: he was there to serve God’s mission as the forerunner of the Messiah to prepare people for the Lord. So, he happily and wholeheartedly gave himself to this holy mission and lived for it and died for it. He was indeed a happy man who knew the truth and lived by the truth. What great blessing it is to receive one word of God! When anyone receives God’s word personally, that person can see everything clearly – who he is and what he should do. When one word of God was given to Moses Webster based on Genesis 1:26, he saw that he was a child of God created in God’s image to do something great, challenging and conquering. When John Boos received God’s word based on Luke 5, he could see that he must live to catch men for God instead of living as a self-seeking businessman. When Johnny received one word of God based on Luke 15, he could see that he was a sheep lost, but beloved by God, so he responded to his shepherd’s calling happily, saying, “Baaaaaa.” It is actually all peoples’ struggle to have a clear sense of identity – they simply want to know who they are and what the purpose of their life is and what they should do. But they don’t know the truth, and end up saying, “I am from a monkey.” They picture themselves as mutated monkeys – they are crazy. People struggle hard to have some kind of identity, any kind in the world so that at least they can say, “Hi, my name is Dr. Smith.” Or they say, “I am a professor.” Or they try to identify themselves with wealth they have, saying, “I live in Palos Verdes.” All these people perish without knowing who they truly are, and their life is wasted for nothing. They must come to God and study the Bible so that they too may receive God’s words and know the truth.

 

John describes himself as a voice. A voice delivers the message and disappears. A voice does not have a name. John said he was a voice; he was like a spokesperson for someone else. We don’t pay attention to who the spokesperson for the president of our school is, but we do pay attention to his message – whether they will increase the tuition this year or not, or whether they will have many classes or not. John, by saying that he was a voice, meant that the important thing was not who he was, but what he said. He wanted all people to pay attention to his message so that they might be blessed. John describes his mission, saying, “Make straight the way for the Lord.” Here, “the Lord” refers to Jesus, the Promised Messiah. Now he was coming into the world to save the world and bless people, but sadly, people, these Bible believing people, were not ready to accept him. The expression, “Make straight the way for the Lord” indicates that they needed a certain preparation so that they might accept and welcome the Lord. John’s mission was to prepare these people so that Jesus’ entry to their hearts and lives might be very smooth.

 

John the Baptist’s quotation is from Isaiah 40:3,4: “A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.” God sent John the Baptist to Israel people who believed in the Bible and who had attended worship service regularly; they were the ones who would rather choose to die than denying God; they were the ones who believed in God’s creation based on Genesis, instead of believing in a Big Bang theory or evolution theory. But despite their religious life of worshiping God, not other idols, their hearts were like the desert and the wilderness in God’s eyes, not suitable for God at all; despite their Bible knowledge and faithful worship service attending, their hearts were not good at all for God to come in and dwell. What is truly important is not Bible knowledge or religious performance, but heart’s condition. God does not see man’s outward appearance or performance, but our heart.

 

Originally, God made people’s hearts beautiful, tender, and lovely with godly character and God’s image, but because of sin, people’s hearts’ condition has become like the desert and wilderness. God describes people’s heart’s condition into four categories: Valley, mountain, rough ground and rugged places. Some people’s hearts are deeply paved like a valley that even if they believe in God, they do not pursue God or worship God; instead, even in God, they struggle hard to fill up their valley-like heart with other things such as a sense of security with a job or human recognition or human companionship or they pour out their time and energy to prove themselves, instead of pouring them out for God and worshiping God. Jesus was excellent in helping these people and making them really powerful for God. Jesus understood the Samaritan woman’s sentiment very well that even if she scratched his pride, he bore with her and helped her patiently; then, finally, she opened up her heart toward him and became powerful for God, zealously serving God’s purpose. Some people’s heart is like a mountain – they are so proud of themselves. To these proud and self-righteous people, John shouted, “You brood of vipers! ... Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Lk 3:7-9) For these self-righteous people, John used the spiritual dynamite and blew away the mountains and hills in their hearts. Some hearts are very rough and bumpy because of anger and hatred; some hearts are very cold and frozen because of the sense of betrayal and mistrust; some hearts are very muddy and dirty because of lust and sinful life. Once John had a clear sense of mission based on God’s words, he gave himself completely to serving God’s mission, pouring out his time and energy. Then, thanks to his dedication to God’s work, many people were prepared to meet their Messiah.

 

One interesting and shocking point to notice is that the heart’s condition Isaiah 40 describes is not about the Gentiles or serial killers, but God’s people Israel – those who believed in God and studied the Bible all the time, those who had never missed the worship service, those who believed in God’s creation, not evolution, those who lived a clean and moralistic life according to God’s laws, those who’d rather choose to be killed than denying God. Even though they did all these things, their hearts were like the desert or wilderness, with many valleys, mountains and hills, rough grounds and rugged places, not suitable for God to travel at all. It’s all because of their sins, maybe, of lust, or greed, or anger, or thirst for romantic relationships, or desire for success in the world. We live as Christians, doing Christian things. But what is really important is whether we have a highway for the Lord in our hearts or not; what is really important is not doing a lot of Christian things or having Bible knowledge, but accepting Jesus as our King and God, and really worshiping Him dedicating ourselves to Him, pouring out all our time, energy and potential on His purpose. We need to really repent of our sins – our anger or hatred, our sorrow or anxiety, our sense of betrayal or our mistrust, our unbelief or fear, our pride and inferiority complex, lust, desire for success in the world. Is there a highway for the Lord in you? Or is it still a desert or wilderness? At the same time, we are here to build a highway for our Lord Jesus in the hearts of many people; we are spiritual highway builders for God – this is our identity as Christians. Like John the Baptist, we all can say, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” I pray that all of us may become excellent highway builders for our God.

 

 At this answer of John the Baptist, they should have been touched, realizing John’s single-hearted devotion to God’s purpose; or they should have realized their sins and repented. But instead, they said, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” They had no concern about the truth, nor desire for God. They were just political and challenged John of his authority to do such a religious campaign in Israel without any license or degree. But John was not intimidated. Instead, he positively turned their concern to the Christ who was coming, saying, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

     

Second, “Look, the Lamb of God” (29-34). Look at verse 29. The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” “Look!” It was his exclamation and at the same time, his command to look at Jesus. At that time, all people looked at John. Whenever people gathered together, they talked about John – how many people John gave the baptism each day, what kind of message he delivered. When you turned on the radio, you heard John. When you turned on the TV, you saw John. Everything about John was big news. His clothes – camel’s hair and a leather belt – became fashion among college students in Israel. Honey and locusts were regarded as official food for all those who had passion for God. But John exclaimed, “Look, the Lamb of God!” He commanded people not to look at him, but Jesus. Why? It was because only when people looked at Jesus, could they find God’s salvation, a new life, and peace. John commanded them to look at Jesus because Jesus takes away the sin of the world and brings them real hope, joy and life.

 

What are we looking at and what are we putting our hope in? People look at money; they look at stock market, as a result, their hopes and anxieties are on a constant roller coaster ride; there is no peace. They look at their future job market, and they are in great anxiety because the job market changes continually. When we look at the world, we are so scared – when will the war against terrorists end? Is Israel going to start a war against Iran? Will there be a nuclear war soon? We see so many problems popping up endlessly. And we feel sick. It seems that history goes from one crisis to the next. Just when we feel safe and secure, another war breaks out. When we look at the world, we are depressed; it is no wonder that the number of mental patients grow continually and psychiatrists and psychologists get richer and richer. When we look at ourselves, we are depressed because our performance at work, at school, and even in church is less than satisfactory. But John shouts, “Look, the Lamb of God!” John commands us to look at Jesus, not ourselves or the world. Why? It is because only when we fix our eyes on Jesus, we find hope and vision for our life. When we look at Jesus, and focus on him, we mysteriously find deep peace in us.

 

John describes Jesus as the Lamb of God. The Lamb refers to the Passover Lamb. At the Passover night, when the angel of destruction saw the blood of the lambs on the doorposts of a house, he simply passed over that house; as a result, the people in that house were exempt from God’s judgment thanks to the blood sacrifice of the Passover lamb. At that time, each family prepared the Passover lamb and its blood had power to save one family. But Jesus is the Passover Lamb prepared by God, and his blood has power to save all mankind from God’s judgment.

 

John also tells us that Jesus, the Lamb of God, came to take away the sin of the world. Jesus has many other titles, such as the Prince of peace, or Mighty God, or Everlasting Father, but John describes him as the One who takes away the sin of the world. Why was this so important to John?  It was because he had seen how man’s sin had caused so much trouble, pains and sorrows in people’s lives. John the Baptist saw the sins of the world. As people came to him and confessed their sins, he saw how man’s sin had destroyed, otherwise, beautiful and happy families. He saw how man’s anger had destroyed many people’s lives. He saw how sin had infested into the lives of people even to the core. He must have felt grief and cried many tears on their behalf. But he could not take away the sin of the world; his baptism of water could not remove sin from them. But when he saw Jesus coming towards him, he was excited because Jesus was the one who would solve man’s sin problem – Jesus was the real solution for all the problems mankind had. God sent his solution to the world. What an exciting moment it was for John to see Jesus, the real solution of all the problems, coming toward him! So he shouted, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  

 

Jesus is the One who takes away our sins so that we may not suffer from our sins any more. Jesus is the one who can mend our broken relationships with others by taking away our sins. Jesus is the One who can change us, sinful people, into holy people of God. He is the One who can bring peace between conflicting peoples by taking away their hatred and pride. When parents look at Jesus, their families will be mended, and their children will grow sound and secure in beautiful sweet homes. When people look at Jesus, they will stop fighting. When we look at Jesus, we find hope and vision for ourselves to become great and glorious children of God; we find vision to do something great for God. When we look at Jesus who died on the cross, we find peace, and realize that we are loved by God. To the suffering people of the world, John the Baptist shouts, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

 

Look at verses 32 through 34. John the Baptist himself did not know who Jesus was, but when he obeyed God’s mission, he came to experience Jesus’ true identity. Jesus is God who was before him, and Jesus is the one who baptizes people with the Holy Spirit. John says, “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”

 

One Word: Look, the Lamb of God, Who Takes Away the Sin of the World!

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