It is one of the most powerful declarations in all of Scripture: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).” This was the declaration of John the Baptist when he saw Jesus coming toward him.
In a culture where what has been called “resume virtues” directs the lives of many, we need more than ever to heed the Baptist’s words. The Greek word often translated “look” or “behold” is not the most generic word for seeing. It has to do with giving attention to someone or something. We live in a culture where the sovereign-self rules. “It’s all about me. It’s all about my climbing up the ladder. It’s all about me making something of myself.” For the Baptist, it was not about him, it was all about Jesus. Whenever the camera lens focused in on him, he did not hesitate to point to the one who was greater than him, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.
We also need the exhortation to behold the Lamb of God, because we live in a time cluttered with distractions. Smart phones constantly flash notifications before our eyes and email inboxes never cease to fill. How often to we stop to contemplate the deeper questions in life? We need to behold the Lamb of God.
What does it mean to behold the Lamb of God? The image of a Lamb would have brought to mind for the Baptist’s first hearers a myriad of meaning. God had provided the sacrificial lamb to replace Abraham’s son Isaac on the altar (Genesis 22:7-13); in a far greater way Jesus is the ultimate provision sent from God. At the first Passover, the blood of lambs was a sign to the plague of death to pass over the Israelite homes (Exodus 12:12-13); in a far greater way Jesus’ blood on the cross signals God’s gracious passing over of our sin. Though less obvious for the Baptist’s first hearers, Jesus is also the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah’s suffering lamb, who was numbered with transgressors, bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:7-12) .
Will you behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? The seventeenth century Swiss reformer John Calvin aptly put it, “Now it is for us to embrace the blessing offered to all, that each may make up his mind that there is nothing to hinder him from finding reconciliation in Christ if only, led by faith, he comes to him.”