The Gospel of John

Behold, the Lamb of God! #2

We showed, in our previous post, that John’s gospel records John the Baptist’s word of Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world”. While this description of Jesus as “God’s Lamb” came from the Baptist, they were also the words of a prophet: they were the words the Eternal God gave to that prophet and were true. The same picture of Jesus as a sacrifice for man’s sins is shown in Revelation where John the apostle, having received the revelation that Jesus gave to him, described Jesus as God’s Lamb and in whose blood men washed their stripes and were made whole. Unlike the gospel where reference to Jesus as a lamb is found only twice, Revelation has at least 26 such identifications of Jesus.

Jesus, as God’s Lamb, is God’s atoning sacrifice for the sins of men and that is emphasized in Revelation. However, it is evident that John reveals Jesus as a Lamb in roles one does not ordinarily expect in a lamb. John reveals Jesus as a Lamb from whom men may expect wrath if they yield not to His words; as one who has a book in which are those who belong to Him and to which, at the last day, final judgment will be made. If one’s name is in that book, he will enter heaven; if one’s name is not in that book, he will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15; 21:27). He is the Lamb who defeats the fearsome beast which comes out of the sea who, along with his allies “make war against the Lamb” (Revelation 13:1; 17:14). And when all nations stand before the “great white throne” of judgment, that throne will be the throne of the Lamb who occupies that throne with His Father (2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 3:21; 5:13; 7:9-10, 17; 22:1; 22:3).

One thing we must never lose sight of is that while Jesus as a Lamb was a sacrifice for men’s sins, the lambs offered daily as sacrifices in the Jerusalem temple were unlike Him in many ways. Those animals had no consciousness of the purpose they were sacrificed for. Those animals were unwilling victims; they could not have prevented their death and could not have brought themselves back to life again. The Lamb of God was aware of all this and capable of so doing.

We cannot say that John had these contrasts between God’s Lamb and the lambs offered upon the altar in Jerusalem in mind when he wrote of the Lamb as a warrior, a Judge, and as one who visited wrath upon those disobedient to Him. But all these things were true.

Jesus was fully conscious of His role as a sacrifice for man’s sin and expressed His assurance of Himself serving that for man. He said, “The son of man came not to be ministered to but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

Jesus was a willing sacrifice. He did not want to suffer the disgrace, anguish, and pain which resulted through His death. He prayed, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). Yet, while He did not want to die and asked the Father that, if possible, He might be spared from it, He did not ask the Father to spare Him, no matter the consequence to man had He not died. He asked that if there was some way in which man could be redeemed which did not require that He die, let that way be done. He desired the salvation of man just as fervently as did His Father, and wanted and was willing to die if that was the only way through which man could be saved.

Furthermore, He could have successfully resisted the efforts of the Jews to kill Him had He so chosen, and commanded His apostles to desist their opposition to the soldiers’ efforts to take Him. He reminded them, “Or thinkest thou that I cannot beseech my Father; and he shall even now send me more that twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).

And, unlike the lamb, He did have power to raise Himself from the grave into which He was laid. He predicted both His death and resurrection in the beginning of His ministry (John 2:19) — and fulfilled them.

He was the perfect sacrifice, but the role in which John presents Him in Revelation also presents Him as “Lord of Lords and king of Kings”, a Judge, and as one before whom all men must one day stand. Yet, despite His power, He went willingly to the cross, acting in full accord with His Father’s will so that lost man might be saved. Oh, what a Savior is He!

Jim McDonald