In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Last week, we talked a little about John’s preparation for Jesus’ appearing. Preparation is one of the things that is proper to Advent. The second part of Advent’s Proper Preface says that John proclaimed Jesus “the promised Messiah, the very Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Preparation is proper to Advent, and so is promise. “Prepare to meet the Savior, who takes your sins away. To us by grace alone the truth and light were given; the promised Lord from heaven to all the world is shown” (LSB 354:1).
This promise is everywhere in the Scriptures, going back to Genesis 3, when God promised through the curse on the serpent that He would put enmity between the serpent and the woman, between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman; the Seed of the woman would strike the head of the serpent while the serpent struck His heel (Genesis 3:15). Thousands of years later—but in the fullness of God’s time—the Seed of the woman would be born, and finally people would know that the woman was named Mary and the Seed was named Yah-shua, the salvation of Yahweh revealed on the earth.
“Let the earth now praise the Lord, who has truly kept His word, and at last to us did send Christ, the sinner’s help and friend. What the fathers most desired, what the prophets’ heart inspired, what they longed for many a year stands fulfilled in glory here. … Bruise for me the serpent’s head that, set free from sin and dread, I may cling to You in faith, safely kept through life and death” (LSB 352:1-2, 5).
So when that Son was grown and the time came, He appeared at the Jordan River and John pointed to Him: Look! he said, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Abraham promised Isaac that Yahweh would see to the lamb, to the sacrifice, and now He has seen to it. Here is that Lamb; here is that sacrifice. This is God’s Lamb, which He alone provides, which He alone can give. No other sacrifice, no other blood, no other lamb can take the place of all people, as the ram in the thicket took the place of Isaac. God sees to it. God provides. And now that promise that Abraham made to Isaac has happened.
It is the promise of the Passover Lamb, whose blood marked the doors of the Israelites, the sign of the cross—the sign of the death of another—keeping them from their own death at God’s hand. So it is in John’s Gospel, that at the hour when all Israel slaughtered their Passover lambs, the Lamb of God was condemned to death and handed over to be crucified (John 19:14-16). As Paul says, “For Christ, our Passover [Lamb], has been sacrificed. So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven of wickedness and evil, but in the leaven of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). And Peter reminds us that we were “ransomed from the futile ways inherited from [our] forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Because this is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. Takes away the old wickedness and evil, which is everything opposed to God and His Christ. He takes away the blindness that refuses to see Him as God’s Lamb. The Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil (John 3:19). And Jesus proclaims to the world that believing in Him means sin is taken away. “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (8:24). But if anyone keeps His word, that one will never see death (8:51), because they will see Him, who is the Life. The man born blind shows us the way. He is healed physically, and then He is enlightened forever. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asks him. Who is He, that I may believe Him? “You have seen Him, and He is speaking to you.” Lord, I believe, he says.
The blindness of those who walk in darkness is the first and source of all sin. It is Adam and Eve hiding in the Garden from their God and Creator. It is Israel refusing to believe His Word. It is those who refuse to see Jesus as the One whom the Father has sent. It is us, when we hold on to our sin and go astray after our own ways, even though Jesus is the Way. The Lamb of God is the one Lamb in place of all the straying sheep. Yahweh has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. It was the will of Yahweh to crush Him; He has put Him to grief. But in resurrection He shall see His offspring; He will see and be satisfied. He bore our iniquities, and so we are counted as righteous.
The Light of the world has come! Whoever follows Him will never walk in darkness, but have the Light of life! The Lord taketh away and the Lord giveth. Blessed be the Name of the Lord. He has taken away our sin, and in that taking, gives Light and Life. “Hark! A thrilling voice is sounding! ‘Christ is near,’ we hear it say. ‘Cast away the works of darkness, all you children of the day!’ Startled at the solemn warning, let the earth-bound soul arise; Christ, its sun, all sloth dispelling, shines upon the morning skies. See, the Lamb, so long expected, comes with pardon down from heaven. Let us haste, with tears of sorrow, one and all to be forgiven; so, when next He comes in glory and the world is wrapped in fear, He will shield us with His mercy and with words of love draw near” (LSB 345:1-4). O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy on us. O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy on us. O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, grant us Thy peace.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 12/12/18