John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way of the Lord. He was sent to prepare for the revolution. He was sent to prepare for what Jesus would do in bringing the kingdom of God.
John had many followers of his own. He was a big deal in his own right. In fact, Jesus Himself came out to the Jordan to hear John preach and be baptized by him. The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Yet, we know that two of John’s disciples left John to follow Jesus out by the river. The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.” We know for sure one is Andrew, and it is assumed that the other one is John.
They quit following John to follow Jesus. They quit following John, and instead became followers of the lamb of God. This is what it means to be a Christian. To be a Christian is to become a follower of the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
What does this mean, to be a follower of the lamb of God? We can figure out ourselves that something is very wrong with the world. We are up to about 7 billion people, and we are still a very long way from getting it right.
Why is there so much hatred, deep division, wars, and poverty in the world? Why do 2 billion of our brothers and sisters live in abject poverty, when we clearly have the means and ability to help them out of it? Why is there still so much preventable disease in the world? Of course, there is disease that we can do nothing about, but there is very much disease and suffering that could be prevented if we could organize ourselves and live differently.
There really is only one answer to this question, and that is (however you understand it or define it) because of our sin – the sin of the world.
In Genesis – sin begins as unhealthy desire. Adam was warned about this, but Adam and Eve began to feed unhealthy desire. Then…sin rears its ugly head again and Cain kills Abel. This is where the sin of the world shows itself most clearly. This is where the pattern is set that gets repeated over and over throughout history. This is the source of our sorrows…and the deep systemic problems we still have in the world today.
The sin of the world can be defined as our rivalry with our brothers and sisters. Our brothers and sisters whom we call others and enemies, leading us to hate and accuse, refuse and vilify, oppress and kill them if they happen to belong to some other tribe, kind, race, religion, or nation. We refuse to recognize those that are other than we THINK we are as our brothers, and we call them others and enemies, and we participate in Cain like actions of hating, accusing, vilifying, oppressing and killing.
This is opposite of what bible calls love. The Bible says God is love. And it is by going against the grain of love that the world becomes a miserable place.
Refusing to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength in a way that it is channeled into loving our neighbor as ourselves is the highway to hell. And Jesus told and showed us exactly who is our neighbor. Our neighbor is anyone we can help.
If we refuse to love God by loving our neighbor, we are moving in the wrong direction. We are going against the grain of love, the design of the universe as God intended. In doing this, we suffer self inflicted pain in the way of our suffering. These, truly, are the problems of the world today.
So something must be done. Just like we stage interventions when someone we love is going down the path that will lead to their own destruction, God staged his own intervention. This intervention is what we call Christmas. Why did God intervene? Because God so loved so loved the world…
Someone must intervene, but someone also must take away the sin of the world. Because the hatred, divisions, racism, poverty, and disease are all just symptoms and manifestations of the sin of the world.
John, calling Jesus the lamb of God, is makes a prophetic announcement, but he doesn’t know how it will be done. This comes very early in the story (John Chapter 1) so we don’t know yet how it is done yet either.
But we do read on in the Bible, and we see how it all plays out. The sin of the world gets violently sinned into Jesus. Jesus became the supreme, ultimate victim of the sin of the world. The sin of the world that wrecks the capacity for human flourishing gets sinned into Jesus with nails in his hands and nails in his feet as he hangs on a cross to die.
And so Jesus bears on himself the sin of the world. He takes it with him down into Hades, into Sheol, into the grave, into death. After 3 days he shakes the sin of the world off, and he comes back without a word of blame. He was innocent, but he took, he bore, all the blame, all that sin, upon himself.
The blame, the hate, the way of Cain will stay down in hades, but the son of God will be raised on the third day. He returns on Easter into His new world.
He rises refusing to speak of vengeance and payback, but instead speaks of love and peace and forgiveness. He absorbed the shame, blame and sin of the world, and he did not recycle or return it. Instead of seeking vengeance, he forgives. This is how he takes away the sin of the world.
He led the way for us by absorbing sin and forgiving sinners, taking away the sin of the world.
BUT – we are called to be followers of the lamb. In our own lives, in our own way, we are to imitate daily, in big and small ways, what Jesus did. We’re not fans of the lamb, but followers of the lamb. We don’t sit in the stands, on the sideline, cheering. We suit up and go into the game with Jesus, and in our own way, in our own life, do what Jesus did in a much bigger way than we could ever do.
John the Baptist was the greatest prophet of all. Jesus Himself said so – “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John.” Luke 7:28 ESV. But when John points out the lamb of God, two of his disciples follow Jesus. And Jesus continues the above statement with this little addendum – “Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.””Luke 7:28 ESV. Jesus is telling us that there is now a great shift in how God relates to us, going from Old Testament to the New Testament. Or really, there is really a great shift in how we relate to and understand God. As John tells us – “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17 ESV.
The law…indeed the Bible says…“eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,” Exodus 21:24 ESV.
But Jesus tells us – “”You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:38-39 ESV. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
We can either retaliate against sin and help the devil recycle and reenergize the sin of the world, or we follow the lamb, absorb it and forgive it, and help Jesus take it away.
You don’t take away the sin of the world by blaming others, accusing them, killing them. You don’t get rid of the sin of the world like a crusader. You get rid of the sin of the world like the Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.”
John 1:29, 35-37 ESV