29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son[a] of God.”
V. 31: In the previous passage the Priests and Levites asked John why he was baptizing. We didn’t really find a direct answer in the immediate text; but here we see the answer. The purpose of John’s water baptism was to reveal the Christ to Israel. God, who sent John (John 1:6), revealed to John that the Christ would be the one whom the Spirit descended upon and remained. John witnessed this and testifies to it. Not only did God reveal to John that the Christ would have the Spirit of God remain upon Him, but it is also a fulfillment of Prophecy (Isaiah 11:1-2, Isaiah 42:1).
This “day” (vss. 29-34) begins with John declaring that Jesus is the Lamb of God, and it ends with John declaring that He is the Son of God. The Lamb of God is the Son of God.
How Jesus Takes Away the Sin of the World
Before God (Justification)
As A Sacrificial Lamb: There was constant blood shedding and lamb-sacrificing in the Old Covenant, to cover Israel’s constant sinning. It couldn’t be just any old lamb. The sacrificial lambs had to be pure and spotless. So with John declaring Jesus to be the Lamb of God, he certainly gets at these two thing: that Christ was pure and spotless – sinless – the only way eligible and able to be a full and final sacrifice for sin; and that He was a sacrifice for sin. His pure and perfect blood would be spilt for sins, and that, the sins of the world. (Now, of course, sins of the world here does not refer to every single individual, but that a sacrifice for sins goes out to all the world, the gentiles are included, not only the Jews).
Jesus takes our sin away by taking it on Himself. The pure and sinless Lamb of God takes away our sin by taking it on Himself, so that dirty sinners like us, can be made pure and holy. One of the more unfathomable things about God is that God is a sin-taking God. Do you have sin? He’ll take it. He’ll deal with it. He’s a sin-taking, self-sacrificing, sinner-saving God.
I want you to hear this very insightful paragraph from A. W. Pink, “There before John stood the One whom all the sacrifices of Old Testament times had foreshadowed. It is exceedingly striking to observe the progressive order followed by God in the teaching of Scripture concerning ‘the lamb.’ First, in Ge. 4, we have the Lamb typified in the firstlings of the flock slain by Abel i n sacrifice. Second, we have the Lamb prophesied in Gen. 22:8 where Abraham said to Isaac, ‘God will provide himself a lamb.’ Third, in Ex. 12, we have the Lamb slain and its blood applied. Fourth, in Isa. 53:7, we have the Lamb personified: here for the first time we learn that the Lamb would be a Man. Fifth, in John 1:29, we have the Lamb identified, learning who He was. Sixth, in Rev. 5, we have the Lamb magnified by the hosts of heaven. Seventh, in the last chapter of the Bible we have the Lamb glorified, seated upon the eternal throne of God, Rev. 22:1. Once more; mark the orderly development in the scope of the sacrifices. In Gen. 4 sacrifice is offered for the individual – Abel. In Ex. 12 the sacrifice avails for the whole household. In Lev. 16, on the annual Day of Atonement, the sacrifice was efficacious for the entire nation. But here in John 1:29 it is “Behold the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” – Gentiles are embraced as well as Jews!”
Before Others (Sanctification)
Not only does Christ take away our sin before God, by paying the penalty for sin, and justifying us so that our sins are thrown into the depth of the sea and remembered no more – but He also works in our lives to purify us in real time. This is sanctification. We all know this – but when we are born again, and become Christians, our sin doesn’t just magically disappear. There may be certain sins that we have a quick victory over, but we still sin. While we stand justified before the throne of God, saved and secure, we still struggle with sin in this life. But what’s going on? We are being sanctified, we are learning to live holy lives and learning to sin less and less. We aren’t sinless, but we learn to sin less. Thus, in this sense, our sin is taken away.
In Gospel Progress
As Christ does this, and more and more people are converted to Christ, the gospel advances throughout the world. Jesus described the kingdom of God as like a mustard seed – its start out as the smallest seed in the garden, but grows up into the largest tree. It’s a slow, but steady growth. As the Kingdom of God grows and the gospel advances, more people are converted and taught to live holy lives and sin less – as that happens, what’s going on? The sin of the world is being taken away. It’s a less sinful world, in that sense of gospel progress.
In Final Judgment and Glorification
Then finally, Christ takes away the sin of the world, when, at the end of history all the wicked and the devil will be throw into the lake of fire, and the righteous will be glorified never to sin again and sin will be no more for all eternity.
What Must We Do?
Lay Our Sins on Him
He will either take our sins away or take us away. Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. That means there is nowhere else that you can place your sins to have them taken away. I love what Martin Luther says, “Our sins will either be laid upon us, or they will be laid upon Christ.”
Behold Him in the Gospel
“Beholding” is not merely a glance or an observation. Beholding calls to attention the entirety of our being to fix yourself on Christ. We cannot just look at Christ with our eyes while listening to something else in our headphones. Beholding is an act of the entirety of one’s being. We are stop what we are doing and where we are going and behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Note, we are to behold Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This means we are to look with faith upon Christ as He is clothed in the gospel, as Calvin would put it. We are to see Him as that Isaiah 53 sacrificial lamb. We are to behold Him with the eyes of faith that views Him taking away the sins of the world. John the Baptist stopped what He was doing to draw everyone’s attention to Christ. We just need to stop and draw our attention to Christ.
As Matthew Henry says, “Those that would lead others to Christ must be diligent and frequent in the contemplation of Him themselves.”
Final Gospel Thought
“…he saw Jesus coming toward him…” Then John saw Him in faith as the the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
As the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World, Jesus comes to us in the gospel. He approaches us, when we are lost in sin, stuck in a dry spiritual desert of death, without hope in the world, with no way to save ourselves or take away our sins, Jesus comes to us. He comes toward us as the Lamb of God, approaching us as a pure and spotless, perfect sacrifice for our sin. He comes to us, holding Himself out to us as a perfect self-sacrificing savior. He sees us in our inability to deal with our sin, and holds Himself out as the way to deal with our sin.
Oh might we look and see Jesus coming toward us, and behold Him in faith as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.