Read John 1:29–34.
The Old Testament is replete with shepherds. Abraham was a shepherd, as were Jacob and Rachel, as well as Moses, King David, and the prophet Amos. Shepherding was an important job because the community of God’s people in the Old Testament needed sheep. They needed lambs, a lot of lambs, in order to fulfill the requirement of sacrifices to God.
The thought of a seemingly endless slaughter of lambs can be unsettling for us. Just imagine how unsettling it must have been for those who participated in these bloody offerings! Yet because of sin, God required a sacrifice. He required a lamb. But not just any lamb. The lamb had to be spotless, without blemishes or defect (Lev. 22:21–22). In other words, it had to be perfect.
Even though God’s people were tasked with choosing the most perfect lambs, those lambs were never perfect enough. Their sacrifice covered sin, but they could never actually take it away (Heb. 10:4). Every cry of a lamb sacrificed in the Old Testament was in some ways a cry of longing for the truly perfect Lamb of God.
This cry continued through the generations until one day, John the Baptist saw Jesus walking toward him and declared, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Here, John the Baptist offered an answer to the piercing question Isaac had asked his father Abraham many years before, and that echoed through the centuries: “Where is the lamb?” Abraham had replied to Isaac, “God himself will provide the lamb” (Gen. 22:7–8).
There by the river, John the Baptist declared Jesus to be the lamb God promised to provide. Behold, the perfect, unspotted, unblemished Lamb of God (see 1 Pet. 1:18–19).
We’re not looking for the lamb anymore. He has come. Jesus Christ is that lamb who was sacrificed—crucified—in our place (1 Cor. 5:7). He is the lamb “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5). Jesus is the lamb, the only lamb, that once and for all made the sacrifice for our sins (Heb. 10:12).
John bore witness to the fact that Jesus was the “God’s Chosen One” (John 1:34). The baby who was born, whom John declared, was also "the Lamb who was slain" (Rev. 13:8). Today, when we worship the Lord, may we echo John's prophetic words: Now behold the lamb!
Anthony J. Carter is the lead pastor of East Point Church in East Point, Georgia. He is the author of several books, including Dying to Speak and Running from Mercy.
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