Rev. Mark Buetow
John the Baptist (or, as some call him, John the Forerunner) was the preacher who came before and in anticipation of Jesus the Christ. To his old father and barren mother, John’s conception and birth was the event which signaled the beginning of the final fulfillment of God’s promise to save sinners. Not long after, Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb. When he grew up, John preached and baptized, telling people the time was near. Then Jesus showed up to the Jordan River and John pointed to Him and declared, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
In that single sentence is contained the entire Christian faith. Here’s how: First, you have a preacher, preaching that Good News. The Christian church exists because the Lord sends preachers to proclaim His salvation. Your pastor’s job is to do exactly that: preach salvation in Jesus Christ. Your pastor’s job is to point you to Jesus. To be sure, John, prepared people by the preaching of the Law. He told people to repent and to love their neighbor in the various ways their callings life directed them. He preached the fiery judgment of God against those who rejected the Lord. But then, when Jesus showed up, John declared the Good News that this One was the Lamb who would take away the sin of the world. That’s your pastor’s job too. Preach the Law which shows your sin but also preach the Gospel which gives you Jesus.
So the Christian faith has preachers. And what do they preach? “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John pointed to Jesus. This is the center of the Christian faith, this man, who is really true God and true man. John is pointing to Jesus as the fulfillment of all the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament. John points to Jesus who was born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth and has now appeared at the Jordan river. This man in particular, and no one else, is the One who is the Lamb of God.
And this short and to-the-point sermon tells us not just Who but What and How. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise because He comes to take away the sin of the world. Just as the Passover Lamb was slaughtered, so Jesus will be sacrificed and killed on the cross on Calvary. His death will pay the price of all sin. Not only that, Jesus defeats the curse of death, because He rose the third day on Easter. Jesus’ death for sinners and His resurrection from the dead are the center and substance of the Christian faith. The Lamb of God came for this one purpose: not to make the world a better place; not to improve our lives; not to make us better people. He came to take away the sin of the world. He came to save sinners.
John did not live to see Jesus’ death and resurrection. But, after Easter, Jesus sent His apostles and today still calls and ordains preachers to do what John did: proclaim to people that the Lamb of God has taken away their sin. Thus the Christian faith and church continue by the Lord’s grace and work. Preachers preach Jesus, the Jesus who is the sacrifice for the sins of the world. In the season of Advent, when the church is preparing to celebrate Jesus’ birth and watching for His final return in glory, preachers preach the Lamb of God. And like John the Baptist, such preaching gives us the truest comfort of all: peace with God because of Jesus. So, behold! Jesus! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! The Lamb who has taken away your sin.