I want to draw your attention to two marvelous statements from John 1. As I have reflected on these verses, what has impressed me is that there really could not be a clearer statement of what Jesus Christ does, and what He is able to do for all of us today.
- “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
- This is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33).
These two great works of Christ—to take away sin and to baptize with the Holy Spirit—lie at the center of Christian life and experience. So today I want us to focus in on these two statements that tell us what Christ does for all who will come to Him.
1.) Christ Takes Away Sin
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
Remember that John was in the wilderness, and that vast crowds were coming to him. His message was, “You are going to meet God and you had better get ready to meet Him.” People came to confess their sins and to be baptized, indicating their need to be washed. John saw Jesus walking toward him, and he says, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
John was speaking to people who knew the Old Testament, and that is where we must look to find what this means.
i. The Lamb is a substitute.
Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up…instead of his son. (Genesis 22:13)
In the book of Genesis, we have the extraordinary story of how God tested Abraham: “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:2).
Abraham goes to the mountain with Isaac, and Isaac says: We have “the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:7)? Abraham says, “God will provide for himself the lamb” (Genesis 22:8).
Isaac’s life is spared because God provides a ram, caught in a thicket, which takes the place of Isaac on the altar of God. The ram was a substitute for Isaac. The death sentence falls on the animal instead of the boy.
You might wonder, What kind of God would ask Abraham to do such a thing? Look to the New Testament. There we see that the sacrifice God provided was His only Son, whom He loved. And the whole point of the ancient story is to give us some sense of what it meant for God not to spare his only Son, but to give Him up for us all (Romans 8:32).
Christ, who was with God and is God, is the Lamb provided by God as the substitute whose life was given in the place of his people.
ii. The Lamb is a sacrifice.
They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses…And when I see the blood, I will pass over you. (Exodus 12:7, 13)
We come to the story of the Passover when the judgment of God swept through the land of Egypt where God’s people had been slaves. God’s people sacrificed a lamb and painted the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintels of their houses and God said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” The life of the lamb was given; the blood of the lamb was shed.
Roll the story forward, and in the New Testament, John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Jesus is the substitute who will stand in your place. He is the sacrifice whose blood will be shed on your behalf.
iii. The Lamb is the sin-bearer.
Isaiah makes it clear that the Lamb is a person (Isaiah 53:6-7). The Lamb of God will come among us as a servant. He will be despised and rejected. The Lord will lay on Him the iniquity of us all. He will be led like a lamb to the slaughter.
Christ died to take away sin. Sin, as a barrier, has been dealt with by Jesus Christ. That goes for sin in your mind, heart, desires and imagination, as much as sin in your words and deeds.
So, what must I do when I become aware of sin in my life? I must give it to Him, because He is the one who can take it away. Christ takes away sin, and there will never be a time when I do not need Him to take away the stains, the failings, and the sins for me.
Faith begins here: You believe that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Then you personalize it: “If he can do this for the world, then he can do it for me!’
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as often as you become aware of sin in your life, you have a Savior to whom you can come.
2.) Christ Gives the Holy Spirit
“This is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” (John 1:33)
Baptize means to dip, immerse, drench, or saturate. If you roll these together, baptize speaks to us of an abundant supply.
Think about what that would mean: If you were immersed in water, there would be a certain wetness about you. If you were dropped into a tank of sewage, there would be a certain odor about you. Whatever you are immersed in will impart something of its nature to you.
Jesus Christ immerses people in the Holy Spirit of God. If you were to be drenched in the Spirit of God, there would be a certain holiness about you. You would find new thoughts in you, and new desires. When certain desires arise in you, you would be able to resist them. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is in you.
Notice, what Christ does is described in the present tense —”baptizes.” So this is not just a one-time thing. It is an ongoing outpouring of the Spirit in the life of a believer.
The Ministry of Jesus
The ministry of Jesus is to take away sins and to baptize with the Holy Spirit, and He never does the one without the other. He takes away sin and goes on taking it away. He drenches in the Holy Spirit and goes on pouring Him out. So, in Jesus, there is forgiveness for the failings of yesterday and there is strength for the challenges of today.
Don’t settle for outward forms of religion! Jesus Christ says to you today, “I have come to do for you what no religion in the world can do, and what no other person in the world can do. I have come to take away your sins and to baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
To the humble and to the hungry this is the most marvelous news. Are you ready to join those who are saying, “I will follow Christ. I will walk with him. I will believe in him and look to him”? As you do, you will find life indeed.