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The Names of Jesus
“The Lamb of God”
It is when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to him at the River Jordan for baptism that this name became embedded in the annuals for God’s story for the human race.
John said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NKJV)
Most people, even those who don’t go to church, have heard of this event and the words John spoke, along with Jesus’ baptism when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him as a dove and the God the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17 NKJV)
But here is where it stops, because very few know and/or understand the full significance of John’s statement and the name he gave to Jesus as “The Lamb of God,” or the Father’s pronouncement that Jesus is His Son, and its ramifications.
The significance of the Father calling Jesus His Son, is seen in how Jesus, as God’s Son, is none other than the second person of the Godhead, or what we know as the doctrine of the Trinity, which we looked at in some detail in our study on Jesus’ name, “I AM.”
Today I’d like to focus on the name John the Baptist gives to Jesus as “The Lamb of God.” To understand this name’s full significance well be looking at the sacrificial system God set up in the Law. Then we’ll look at those scriptures of how the sacrifice of a lamb foreshadows the coming of the Messiah and how prophecy confirms the Messiah coming as that sacrificial lamb. We’ll end by looking at what all this means to us.
So let’s begin by understanding the Law’s sacrificial system.
The Law of Sacrifice
The sacrificial system is mainly laid out in the book of Leviticus, and it is known as the law of sacrifice and atonement, that is, being made right with God through an intermediary or substitute, which was mainly though that of a lamb, goat, or bull.
But it actually had its beginnings with the original sin and the sacrifice offered by God Himself.
“Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21 NKJV)
When Adam and Eve fell for Satan’s temptation and sinned, they saw their nakedness and tried to hide it from God by sewing fig leaves together. But there is nothing humanity can do that can ever make itself right before God. Instead it takes a sacrifice, that is, it takes the death of an innocent animal to atone for sin.
And so what is recorded for us is the very first death, not only the death of innocence, which included Adam and Eve because of their sin, but also those animals that were sacrificed to cover their nakedness. These animals were innocent of the crime, but they had to pay for it with their lives.
But why is the death of an innocent animal necessary? Can’t God just forgive sin without anything attached to it? And while the answer could easily be yes, God knew of our propensity to sin, especially when there isn’t anything that will make us sit up and say, “Wait, look at what it’s costing.”
What did it cost?
The Death of an Innocent
Throughout the Law, the sacrificial death of an innocent animal is brought out in several ways.
First is the wording in that they had to be without spot or blemish, that is, they needed to be practically perfect in every way.
Whenever a sacrifice was made they had to make sure that the animal had no defect, that it was a perfect sacrifice. Over 40 times in the books dealing with the law of sacrifice, mainly Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, it says that the offering was to be without blemish.
There are two words used in these texts and both basically mean that the offering was to be undefiled, upright, whole, and not stained with any defects. In fact, offering anything less would be an insult to God.
“You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God a bull or sheep which has any blemish or defect, for that is an abomination to the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 17:1 NKJV)
The idea of innocence points to being without sin. Without blemish means being undefiled, and that which defiles us in the sight of God is sin. Further it means being upright and whole, that is, where no sin exists.
This idea of being innocent and without sin is also seen in the offering of the animals themselves. Again, throughout the law of sacrifice it says that the priest were to lay their hands upon the heads of the animals, and in essence transfer the sin of the guilty onto the innocent animal, which would then cost the animal its life.
The Bible makes it clear that the wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23.
This procedure of laying hands upon the animal’s head and then killing it is mentioned in the burnt, peace, and sin offerings. But its symbolic nature of taking away sin is spelled out later in the prophetic foreshadow of the scapegoat.
“Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat.” (Leviticus 16:21 NKJV)
The sins of the guilty were forgiven by transferring them onto the innocent animal and that animal’s death as a result.
But why do they have to die? Well it’s tied up in the atonement by or through substitution.
Atonement Through Blood
It goes back to the Law of sacrifice, in that they were not to shed the blood of animals outside the tabernacle, or the eating of blood, and the reason is that blood is a precious thing, and God gave it so that our sins can be forgiven.
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” (Leviticus 17:11 NKJV)
The writer of Hebrews talks about how it is through the blood of our mediator, Jesus Christ that our sins can be forgiven.
“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22 NIV)
And so it is through the law of sacrifice and the death and the shedding of an innocent animal’s blood that forgiveness and atonement for sin is obtained.
But how does this foreshadow the coming of the Messiah? And what we’ll see is that Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away our sins.
Foreshadows of the Lamb
Abraham and Isaac
Abraham waited over 25 years for God’s promise to give Him a son, and at the ripe old age of 100 years old, Isaac was born. Isaac was Abraham and Sarah’s only child and heir, and so you can imagine Abraham’s dismay when God told him to sacrifice Isaac.
Now this request has spawned much dismay. How can God ask for such a sacrifice seeing that He has specifically spoken against those who follow these practices, Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-3; Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:10?
But God never wanted Isaac’s life, rather He wanted to test Abraham’s faith and whether or not Abraham would trust Him at His promises.
The Bible says, “Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham.” (Genesis 22:1 NKJV)
In Hebrews 11:18, the writer declares that when Abraham was tested he followed because he was convinced that God was able to do exactly what He promised even though Isaac may be dead.
But Isaac didn’t die; instead God provided a sacrifice in his place, which also is seen in Abraham’s statement of faith. When Isaac asked his father where the lamb for sacrifice was, Abraham made this declaration.
“My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” (Genesis 22:8 NKJV)
More literally this reads, “God will provide Himself a lamb.” You might say that Abraham was giving a prophecy that the coming Messiah would not only be the Lamb of God, but the Lord God Himself. Which is exactly who Jesus was.
To reveal the prophetic foreshadowing of Jesus as the Lamb of God, Abraham took Isaac to Mount Moriah, the very place where God’s Holy Temple would reside, 2 Chronicles 3:1. And it was here on Calvary’s hill, Mount Moriah that Jesus, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed.
And just as another side note, it says that only Abraham came down off Mt. Moriah, Genesis 22:19. Where was Isaac? Isaac is another foreshadowing of Jesus.
This is seen in two areas. First Isaac was tasked with carrying the wood up the mountain for the sacrifice. Jesus in like manner carried the wooden cross up that same mountain for the sacrifice He was going to offer.
Second, Jesus, died on Mt. Moriah and was carried off and buried. Isaac is symbolic of this when he didn’t accompany his father down the mountain. Instead Isaac showed up again in the narrative when Abraham tasked his servant to find a bride for Isaac. So Jesus rose on that third day and all who believe in Him are now a part of His bride.
The Passover Lamb
The last and tenth plague of Egypt was the death of the firstborn. It was through this plague that Egypt would finally let God’s people go. To separate the Jewish people from all the rest and to protect them from this horrible plague God gave the following instructions.
“On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household … Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.” (Genesis 12:3-7NKJV)
“Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 12:13 NKJV)
Their salvation came through an innocent lamb, one with out blemish, and just to make sure that it was without defect they kept four days. It was then sacrificed and its blood was put upon the doorposts and lintel, or top of the door.
It was from this sacrifice that God passed over their homes sparing them and thus delivering them from their Egyptian bondage and captivity. From this event the feast of Passover was established.
How does this foreshadow Jesus being the Lamb of God?
It was on this day that Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples and was then sacrificed on the cross as the Lamb of God, that sacrificial Passover lamb so that whoever believes in Him would be set free from their captivity and bondage to sin and death.
In probably one of the most beautiful and haunting passages in Scriptures, the prophet Isaiah gives us the picture of what the Messiah would go through and endure as the sacrificial lamb. It comes out of Isaiah chapter 53 where he foretells the Messiah as the suffering servant who dies as that sacrificial lamb for the sins of God’s people.
“He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 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 of us all.” (Isaiah 53:3-5 NKJV)
Now look at what Isaiah goes on to say and how it talks about the Messiah as a sacrificial lamb.
“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 53:7b NKJV)
But Isaiah didn’t stop at that. He showed that this sacrifice was truly for sin.
“For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken … You make His soul an offering for sin … By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities … He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:8b, 10b, 11b, 12b NKJV)
Now some dispute this as referring to Jesus, going so far as saying that it refers to the nation of Israel. But this has a lot of problems, too many to list out, but let me say that the verbiage doesn’t line up in how can Israel be wounded for its own transgression. Further, there’s no way that Israel or anyone could be considered righteous, seeing that only God is righteous.
This instead speaks of the coming Messiah, the righteous servant of the Lord, as we see in Jeremiah’s statement where His name would be called the Lord our Righteousness, Jeremiah 23:6. Further, Isaiah’s prophecy lines up with Jesus’ death, beginning with his flogging saying, “By His strips we are healed.” Also He was despised and rejected as the Jews preferred Barabbas to Jesus. And then how Jesus died between two thieves but buried in the Joseph Arimathea’s tomb as Isaiah proclaimed, “They made His grave with the wicked—but with the rich at His death.”
And so the prophecy of God’s suffering servant was fulfilled in Jesus, the Lamb of God.
Jesus: The Lamb of God
As we have been looking throughout God’s word at the sacrificial system, the foreshadows and prophecies that speak to the coming Messiah as the Lamb of God, what we see is exactly what Jesus said.
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” (John 5:39 NKJV)
Jesus as that sacrificial Lamb is exactly what the Apostle John saw as he looked forward in time in the book of Revelation.
“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.” (Revelation 5:6a NKJV)
Jesus is the Lamb of God that has been sacrificed for the sins of humanity, or as John the Baptist declared, “who takes away the sins of the world.”
Jesus is the fulfillment of the law of sacrifice, and is that innocent sacrificial Passover lamb.
While Jesus was upon this earth He was evaluated and examined, every detail of his life was under a microscope, and so Paul could say without hesitation that Jesus, who knew no sin, was made sin for us, that is, He took upon Himself our sins so that we can be forgiven.
“For He (God the Father) made Him (Jesus Christ) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV)
His innocence was then confirmed on the fourteenth day, the day of Passover, when Pilate declared, “I find no fault in Him.” (John 19:4b NKJV)
And so what the law couldn’t accomplish has been secured through Jesus Christ. What the law couldn’t accomplish through the blood of bulls and goats, Jesus’ blood secures making perfect forever those who come to belief in Him.
Quoting from King David’s prophetic word in Psalm 40, the writer of Hebrews said,
“‘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 that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:8-10 NKJV)
“For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14 NKJV)
That is, through His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus is forever setting free those who believe in Him from their captivity to sin and death.
The Apostle Peter brings out how our redemption, how our atonement, how our being made right with God doesn’t come through anything or anyone else except through the blood of Jesus Christ as that innocent Lamb of God.
“Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or 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.” (1 Peter 1:18-19 NKJV)
And so Jesus came, not just to cover over our sins, which is what the Lord did for Adam and Eve, or through the sacrificial system of the Law, but to forgive our sins, that is, to remove them as far as from the East is from the West, casting them into the depths of the sea, choosing to no longer remember our sins against us. That’s the type of forgiveness I’m talking about and the type forgiveness of sins that we can look forward to through belief in what He did there upon the cross as He took our place and died the death we all deserved.
Jesus is as John the Baptist described Him: “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NKJV)
The idea that Jesus takes away the sin of the world has many confused when it comes to death and the after life. They believe that everyone makes it into heaven, that is, with the exception of the really bad people.
But while Jesus has forgiven everyone’s sin through His sacrifice, only those who believe in Him can avail themselves of it, or as Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NKJV)
The problem that faces humanity is sin, and everyone has sinned and has fallen short of God’s holy and righteous standard for life, Romans 3:23. And the wages of sin is death, both physical and spiritual, Romans 6:23.
God’s prescription is that of a lamb, but not just any lamb, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who through His death and resurrection brings eternal healing to all who believe.
Jesus came not as some great teacher issuing in some new philosophy or religion, nor did He come as some great leader or politician to set people free from the oppressive rule of human governments and empires.
Instead Jesus came to bring atonement, to make us right with God, something that was lost back in the Garden of Eden, and something the Law can never provide. He came as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world and to deliver all who believe in Him from their captivity to sin and death and into the Promised Land of heaven.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study