Be joyful in HOPE,
patient in affliction,
faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s
people who are in need.
Romans 12:12-13

Epiphany 2-2023

There is no audio on the service video.


Sermon Text: John 1:29-42.

Dear fellow beneficiaries of the Lamb’s atonement, who in God’s eyes are those-whose-sins-are-paid-for: Grace and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, to you. Amen.

John 1:29 is one Bible verse that you really should know by heart: “Look! (Or Behold!) The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” The first thing here is to know that Jesus is the Lamb of God.

Or to turn it around: “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, is Jesus.” Long before Jesus came, God was saying to look for the Lamb.

It went back to the sacrifice of Isaac, when Isaac asked his father Abraham, “Where is the lamb?” and Abraham said God would provide one.

It went back to the Passover lamb, the lamb for each household, whose blood on the doorpost saved the life of the firstborn in the house.

It went back to all the daily sacrifices, year after year, placing all the sins of the Israelites onto all these animals offered up and killed in their place.

It went back to Isaiah 53 where God promised that the Servant He would send would be “led like a lamb to the slaughter,” and like it had been with the sacrificial lambs but now it would be true for everyone in the world, that “the LORD has charged all our guilt to Him.”

The key concept here is “atonement.” The picture here is that God has anger over all the sin. You owe a great debt to Him for your sins. Can you atone for the sins you’ve done? Can you ever make up for them? Can you ever make up the amount of the debt? No.

But God, who has such love that He doesn’t want to condemn, provides a way for atonement to be made, a payment He’ll accept, for our huge debt of sin. In the Old Testament, the Israelites’ sins were transferred onto the animal who would pay with its life. The blood of the lambs didn’t forgive or atone for the sin; rather, they were a sign of the One whose blood would fully pay for all sins. They were putting their trust in the promised Lamb.

John the Baptist points to Jesus and says: “This is He.” When we sing the Agnus Dei, we’re saying that this is who Jesus is. We say that He “takes away the sin of the world,” of everyone. This is what God does with all the sin – not just “sins,” not just the outward things we say or do – but all the sin in each person, all the sinful thoughts, words and deeds.

He takes it, as John the Baptist said. He takes it from you, from each and every person, and puts it onto His back. He makes it so it’s now His burden, and not yours at all!

It’s transferred onto Him. He will take it and bear it away. You know where. He takes it to the cross. When He rises from the dead and comes out of the tomb: there’s no sin. He removes it all. Out of God’s sight.

This is the first part: to know and believe that “Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

The second part of this is what we hear next: to follow Him. John the Baptist says this, when he says, “Look!” or “Behold!” This happens not only in John 1:29, but six verses later we hear John saying it again.

This is the next day. Andrew and one unnamed disciple – who’s obviously the disciple John – were listening to their teacher, John the Baptist. Now they see Jesus again, walking. John the Baptist again says, “Look! The Lamb of God!” – probably wildly gesturing, like: “Get going, He’s leaving, you’ll miss Him!” He’s clearly saying: “Follow Him, now!”

In the rest of the account that’s what we see them doing, these men who become Jesus’ first disciples:. They follow Jesus. Who are they following? The one who’s “the Lamb of God.”

So that’s what this is telling you to do: follow Jesus as the Lamb of God.

Now, this is kind of strange, to speak of following a Lamb. You don’t follow a lamb usually. Lambs don’t lead. They follow. Look at this Lamb, Jesus. What did Isaiah say? “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.” So how is He leading? Can you follow one who lets Himself be led like this?

We must admit that we have difficulty following Him. Just as those disciples didn’t follow Him the first time, we hesitate too. We willingly follow all kinds of others. We let ourselves be misled – by the world. We let ourselves be led into sin. We let ourselves be led by anger. We let ourselves be led by greed. We let ourselves be led by fear and anxiety.

We also let ourselves get led away from one another. Notice, Jesus calls individuals here and yet calls them together, into a church. These first disciples knew each other well, two sets of brothers, they worked together as fishermen, grew up in the same village — they fit together easily. But soon He would call a tax collector, Matthew; and others, with whom they didn’t fit together easily.

We follow Him together, is the point. Not separately. He won’t let you follow Him alone, without others. He puts us together. Because we’re sinners, we’re always refusing to be together. We go our separate ways. We make it be about us. Sin separates us from God and from each other.

But because we follow Jesus as the Lamb, being sinners is what unites us. That’s what He’s about, as the Lamb of God: He takes away our sins.

When it comes to our sins, we can be led in different directions. In one direction we’re led into despair over our sins. Another direction is being led into pulling ourselves up, relying on how worthy we make ourselves.

But the real problem is not keeping Jesus – the Lamb – before our eyes. Following the Lamb is keeping Him before our eyes. That’s the right direction. For where does He lead us? To the cross. He leads us where His blood removes all the stain and guilt of our sin.

This is the Gospel, as we sang: the Gospel “sets the Lamb before our eyes, who made the atoning sacrifice and calls the souls with guilt oppressed to come and find eternal rest” (CW 228:2, ELH 233:2).

This is what we need: for the Gospel to set Jesus, the Lamb, before our eyes. I need it. You need it. This is how the Lamb takes care of us.

We see this in the Lord’s Supper. We sing “O Christ, the Lamb of God,” after the Words of Institution, when Christ’s very body has come to be in, with and under the bread and His very blood to be in, with and under the wine. We sing to Him, the Lamb, who is in our midst and is on His throne, on the altar, with His body and blood. He gives us His blood to drink. It’s also a picture of life in heaven, where the Lamb is on His throne, as we hear in Revelation. It says in heaven they “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Rev 7:17).

So this is what we’re doing in the Christian Church here on earth too. We’re following the Lamb wherever He goes. Where does He go? To be with you, so that in His Word and Supper, but even when you aren’t in church, in your struggles of faith, in your trials, that the Holy Spirit brings the Gospel to set Him before you.

So that when you see your sin, you see not your sin but the Lamb and His blood that forgives the sin; and when you see your neighbor’s sin, you see not their sin but the Lamb and His blood that forgives there sin. For this is how God sees it.

This is the Church, having the Lamb set before us all. We need the church, we need each other, to set the Lamb before our eyes all the time, but especially when we’re not seeing Him. To see again the love of the patient Lamb of God. He’s patient with you. He’s patient with me. This is how we’re His Church, walking together with the Lamb before us. Amen!