The Lamb of God John 1:29-42 by Colin Mansfield
Agnus Dei, … Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. In Latin or in English, even these words are exquisite. And the concept they capture is far, far beyond that. It is the very heart of Christianity. Let’s take a moment to let that sink in. As human beings, we are wired from head to toe with self-preservation instincts: we are given a school education, health & safety rules, insurance policies, and lawyers standby ready for if we fall. Yet here is a man Jesus willing to throw all that away. He is without sin, without guilt, yet he is willing to lay down his life for our sins, for our guilt ~ which we are oblivious of ~ in our own little worlds ~ which are governed by Fear and Security.
Why? In the bloom of health, in the prime of life, 30yrs old, why embrace an agonising death? There’s a one-word answer. But it is powerful enough to explain the entire life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The one-word is: LOVE and God loves us first, God doesn’t wait for us to find Him and for us to love Him. Jesus is human, but more than human. He is the love of God made flesh. He was, is and will always be God. He was before all creation. He is in us and around us today. He grants us Freedom and will call us to eternal life tomorrow. But still many people turn away to live in their own little stockades, surrounded by fear of the future, worries of the present with cctv security systems and burglar alarms.
In John’s gospel, he captures Christ’s role as Messiah; not as a long-awaited warrior king, but as a pure sacrificial person without blemish. And to drive home that point, twice he calls Jesus the Lamb of God. This is no throw-away line. This is the sole message that the ministry of John was meant to proclaim. Significantly, the disciples then call Jesus: Rabbi…teacher. The concepts are deliberately linked together. The sacrifice of Jesus does not exist in a vacuum. It is the ultimate teachable moment. Jesus is teaching us a completely new way of life; forsaking a life based on self-preservation, embracing a life based on self-sacrifice ~ FREEDOM & LIVES FULFILLED with GOD.
Christ is a teacher, not an exhibitionist. Calvary is a lesson. In fact our re-education is integral to our redemption. Jesus tells us to take up our cross, to follow him, to love like him. We are more than the billionaire predators, the spivs, fashion supermodels, at the top of the food chain. We are God’s beloved, made in his image and likeness. Our driving force is not self-preservation, enrichment or aggrandisement. It is the love of God embodied in Christ and showered upon us. We call it grace. It shapes how we see the world and how we make our way in it.
We have so much to learn from the Rabbi, from the Lamb. We learn to forgive. Without forgiving ourselves, and without forgiving others, we make a mockery of the sacrifice of the Lamb. We also learn to give. The heart of sacrifice is that we choose to give things, and to do without things and to suffer things that, apart from love, we would never choose to give, never do without, never suffer. Ultimately, the Lamb teaches us how to live. John does not say that Jesus is sort of like the Lamb of God. He is the Lamb of God. His mission defines his essence. We cannot be sort of like Christians (often called carnal Christian or in body but not in spirit). We must be Christians. The mission defines our essence… our lives, full-time, all the time, at home, on the bus, at work.
Christian belief holds that Jesus chose to suffer crucifixion at Calvary as a sign of his full obedience to the will of his divine Father, as an agent and servant of God. In Christian theology, the Lamb of God is viewed as foundational and integral to the message of Christianity. Was it not a lamb that was brought for sacrifice by Abel, way back in Genesis? And what were the clothing made from if not from lambs’ pelts for Adam & Eve? While another view draws parallels with the Paschal Lamb in Exodus 12:1-4, its blood on the doorposts, as a sign, spared those inside from the Angel of Death..
A lion-like lamb that rises to deliver victory after being slain appears several times in Revelations. It is also referred to in Paul’s 1 Corinthians 5:7, suggesting that Saint Paul intends to refer to the death of Jesus, who is the Paschal Lamb, using the theme found in John’s Gospel. The lamb metaphor is also in line with Psalm 23, which depicts God as a shepherd leading his flock safely…mankind.
The Lamb of God title is widely used in Christian prayers, and Agnus Dei is used as a standard part the Eucharist. It is used in liturgy and as a form of contemplative prayer.
The Book of Revelation includes over twenty-nine references to a lion-like lamb (“slain but standing”) which delivers victory in a manner reminiscent of the resurrected Christ. In the first appearance of the lamb in Revelation (5:1-7) only the lamb (which is of the tribe of Judah, and the root of David) is found worthy to take the judgement scroll from God and break the seals. The reference to the lamb in Revelation 5:6 relates it to the Seven Spirits of God which first appear in Revelation 1:4 and are associated with Jesus who holds them along with seven stars.
In Revelation 21:14 the lamb is said to have twelve apostles. The handing of the scroll containing the names of those who will be saved, to the risen lamb signifies the change in the role of the lamb. In Calvary, the lamb submitted to the will of the Father to be slain, but now is trusted with the judgment of all mankind.
The book of Revelation is presented as a “revelation of Jesus Christ” and hence the focus on the lamb as both redeemer and judge presents the dual role of Jesus: he redeems man through self-sacrifice, yet calls mankind to account on the day of judgement.