Second Sunday after the Epiphany (John 1:29-42a)

Every year in January, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is a chance for manufacturers to tout their latest innovations, upgrades in the most attractive way.  This year’s convention had everything from a foldable tablet to a spoof toilet paper robot by Charmin. But every year the theme is celebrating the new and leaving the old in the dustbin.

For people, there’s something attractive about the new, because interlaced with it is a hope in something ultimate.  Now we can say we’ve finally arrived! This is it! Everything before it was working toward this but now we’re here!

What John the Baptist proclaimed on the banks of the Jordan was truly something new: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

It started with Adam.  Sin arrived with the disobedience of our first parents, the human will turned against its Creator.  This was new, but it was in no way good. Behold, the man who brought sin into the world.

God did something new with Adam’s descendant, Abraham, as He called him to offer up his son Isaac on Mount Moriah.  As they climbed the mountain, Isaac wondered where the sacrifice was. Abraham replied, “God will provide the lamb.” (Genesis 22:8)  And just before he raised his knife to slaughter Isaac, the Lord showed Abraham that lamb he would provide was not Isaac but a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. Behold, the lamb who saves your son from death!

God was doing something new when He chose the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be His holy people, set apart by Him.  And this too was marked by a lamb, whose blood saved the children of Israel—specifically it saved their firstborn sons from death.

But God was not content to only save one son, one family, or one nation of the earth.  So, what John says on the Jordan shows God’s true intent: to take away sin and death from all the sons of Adam: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes way the sin of the world.”

And we learn about this from both Abraham and the Passover lambs.

From Abraham, we learn that there is a distinction among the sons of Adam—those who believe the Word God speaks, and those who reject it.  Abraham “believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (Gen. 15:6)  Paul would later say the true offspring of Abraham are not those of blood descent, but those who share in the faith of Abraham. (Galatians 3:25-29)

From both Abraham and Passover, we learn that sin cannot be taken away without a death.  Not just any death will do, but a firstborn son and a spotless lamb—a firstborn son and a lamb which God Himself will provide.  It is the blood of this son and lamb whose blood covers sinners, who dies in their place that they might be set free.

Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world—who takes away sin for all who hold to the words and promises of God!  Look with the eyes of faith upon the Lamb, who has taken your sins away!

God has done something new, something better than ever before in a salvation that is for everyone who believes.  This is the blessed truth we take rest in today: That God’s Lamb, God’s Son, has given His life for us, and now to us.  The Jews ate of a lamb, drained of its blood which painted the doorposts, but what the Lord has done for us is give us His Son.  “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed,” Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Cor. 5:7-8)  Cleansing out not yeast from our houses, but desiring to be free from the malice and evil of our hearts, we come to the altar, singing to the Lamb of God to have mercy on us.  And He does. He gives us His Body and Blood to eat and drink, and the faith of Abraham receives in it forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Yet even with a new song in our hearts [Ps. 40:3], this is not the ultimate; it’s close but not at its final destination.  The words of John must continue going out until it has reached everyone who will believe. So news of the Lamb of God goes out on a preacher’s lips, as he says to the contrite heart, God’s Lamb, Jesus Christ has taken your sins away. You shall not die. Depart in peace.  We hear those words again and again as we wrestle with what we inherited from birth and the sins we’ve added.

And we know that grace and peace isn’t just for our own salvation.  It’s for our children, for our siblings and cousins, for our friends.  And so we tell others, as it happened with Andrew:

“The two disciples heard [John] say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus.”

Andrew told his brother, Peter, who later would became the leader of the apostles.  But what was it that led Peter to respond to the news, “We have found the Messiah”?  That wasn’t Andrew’s concern; it was God’s, who is the One who not only desires Peter’s salvation but also has the power to create faith in him.

What holds us back from telling others about Jesus, God’s Lamb?  We can make excuses like we’re shy, or we’re not good at talking (ask Moses about that, Exod. 4:10-12).  But it really doesn’t depend on us! It depends on God, who loves both you and them so much that He didn’t stop with Abraham, Isaac, or Israel.  His blood was shed to free them from the chains of sin, pay for the guilt which weighs heavy on their soul, and fill them with immortal peace! What will be the right thing to say to them?  When will be the right opportunity? No amount of worry or cleverness on our part will make such an encounter more likely to succeed. These are things God will decide and plan, just as He did from the day Andrew and Peter to the events which led to you sitting here worshipping the Lamb today.

This is the wonderful work of God, the new and saving work, which is complete in heaven and yet continues on earth.  And we joyfully follow Jesus, God’s Lamb, as we anticipate the eternal kingdom He has prepared for us. Amen.

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