Verse 29 – The day after John’s encounter with the religious leaders John sees Jesus coming towards him and proclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” To the modern Christian this statement is a pretty clear statement and we can tend to think little of the deep meaning and how radical of a statement it was. Some have debated even if John the Baptist understood to a degree the significance of what he was actually saying.
The Messiah that the Jews were anticipating was considered a man who was strong, charismatic, a leader, and one who was going to usher in the Kingdom of God and establish Israel as God’s nation once again. To the Jews (and even up to a point the disciples) the Messiah was not going to be one who would be humiliated, hated and eventually murdered as a common thief. A sacrificed lamb was probably the last thing on their minds. They had high hopes for their Chosen One.
D.A. Carson writes in his commentary, “Modern Christians are so familiar with the entire clause that it takes effort of imagination to recognize that, before the coming and death of Jesus, it (the Lamb of God) was not an obvious messianic designation.” In other words the title “Lamb of God” was not a common reference to the coming Messiah.
The Significance of Jesus as Lamb
We know that Jesus being portrayed as a Lamb does have significance. I believe there are six ways this is significant to us today.
- Jesus as the daily sacrifice – Exodus 29, Num 28. A burnt offering of two lambs of a year old, which were daily sacrificed in the name of the whole nation of Israel upon the great altar, the first at the dawn of day, and the second at evening, or more correctly, “between the two evenings.” 
- Jesus as the Scapegoat – Leviticus 16 – The Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement was the one day a year the High Priest would offer a sacrifice for the sins of the nation of Israel (This was his Easter morning service of sorts). A bull was sacrificed for the High Priests sins and families sins. Two flawless goats were present and lots were cast over them. One goat was sacrificed to the Lord as a sin offering for the nation. The second goat was kept alive and sent away into the wilderness. The Priest would lay his hands on the goats head and confess/transfer the sins of the nation onto it. This goat bears the iniquities of the sin and goes into another land.
- Jesus as the lamb of Genesis 22. This is the account of Abraham and Isaac. God commanded Abraham to take Isaac to the mountain and sacrifice him. When Isaac inquired about the animal to sacrifice Abraham responded, “God will provide himself a lamb.” As soon as Abraham is about to sacrifice his son God stops him and provides him with a ram to offer in his stead.
- Jesus is the Guilt Offering – Leviticus 4, Numbers 6. If anyone sins by straying unintentionally when he violates the law, which must not be violated, must offer a flawless goat or female lamb to be slaughtered in his place.
- A Lamb that is led to the slaughter – Isaiah 53. A Messianic prophecy given by Isaiah.
- The triumphant or victorious lamb – Revelation 7:9 - 17 & 17:14. In these accounts the lamb is seen as victorious over the ungodly. In other Jewish texts (Book of Enoch, Book of Benjamin etc.) the lamb is viewed as “The Warrior Lamb”.
Verses 30 – 34 – In verse 30 John affirms Jesus as Messiah. He states that Jesus was before him (even though John was older than Jesus). Jesus as the Chosen One was confirmed for John the Baptist when previously Jesus was baptized by John (probably a week before this encounter) and the Spirit of God descended on Jesus like a dove and remained on Him. In Isaiah 42:1 the prophet writes that God will put his Spirit on His servant (the Chosen One) and he will bring forth justice to the nations.
John admits that before this encounter at the baptism he didn’t know Jesus was the Messiah. John knew Jesus since they were cousins and they most likely had some sort of relationship before this. However at the baptism Jesus was confirmed to John to be the Chosen Messiah.
What can we gather from this passage?
First and foremost regardless of whether John and those surrounding him knew what the significance of “the Lamb of God…” statement we can take comfort in these words. We know today...
- Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
- He willingly offered himself to be sacrificed in our place so we would not have to face the punishment of sin and death.
- He was sacrificed for the sins of the world.
- In His sacrifice his death was/is an atonement (we are now at one with God) for our sins. His death appeased the wrath of God and made us right with Him.
- Through his death and resurrection all who believe in Jesus as Lord and savior are cleansed of all unrighteousness.
- As a reminder to us individually through communion we can proclaim to the world as to what Jesus has done for us.
A challenge I’d like to issue for you for the week is to take the next six days and read the passages that I gave earlier in this post in regards to the significance of the Lamb.
Day 1 – Read Exodus 29 & Numbers 28
Day 2 – Read Leviticus 16
Day 3 - Read Genesis 22
Day 4 – Read Leviticus 4 & Numbers 6
Day 5 – Read Isaiah 53
Day 6 – Read Revelation 7 & 17
As you read through these see reflect on how Jesus fulfilled all of these scriptures. But most of all reflect on how through Jesus Christ we no longer have to go through the tedious and bloody sacrifices for sins because Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice for us. He is indeed the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
 Carson, D.A. (1991) The Gospel of John p. 148 Grand Rapids, MI: William Eerdmans Publishing Company
Easton, M. (1996, c1897). Easton's Bible dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.