Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Jesus is the ultimate Passover Lamb

On Sunday I had the chance to speak at WatersEdge@Cafe, which is a short church service for a new community of faith. Unlike last time I spoke, this time I didn't think this talk went very well. It may seem ok on paper and seem to make some sense, but when speaking it I think there was way too much information. There wasn't many antidotes or analogies, nor really an application. It may have had enough content for 25 minute talk but I don't think it was a good 8 minute talk. Anyway I am marking it down as a "learning experience" to hopefully help me improve in the future. Below are the readings in the Good News Translation and my talk.

John 1:29-37

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me, but he is greater than I am, because he existed before I was born.’ 31 I did not know who he would be, but I came baptizing with water in order to make him known to the people of Israel.”

32 And John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and stay on him. 33 I still did not know that he was the one, but God, who sent me to baptize with water, had said to me, ‘You will see the Spirit come down and stay on a man; he is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen it,” said John, “and I tell you that he is the Son of God.”

35 The next day John was standing there again with two of his disciples, 36 when he saw Jesus walking by. “There is the Lamb of God!” he said.

37 The two disciples heard him say this and went with Jesus.

Exodus 12:21-28

21 Moses called for all the leaders of Israel and said to them, “Each of you is to choose a lamb or a young goat and kill it, so that your families can celebrate Passover. 22 Take a sprig of hyssop, dip it in the bowl containing the animal's blood, and wipe the blood on the doorposts and the beam above the door of your house. Not one of you is to leave the house until morning. 23 When the Lord goes through Egypt to kill the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the beams and the doorposts and will not let the Angel of Death enter your houses and kill you. 24 You and your children must obey these rules forever. 25 When you enter the land that the Lord has promised to give you, you must perform this ritual. 26 When your children ask you, ‘What does this ritual mean?’ 27 you will answer, ‘It is the sacrifice of Passover to honor the Lord, because he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt. He killed the Egyptians, but spared us.’”

The Israelites knelt down and worshiped. 28 Then they went and did what the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron.

I though today this talk would be more on theme that originally planned. Earlier today I was at my nephew’s baptism and that made me think about what I would talk about here. I thought: baptism… water… watersEdge… Jesus…. I know! Maybe I should talk about Jesus’ baptism. Anyway, I looked up John’s Gospel to see what John said about Jesus’ baptism and I was a little surprised.

Unlike the other Gospels, John doesn’t really seem to focus on Jesus’ baptism at all. There is the mention of the Spirit coming down to Jesus, but there is no voice from heaven. In this account John the Baptist calls Jesus the “Lamb of God” twice. In about seven verses. Instead of Jesus being called God’s son, whom the Father is well please, John wants to point out that Jesus is a lamb.

Does that sound strange to anyone? Why is John calling Jesus a farm animal? There is some ancient graffiti in Rome that has a man being crucified who has a donkey’s head and another person looking on with the inscription under it: “Alexamenos worships his God”1. Most people take this to be an insult to the Christians, but why is that? John here is saying Jesus is a lamb, isn’t that just as insulting?

This probably isn’t the case, but it still may sound strange to us. Tonight I want to mainly look at John’s first statement about Jesus and flesh it out a bit. John says that Jesus “is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.

The first we should note, that regardless of what this lamb bit means, we should see that the lamb belongs to God. This is God’s lamb. This lamb has been especially provided by God2. John is saying that Jesus belongs to God. This is a good indication that John wasn’t insulting Jesus.

On the meaning of the lamb I think it is good to know a little bit of Jewish background, which was what the Exodus reading was for.

We need to remember that when Jesus was called the “Lamb of God” it was in a Jewish context. The Jews saw lambs as a clean animal that could be used for sacrifices. Now animal sacrifice may seem quite strange and foreign to us, but to the Jews it was a very powerful symbol of God’s justice and his grace3. In this symbol we see God’s justice in that he demands a punishment for us breaking his rules; but we see his grace in that he doesn’t punish us, but uses a lamb as a substitute. In the Jewish system a lamb could symbolically die in a person’s place, instead of God punishing them for their sins.

Also around Easter time the Jews wouldn’t sit around and eat chocolate Easter eggs, instead they would share a lamb roast to remember the Passover4. It was called the Passover, because it was when the Angel of Death “passed over” the Jewish slaves. We read a bit about this lamb in our Exodus reading. On the first Passover they were to kill this lamb and then cover their door posts with its blood to save their own sons from being killed. In the first Passover we see God providing a way out from His judgement in the form of a dead animal in the place of someone else. The lamb’s death was seen as a substitute.

Now this is all very interesting in a historical sense of Jewish practice, but how do we know that this is what John meant when he called Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? If we had more time I would like to take you through John’s Gospel to show you, but instead I will just give you a general overview.

Throughout John’s Gospel the Passover is mentioned a fair bit. It is the setting for at least seven other incidents5. Also, near the end of John’s Gospel, in chapter 19, when Jesus is dying on the cross I think there are some subtle comparisons between Jesus and the Passover Lamb. You may want to read John 19 and Exodus 12 later and do some quality control on what I am about to say.

In John’s Gospel, while Jesus was on the cross, a branch of hyssop was raised to Jesus which is the same type of branch that was applied to the doorposts of the Israelites in Egypt6. John points out Jesus’s bones were not broken, likewise the Passover Lamb wasn’t to have any broken bones7. John also mentions that Jesus died the evening before Passover which was the same time the Passover Lamb was to be killed8.

With this lamb reference in our reading, I think John is saying that Jesus is the ultimate Passover Lamb. This ultimate Passover Lamb takes away the sin of the world.

Now it is true that animal sacrifices never really did deal with sin. Hebrews 10 even goes so far to say that it is impossible for animal’s blood to take away sins9. If animal sacrifices were so good, then why did they need to be repeated over and over again? In the book of Hebrews it says that animal sacrifices were merely a copy of the one true sacrifice10. Jesus was the one true sacrifice that all other sacrifice were pointing to. Jesus is the ultimate Passover Lamb.

In our John passage we see that it is Jesus who takes away the sin of the world. This is not just a Jewish thing anymore. Jesus is for the whole world. This ultimate Passover Lamb extends to all nations and all people, this includes us. Jesus is our ultimate Passover Lamb.

John also points out that Jesus takes away sin. Singular. Not just sins, plural, which could be any number of wrong deeds. But Sin. Full stop. No more. This could be said that Jesus came to take away the whole sinful condition of the world11. All of it. All sins for all people. Jesus really is the ultimate Passover Lamb.

In first Passover the Jews were saved under the banner of the blood of a lamb; today those who are under the banner of blood of Jesus are saved12. And you what else is so good about our ultimate Passover Lamb: He came back to life. No other sacrifice has ever done that.

Not only did Jesus die in our place. Jesus also defeated death in our place13 and gives us new life. This is the good news. Jesus suffered death for us, but also conquered death for us.

Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

So from our John passage we see a few things about this lamb.

This lamb is greater than John the Baptist

This lamb existed before the creation of the world

This lamb has the Holy Spirit

This lamb is the Son of God

This lamb is God’s

This lamb is our sacrifice

This lamb is our substitute

This lamb takes away sin

This lamb is for the whole world

This lamb is named Jesus

Let us remember our ultimate Passover Lamb, Jesus, who takes away the sin of the world.

1 Alexamenos graffito

2 Köstenberger, A. J. (2004). John. Baker exegetical commentary on the New Testament (66). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.

3 Animated Explanation of Sacrifice and Atonement

4 It really was a lamb roast: Exodus 12:8: They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it (ESV)

5 John 2:13, 23, 6:4, 11:55, 12:1, 13:1, 19:14

6 Exodus 12:22; John 19:29

7 Exodus 12:46; John 19:33

8 Exodus 12:6; John 19:14

9 Hebrews 10:4

10 Hebrews 9:23-28

11 Newman, B. M., & Nida, E. A. (1993). A handbook on the Gospel of John. Helps for translators; UBS handbook series (37). New York: United Bible Societies.

12 David Platt around the 28:24 mark of Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions Also the following bit has a bit of Platt influence.

13 Ibid


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