Behold The Lamb Of God #1
Before John the Baptist died, he introduced Jesus to his followers and the Jews as the Lamb of God.
He was brutally murdered by Herod Antipas (Mark 6:16), one of King Herold’s sons, at the instigation of his adulterous wife Herodias. Herodias had John killed in an act of revenge, because he publicly denounced the illicit relationship she was involved in with Antipas (v. 18). Herod Antipas committed adultery in taking Herodias from her husband, his brother Philip (v. 17).
By the time John was killed, Herod Antipas had become a tetrarch, that is he was the governor of a fourth part (that’s what the term “tetrarch” means) of Israel. He ruled precisely over Galilee in the north and the region of Perea on the east side of Jordan River. The other three parts of the country were governed by Pontius Pilate (Judea), Philip (Iturea and Trachonitis) and Lysanias (Abilene) according to Luke 3:1. Israel had then long ceased to be a united kingdom and was under the overlordship of Rome.
John introduced Jesus of Nazareth in these words, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29). He made this declaration when he saw Jesus walking around the place by the Jordan where he baptized. That was a few days after he had baptized Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17), and one day after some Jews visited him at the same spot.
These Jews were sent by the religious leaders in Jerusalem who had heard of John’s baptismal work and desired to inquire whether He was the Messiah. They all seemingly did not know who John was. The gospel writer John has a record of them asking him in apparent frustration, “Who are you?” (John 1:22, NASB). The Baptist’s answer was categorical; he said, “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord,”’ as the prophet Isaiah said” (v. 23). John was to Jesus like heralds in the first century that cleared the path for the approaching king when he visited, say a town or village.
The Messiah or Christ was the same as the Lamb of God. But John did not know Jesus was the Messiah until “he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him” at His baptism (Matthew 3:16). That was the sign from God by which has was to identify the Messiah (John 1:33).
But when bearing witness to the Messiah, John practically said nothing about himself. He rather directed people’s attention to Jesus. Hence the use of the term “Behold” which when used in the imperative mood as is the case in this instance, calls attention to something. John’s testimony emphasized, not Jesus’ Kingship, but the fact that Jesus would be a sacrificial lamb to bear away every sin ever committed (2 Corinthians 5 :14-15).
John’s identification of Jesus as a lamb must have resonated with the Jews. The lamb was offered on various occasions. For instance, it was offered for the continual burnt offering each morning and evening (Exodus 29:38-42), during the seven days of the Passover (Numbers 28:16, 19) and on the Day of Atonement (Numbers 28:7-8). It was also one of the sacrifices accepted for the ceremonial cleansing of a woman after childbirth (Leviticus 12:6), or for the cleansing of one that has recovered from leprosy (Leviticus 14:10-18).
Lambs offered for morning and evening sacrifices, as well as for the Passover and the Day of Atonement were continual offerings. They had to be offered continuously, under the Law of Moses, for the blood of atonement poured for the sins of the Jews to be efficient (Hebrews 10:1).
When John called Jesus the Lamb of God, he must have thought of those sacrifices. Thus, he meant that all the lambs which had so far been offered had been provided by men. But the Lamb of God was provided by God. It was the most excellent and only sufficient lamb available for a perfect sacrifice made on behalf of the world. The lambs offered, first in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple, represented the Lamb of God. They did not take away sin in reality, but the Lamb of God did. They were offered on behalf of the Jewish people, but the lamb of God was offered to carry away the sin of the world once for all (Hebrews 9:28).