The Lamb of God

lamb milk_1 It was John the Baptist who first made the connection. He had become a well-known figure in First Century Israel; a priest by birth who had become a reformer instead.

Positioning himself by the River Jordan, instead of in the Temple at Jerusalem, he had summoned the nation to renew their vows and to enter into a new spiritual experience. They were to repent of their sins and be baptised in the Jordan.

Coming Deliverer

But, on his own admission, John was not the centre of the reformation he was beginning. He explained that there was someone else coming to refine and purify the nation and it was evident that he held that person in very high esteem, even though he didn’t know, at the time, who that person would be. This is what he said about the expected Deliverer:

“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his threshing floor, and gather his wheat into the barn; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:11,12).


He was expecting a mighty One who would devour and destroy all opposition, whose burning zeal would purify those who accepted and followed him. John had not conjured that vision up himself; it was the prophet Malachi who had predicted such an outcome, and who had also said that the Messiah would be preceded by a messenger who would prepare his way, and make the people ready for the coming change (see Malachi chapters 3 and 4).

Surprise Arrival

It seems that John was somewhat taken aback one day when Jesus of Nazareth came to him at the River Jordan and asked to be baptized. They had known one another a little, because they were distantly related, and John knew enough to know that Jesus was a good-living man. So much so, that he said that if anyone was to be baptised, Jesus should baptize him, not vice versa. But Jesus quietly insisted:

“’Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness’“. Then he allowed him” (Matthew 3:15).

Notice that Jesus said “for us”, not “for me”. His life was an example of how we too should live, so his baptism was a way of demonstrating that we too need to be baptized if we are to be right with God. So John baptised the Son of God and something remarkable happened:

“Behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon him” (3:16).

It was an eye-opener for John as well, as he later explained (John 1:29-34). All of a sudden he knew that the Saviour he had been heralding was Jesus of Nazareth, and he couldn’t get over the fact that he hadn’t realised that before, for he repeats the words “I did not know him” (John 1:31,33). Of all people, he seems to say, you would have thought that I would have realised that Jesus was the One whom God had sent to rescue His people from their bondage to sin and death.

The Lamb of God


John had disciples of his own: people who were following his teaching and learning about life as he saw it. What was he now going to say to them about the Deliverer – the person he had been promising. John was a prophet of God, so the things that he said as a prophet could go far beyond his own immediate understanding. And this is what he said to them:

“John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as he walked, he said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’“ (John 1:35,36).

It was a remarkable thing to say, especially at that time in the ministry of Jesus, which was only just beginning. Years later,Jesus explained to his disciples that he must suffer and die at Jerusalem, offering his life as a sacrifice which would take away the sins of ll those who believed in him. But, even then, the close followers of Jesus found it difficult to accept that he was really being asked to die as a sacrifice for sin (see Matthew 16:21-23). So, for John to have said what he did was remarkable.

God-Provided Generations before, the patriarch Abraham had once been asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and had shown that he was willing to do it, if that was what God commanded. It turns out that he believed God would have then brought Isaac back to life again (see Hebrews 11:17-19). But, having proved that he would have done it, God spared Abraham and Isaac the trauma and allowed the faithful man to offer a ram as a sacrifice instead − one that He had provided, just as Abraham anticipated (Genesis 22:7-14).

Abraham had expected a lamb; at the time God provided a ram, caught by its horns in the thicket. Now, some 2000 years later, John the Baptist foresaw that God was providing the long-awaited lamb:

“John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29).

It took John the Baptist a while to realise who Jesus was and what he had come to do. It will be the same with us. But when we realise that Jesus came to die for the sins of the world, and that through his death our sins can be forgiven, we shall have begun to share John’s insight and will have started to learn about the Saviour who can purge and purify us, and make us right with God. Such an insight is really important if we are to  fully appreciate all that God and the Lord Jesus have done, and still can do, for us.