The next day he [John] saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 (NASB)
“Just watch the one who is approaching—not the Baptist there in the water but the one who is walking toward the Baptist along the edge of the water. Siehe, das ist Gottes Lamm. Nothing matters except him. See how the air stirs, bending the rushes in front of him. Watch his face as he picks his way along—nobody else’s face. His. Everything that matters is in his face. Everything that matters is in his hands. In his hands is the meaning and purpose of creation, the first voice says. In his hands is your life, the second voice says. Behold, he taketh away the sins of the world. Das ist Gottes Lamm.” –Fredrick Buechner
I love this quote by Buechner. “Everything that matters is in his face. Everything that matters is in his hands.“ It reminds me of this verse in Psalms:
It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them. Psalm 44:3[i]
I also love the German translation of John’s prophetic exclamation – Siehe, das ist Gottes Lamm! – See, this is God’s Lamb! Something happened that day as Jesus walked down the riverbank. John the Baptist had come as a forerunner to announce the coming of the Messiah. But, he hadn’t known who he was looking for until that day when Jesus, his familiar cousin, had come down to the river to be baptized.
John’s eyes were opened, and he received the revelation. See! It makes me wonder if maybe there was something different in Jesus’ face that day. Maybe Jesus had already set his face like flint to accomplish his suffering, his mission to take away the sin of the world. Or maybe, to John, Jesus’ face shone like Moses’ had when the veil was lifted. Or maybe the veil over John’s own mind and heart was lifted. Maybe all of those. Whatever it was John knew, “See, this is God’s Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world!”
God’s Lamb, or the Lamb of God refers to the ancient prophecy in Genesis 22:8 when Abraham assured Isaac, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Géza Vermes has written: “For the Palestinian Jew, all lamb sacrifice, and especially the Passover lamb and the Tamid offering, was a memorial of the Akedah [the binding of Isaac] with its effects of deliverance, forgiveness of sin and messianic salvation.”[ii]
The Lamb of God who “takes away.” The Greek word is airó (αἴρω) and its definition tells the story of Jesus’ ministry and his death on the Cross.
to raise up, elevate, lift up
But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. John 12:32
to draw up a fish
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Mark 1:17
to take off or away what is attached to anything, to loose, remove
And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed (loosed) from your sickness.” Luke 13:12 (NASB)
to raise from the ground, to take up stones
“My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. John 10:29-31 (NASB)
to take by force
Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Luke 22:54
to take from among the living, either by a natural death, or by violence
By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. Isaiah 53:8
to take upon one’s self and carry what has been raised up, to bear
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24
to expiate sin
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2
“See, this is God’s Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world!”
For God, who said,
“Let light shine out of darkness,”
made his light shine in our hearts
to give us the light
of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the face of Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6
Image, detail from John the Baptist by Jack Baumgartner. Used by permission of the artist. See more at his blog here The School of the Transfer of Energy
[i] All Bible quotations from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.
[ii] Géza Vermes. Scripture and Tradition in Judaism, 1961.