Prayer: Our Father in heaven, give us understanding, open the eyes of our hearts to see what it means that Jesus is Your Lamb, given to pay the price of death for the sins of the world, including ours. Amen.
John 1:29: The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
John 1:35-36: Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
The death of Jesus was not an isolated, independent event, nor was it merely a Roman judicial decision based on the fomenting politics of the first century. To fully understand the crucifixion of Christ, we must go all the way back to the dawn of time. According to the Bible’s creation story, the narrative told, or rather revealed, to us by the only eye-witness, Who cannot and does not lie, the first man and the first woman were hand-made by God Himself. They were not spoken into existence as the rest of creation was, but the very hand of God scooped up the clay of the earth and sculpted a unique creature, shaping and fashioning him into the likeness of Himself, a self-portrait, if you will. Then God breathed His own breath into the clay sculpture, and Man became a living soul.
We are then told that God gave Man one command: not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and one warning: “In the day you eat of it you shall surely die.” This warning from God was not some capricious punishment He just made up to strike fear in Man so that he would know who was Boss. No, God was revealing Truth to Man, foundational principles about the way things truly are: Choosing to define our own morality, ignoring the God who made us, turning away from obedience to His expressed commands, trusting in our own judgment rather than trusting His clear Word leads to only one outcome – Death. And God desired to spare us.
Later that same day God performed the first surgery, removing one of Man’s ribs. From that rib while Man slept, God shaped Woman, the precise, carefully-thought-out counterpart to Man. God’s story tells us that they were perfect, formed in the image of God. They were also innocent, never having any experience of nor inner propensity to wrongdoing. There was no shame, nothing marring this beautiful, pristine world. It was the kind of world we all dream of and read about in the happy endings of fairy tales.
Death (and all the grief and tragedies that come with it) was unknown except as a verbal warning from the mouth of God. It is this one fact alone that juxtaposes the Bible’s creation account against the evolutionary model, making the two utterly incompatible. Was death part of a long chain of events that here and there over millions of years was overcome, allowing the mutations into all the various creatures we have today? Or was death a foreign thing, outside of God’s original intent, that came upon the world as a result of Man’s choice to define his own standards of right and wrong in the vain attempt to “be like God,” the God in Whose image he was already made?
We are told what happened and where Death originated. Satan, the enemy of God who wanted to usurp God’s throne, came into this perfect world. His enticements were direct opposite contradictions to God’s Truth: You won’t surely die; this fruit is good for you, in fact, the best for you; God is untrustworthy and selfish, withholding what is in your ultimate best interest; you are not made in God’s image, but if you eat this, you will be. Who would they believe? Adam and Eve chose to listen to The Lie. They knelt in worship before the creature rather than the Creator Who is blessed forever. (Romans 1:25)
Instantly they experienced shame for the first time. Shame is an appropriate response after disobedience. Then come cover-ups, attempts to hide, and blame – all symptoms of broken relationship. God came into the Garden and initiated repair of the friendship Adam had broken (Genesis 3:9). First God confronted the shame and then the sin (Genesis 3:11).
The judgment God pronounced (Genesis 3:14-19) included the first promise of future, total redemption (Genesis 3:15), a definitive crushing of Satan, which would come through a descendant born of a woman. In response Adam named his wife Eve, meaning the mother of all living, or perhaps more appropriately, Living (Genesis 3:20). The death sentence had just been pronounced (Genesis 3:19) but so had the promise of restored Life – and it would come through the woman. The naming of Eve was a statement of faith in the Promise, a return to belief in God and the reliability of His Word, which they had a few moments before doubted and discarded. Now their eyes were open to the truth of who this serpent was: the father of lies (John 8:44).
God’s response, in turn, to this statement of faith was to make tunics of skin, clothing and covering their shame (Genesis 3:21). Tunics made of skins require death, the death of an animal. It was the first death Adam and Eve had ever seen. It was the first death the world had ever known. Sin causes death (Romans 5:12 & 6:23). But God provides a substitute to cover sin (Romans 3:23-26).
Were those first tunics made of lamb skins? We’re not told, but likely. For the next chapter in the historical narrative tells of their two sons bringing offerings to God. One understood what needed to be brought: a lamb, a death, a substitutionary sacrifice. It was a humble acknowledgement of who he was – a sinner (Romans 5:12) – and what that cost; it was also stating his faith in the future Promise. The other son tried to live outside of the dictates of God, according to his own reality: no death was needed; he was good enough and his own works could commend himself to God; he could make it on his own. One lived according to the Truth; the other, according to the Lie.
When God told Abraham to take his son Isaac, his only son, the son he loved (Genesis 22:2), to Mt. Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice there, God provided another substitute. While Abraham and Isaac were trudging up the mountain, wood on the son’s back, fire and knife in the hand of the father (Genesis 22:6), Isaac asks, “Where is the lamb?” (Genesis 22:7) By faith Abraham responded, “God will provide Himself a lamb, my son.” (Genesis 22:8) Just as Abraham raised his knife to slay the heir of God’s promise, God stayed his hand. (Genesis 22:11-12) And there caught in a thicket was a ram. (Genesis 22:13) Abraham named that place “The Lord Will Provide.” The biblical narrative goes on to say, “It is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’” (Genesis 22:14)
In Exodus 12 we are told the very poignant and specific story of another lamb, the Passover Lamb. Before the tenth and final plague, before their deliverance from Egypt, God instructed the Israelites to kill a lamb at twilight and put some of its blood on the top and sides of the doors of their houses. Those houses with the sign of the blood would not be visited by the angel of death but would be passed over. Even while the Israelites were painting the doorposts of their houses with a hyssop branch dipped in the blood of a lamb, God was painting another picture, a prophetic one about His Promised Redeemer.
Then in the desert of Sinai as God was giving to this fledgling nation the foundational principles upon which their new civilization would be built, He commanded the institution of substitutionary sacrifice. (Leviticus chapters 1-9) The offering had to be without blemish. The person bringing the offering was to put his hand on the head of the offering, and then it would be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. It was very graphic and very personal. This animal was taking my sin upon itself and dying in my place, receiving the death penalty I deserved: a vivid living – and dying – picture that the wages of sin in death.
For nearly fifteen hundred years the nation of Israel maintained this sacrificial system. How many thousands of animals were brought to the Temple, hands laid on their heads, sins symbolically transferred? Within that context the prophet Isaiah looked down through the corridor of history and wrote about the Messiah, the Genesis 3:15 Promised One who would come and redeem this sin-cursed world: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:5-7)
Over 700 years later a Man comes onto the stage of earth’s history, who from birth is heralded as a prophetically promised King. For 400 years there had been no prophetic word from God. Then a man wearing camel skins, living out in the desert begins to proclaim a prophetic message: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” This newly recognized prophet, John the Baptist, sees Jesus coming toward him and declares for all to hear, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” In a unique anointing, a baptism of water and a dove from heaven alighting upon Him, God speaks from heaven, “This is My Beloved Son.” We hear the mighty echo from Genesis 22. The Beloved Son is the Lamb God would provide. Redemption has come.
The Lamb, prophesied from the dawn of time, was slain on that same day as was the annual Passover Lamb. Here was the fulfillment, the reality of which all other sacrificed lambs were the symbolic, prophetic picture. But Peter takes us back before the dawn of time: “You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver and gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” (I Peter 1:18-20) Foreordained before the foundation of the world—before God spoke the first creative word, before He reached down to scoop up the dirt and form the first man in His own image, the plan of God the Father to send His Son as the substitutionary sacrifice for our sins and the willing heart of the Son was already in place. This is true unalloyed grace: Grace with its eyes wide open. So, in future day, shall we worship the Lamb, “as though it had been slain,” now seated, alive and victorious, on the Throne of highest heaven (Revelation 5:6).
Jesus Christ: The Lamb God gave for the sins of the world.
Other Related Scriptures:
I Peter 2:24: [Christ] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed.
Revelation 5:1-13: And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worth to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.
But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.
Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-our elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have make us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.”
The I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worth is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!”
John 19:14-18a, 30-36: Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he [Pilate] said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”
But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!”
Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?”
The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!”
Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away. And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him. . .
So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one o the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.”
II Corinthians 5:21: For He [God] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Hebrews 10:8-14: Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God,” He takes away the first [covenant] that He may establish the second [covenant]. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
Isaiah 53:4-11: Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity o us all.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked – but with the rich at His death, because He had doe no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.
I John 2:2: And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
Discuss what substitutionary means and how each of the lambs slain in the Old Testament (for Adam and Eve, Abel, Abraham and Isaac, and the people of Israel at the Passover and beyond) were substitutionary.
Conclude your family time with prayer. Let each person thank God for the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ and for what it means to them personally.