The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, ESV)
In my final midweek devotional this past Wednesday I discussed the Priestly Office of Jesus, especially as it’s expressed in Hebrews 4:14-5:10. Christ is both the eternal priest after the order of Melchizedek and also the spotless Lamb that was offered up as a pure and eternal sacrifice for the sins of the world. Truly this is best summed up in the Baptist’s cry in John 1: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the World!” In a sermon on the verse, Luther preached:
“Neither our thoughts nor our words can do the subject full justice, but in the life beyond it will rebound to our eternal joy and bliss that the Son of God abased Himself so and burdened Himself with my sins. Yes, He assumes not only my sins but also those of the whole world, from Adam down to the very last mortal. These sins He takes upon Himself; for these He is willing to suffer and die that our sins may be expunged and we may attain eternal life and blessedness. But who can ever give adequate thought or expression to this theme? The entire world with all its holiness, rectitude, power, and glory is under the dominion of sin and completely discredited before God. Anyone who wishes to be saved must know that all his sins have been placed on the back of this Lamb! Therefore John points this Lamb out to his disciples, saying: ‘Do you want to know where the sins of the world are placed for forgiveness? Then don’t resort to the Law of Moses or betake yourselves to the devil; there, to be sure, you will find sins, but sins to terrify you and damn you. But if you really want to find a place where the sins of the world are exterminated and deleted, then cast your gaze upon the cross. The Lord placed all our sins on the back of the Lamb. As the prophet Isaiah declares (53:6): ‘All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way,’ (ESV) the one hither, the other yon. One sought God in this manner, another in a different way; there were countless modes of looking for God.’
“[…] But now which is the right way, the way that guards against going astray? The farther one strays from the right road, the more confused one grows. Isaiah says the right way is this: ‘God placed all our sins upon Him and smote Him for the sins of the people; when we all went astray, God put all our sins on the back of His Lamb, and upon no other. He ordained the Lamb to bear the sins of the entire world.’
“Therefore a Christian must cling simply to this verse and let no one rob him of it. For there is no other comfort either in heaven or on earth to fortify us against all attacks and temptations, especially in the agony of death.” (LW.AE.22.163-163)
As we enter into Holy Week, as we journey with Jesus into Jerusalem, towards His Holy Passion, His rest in the tomb, and His glorious Resurrection, we should be careful not to get ahead of ourselves. Each festal day serves a purpose, and helps us remember God’s works. Don’t think of Palm Sunday as a stepping stone for Maundy Thursday, Maundy Thursday as a stepping stone for Good Friday, and Good Friday as a stepping stone for Easter Sunday. Don’t say “I’ll come to church on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, but I have no need for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.” Take the time to meditate on, reflect, and process the Triumphal Entry. Take time to immerse yourself in the Farewell Discourse on Maundy Thursday. Sit at the foot of the Cross and reflect. Take each day on its own merit – don’t flip through the week and say “I’ve seen this part, can we get to Easter yet?”
The Lamb of God is the Lamb that enters triumphantly, that speaks intimately to His disciples, that suffers and dies, and that is raised. Take heed to each part of Christ’s work, and above all, remember that all that He did, He did for us.
Agonizing in the garden,
Lo! th’incarnate God ascended,
Pleads the merit of His blood;
Venture to Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude.
None but Jesus, none but Jesus
Can do helpless sinners good;
None but Jesus, none but Jesus
Can do helpless sinners good.
-“Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy,” Joseph Hart, 1759