The Face of the Lamb

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.

Door

Did you ever notice that our doors are closed, but the door of heaven stands open?

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20 (NIV)

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” Revelation 4:1 (NIV)

Did you ever notice that our doors are closed, requiring Jesus to knock on them, but the door of heaven stands open? Jesus has opened the way into heaven, into the very Presence. He longs to have fellowship with us. Let’s open the doors of our hearts, the doors of those secret places, those closed-off hurting places, and let Him come in and heal and love and redeem and repair.

I slept but my heart was awake. Listen! My lover is knocking: “Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my flawless one.” Song of Songs 5:2a (NIV)

 

Image by Jack Bair

The Craftsman

Isn’t this just like God, to overcome destruction and chaos and hatred, with creativity, redemption, and love?

Then I looked up, and there before me were four horns. I asked the angel who was speaking to me, “What are these?”
He answered me, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.”
Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen. I asked, “What are these coming to do?”
He answered, “These are the horns that scattered Judah so that no one could raise their head, but the craftsmen have come to terrify them and throw down these horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter its people.” Zechariah 1:18-21 (NIV)

In this amazing vision, that was given to Zechariah, God meets and overcomes brute force and destruction with craftsmen, with artisans! With craftsmen who will restore, redeem, remake like new. And this act of mercy and unfailing love – this checed – terrifies the enemy who can only mar and destroy and scatter.

Isn’t this just like God, to overcome destruction and chaos and hatred, with creativity, redemption, and love? He is the ultimate artisan, the Creator. Jesus was the Craftsman at his side during the creation.[i]

I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep … I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind. Proverbs 8:27, 30-31 (NIV)

He continually is creating and crafting – the entire Universe, but also you and me. I am, we are, his poiema, his poem if we surrender to his expert hands. Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) says that “we are God’s workmanship” or “we are God’s masterpiece” (NLT). Though it may seem like chaos reigns, he is always working, always re-creating, always redeeming – and our enemy is terrified.

The word translated craftsmen encompasses many types of creativity and craft: craftsman, carpenter (it is very cool that Jesus was a carpenter-craftsman here on Earth), artisan, engraver, artificer, stonemason, blacksmith. The craftsmen in the Bible were always doing one of three things: creating and adorning God’s Temple, fashioning idols and adorning their temples, or they were hammering out weapons for warfare.

Made in the image of God, we are craftsmen too. We were made to be always adorning a temple – either the temple of God as we adorn our hearts (working out our salvation) with holiness, righteousness, faithfulness, humility – or the temples of our idols, perhaps with greed, covetousness, bitterness, jealousy, resentment, unforgiveness, pride.

We, as craftsmen, are also given the trust and authority to hammer out weapons of warfare – and to wield them – in this fight against evil, chaos, destruction of all that is good and right, the fight against the hatred of all whom God loves. These weapons of our warfare are many and mighty. Mostly they are not intuitive to our flesh. They include praise and thanksgiving in the face of impossible odds (2 Chronicles 20:15-25). Ephesians lists more of the weapons and armor that we use against the enemy.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God … Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Ephesians 6:12-16 (NIV)

Isn’t it amazing that the weapons of our warfare are truth, righteousness, faith, and the Good News of Jesus death and resurrection, his love, forgiveness, and redemption? Isn’t it wonderful that with these we disarm the rulers of this world?

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NIV)

He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:13b-15 (NIV)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome (subdue, conquer, prevail, be victorious over), evil with good. Romans 12:21 (NIV)

Let us, as “little craftsmen,” adorn our hearts as temples of the Lord. Let us forge the weapons of our warfare, working alongside The Craftsman. Let us overcome the brute force and destruction, hatred and chaos of this world, with the Word of God, with truth, mercy, praise, thanksgiving, and unfailing love.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10 (NASB)

 

[i] See 1 Corinthians 1:30

Captured

During a bible study at the jail I mentioned to a woman that we are all the same in God’s eyes, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. She responded, “Yeah, we just got caught.”

“No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realised exactly how much right he has to all this snobbery, and sneering, and talking about ‘criminals,’ as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away; … till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe and sane under his own hat.” Father Brown in G.K. Chesterton’s The Secret of Father Brown, 1927

The above quote reminded me of a conversation I had with a woman at the jail recently. During a bible study I mentioned that we are all the same in God’s eyes, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. She responded, “Yeah, we just got caught.”

Funny, but true. Jesus made it clear who the criminals are.

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Matthew 5:21-22 (NIV)

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27 (NIV)

In our natural selves we are all caught. Caught in the act. We are all criminals. But Jesus came to capture us in our captivity to sin. He told Peter, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10). That word translated “catching” is zogreo (ζωγρέω) and literally means to capture or take alive. At its very root is the Greek word ago (ἄγω ) which means “to lead by accompanying to (or into) a place.” “To take alive” sounds fearful, but his heart is always mercy and love. He captures us to lead us to that place of salvation and peace.

When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives (he led captivity captive), and he gave gifts to his people. Ephesians 4:8 (NLT)

He led captivity captive. He captured the captives – we who are captured by our sin, slaves to the enemy of our souls. Yes, it’s true we are all criminals that need to be captured, but Father Brown was wrong about one thing. We can’t do it ourselves. There is only One who can. There is only One who can keep us “safe and sane under our own hats.” Jesus – who was considered a criminal, though he never sinned outwardly or inwardly. He loved us and allowed himself to be captured and executed that we might be captured and set free as new creatures. We must surrender, wave the white flag, and let the Lover of our souls lead us away.

Lord, let me be in that crowd of captives. Captured by your grace.

A thousand times I’ve failed
Still your mercy remains
Should I stumble again
Still I’m caught in your grace

From the Inside Out by Joel Houston

Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew (repair, make new) our days as of old.  Lamentations 5:21 (KJV)

Can plunder be taken from warriors, or captives rescued from the fierce? But this is what the LORD says: “Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save. Isaiah 49:24-25 (NIV)

For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God. Ephesians 2:8 (Amplified Bible)

For more on being caught in his wonderful love read Imprisoned

Photo by Jack Bair copyright 2019

Imprisoned

Instead of vaporizing us rebels he put us in protective custody. He gathered us into his loving net.

For God has imprisoned all people in their own disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone. Romans 11:32 (NLT)

God has imprisoned all people in their own disobedience – that really struck me. Another way you could say that is that God has made disobedience a prison for all people. It might not seem like it, but he did this because he loves us and wanted to have mercy on us. He could have set up the universe so that disobedience resulted in – boing! – being flung out into space. Or he could have made it so that disobedience resulted in immediate vaporization. Zap! You’re gone.

But instead he made it so that disobedience to God becomes a prison. We have all experienced that prison – addictions, compulsions, obsessions, uncontrollable emotions and urges, those loud voices in our heads building razor-wire-topped walls. Romans 7:24 (NLT) cries out, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?” But what does the next verse answer? “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” The way out of our prison is surrender to the one who loves us and died for us that we might be set free.

Because the amazing thing is that God did not fashion our disobedience into a prison to have a “so there!” retribution for our turning away from him, or so that he could have some kind of “see I told you so” triumph over us. But, he did it so he could have mercy! God is love and he longs to love us, he longs to have mercy on us. Instead of vaporizing us rebels he put us in protective custody. He gathered us into his loving net.

That Greek word translated “imprisoned” in the above verse is sugkleio. It means to shut up together, embrace in a common subjection, enclose. It is used to describe fish caught in a net, as in Luke 5:6 (NIV).

When they had done so, they caught (sugkleio) such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.

Yes! Hallelujah! Instead of flinging us away into annihilation he has embraced us, enclosed us, caught us in his loving net. If right now you feel like you are flopping around, trapped, gasping for breath, surrender to the one who loves you, who came and died that you might be set free.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 (NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish (be lost, ruined, destroyed, abolished) but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)

My eyes are continually toward the LORD, For He will pluck my feet out of the net. Psalm 25:15 (NASB)

 

This post is also a Bible study available for free use at Imprisoned Bible Study

 

Image by Melanie Dabovich, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Unblameable

Now to Him who is able (has the power)

to keep (guard, watch, protect) you

from stumbling (falling, failing, sinning, erring),

and to make you stand (stand immovable, stand firm, stand unharmed, stand ready, stand prepared)

in the presence of His glory

blameless (without blemish, faultless, unblameable)

with great (exceeding, extreme) joy,  

to the only God our Savior (Deliverer, Preserver),

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

be glory,

majesty,

dominion

and authority,

before all time and now and forever.

Amen!

Jude 1:24-25 (NASB)