“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” -John 1:29 NLT
Some things never change. War is still horrific. Spring is associated with new life. Children bring joy to their parents. And a young lamb carries the same symbolism today that it did in the culture of Jesus’ day.
Lambs are still associated with purity, beauty, innocence, meekness, and peacefulness. Jewish families of that day would look at the best lamb of the spring season with mixed emotions. They would bring it into their home to protect it from wolves, theft, and weather; all to keep it spotless. Their children would inevitably become emotionally attached to it, but the parents would explain to their children: “We have to kill this perfect, beautiful creature. The Jewish law requires it.”
The Need For A Sacrificial Lamb
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
Because of our sin, we are separated from God, and we stand guilty before Him.
Sin has always separated us from God.
This is why lambs were sacrificed two times a day, every morning and every evening in the temple as required by Exodus 29:38-39. Lambs were also required for special Jewish sacrifices, Passover (Exodus 12:5) as well as the burnt offering, the peace offering (Leviticus 3:7) and in the sin offering (Leviticus 4:32).
One Big Ugly Problem
Notice that John the Baptist doesn’t say the sins of the world? He says it singularly, as if the sins of all mankind were one giant, ugly bundle of a problem. Who could shoulder such a huge, insurmountable problem?
No regular sheep could bear such a huge burden. It was a problem that could only be solved by one Lamb- the Lamb of God.
His blood covered your sin and mine, and that of the whole world, for all time. (1 John 2:2)
By doing this, Jesus fulfilled prophecy
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers issilent, so he opened not his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7 ESV
John the Baptist was wise to use this symbolism. It was obvious to the Pharisees that this was a claim of deity.
The Old Testament Prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah foretold that Jesus would fulfill the human need for one Final Sacrificial Lamb. We no longer need to fulfill the Mosaic Law to cleanse ourselves from our sin. We have Jesus Christ!
Just as John the Baptist proclaimed the Lamb, the angels proclaimed to the shepherds that a Lamb had been born unlike any other.
Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why these songs of happy cheer?
Shepherds were watching their flocks at night when the angels told them the good news. While the shepherds could have been helping run a small family farm, some scholars believe because of their proximity to Jerusalem, and the fact that a family relationship was not mentioned, that the shepherds were watching the lambs that were going to be used in the Temple sacrificial system.
Glorifying And Praising God Among The Sheep
“After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.” Luke 2:17-20 NLT
The Good News of the Lamb was an actual, historical event that changed the course of humankind forever.
The angels proclaimed the news of Christ’s birth to the shepherds, and the shepherds were compelled to share the news, glorify God, and praise God for what they had heard and seen. They went about their work with a song on their lips and praise in their hearts.
Your sin is great enough to separate you from God, but Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, is more powerful, more beautiful, and more righteous. Sing praises to this Lamb. And use the Christmas season to share your redemption story.
About the Author
Sarah Hardee writes for Christian moms at her site Christ-Centered Mama (christcenteredmama.com) and has been married to her husband Benjamin for 6 years. She helps her husband in his role as a pastor in rural Kansas. She has a 2-year-old son and is expecting a baby girl in early spring of 2018.