Sermon Details




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)

Our title today is, “Knowing Who Jesus Is,” and actually we have already seen who he is in this sevenfold description of his glory: He is the eternal, personal, divine, creating, life-giving, incarnate Son of God.  A better title would be “Knowing What Jesus Does.”

I want to draw your attention to two marvelous statements in our passage today.  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.  He takes away sin and he gives the Holy Spirit.  That is what Christ does, and this is what he is able to do for all who will come to him today.

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.

Then a delegation came from the Pharisees, and John gave them a clear testimony about himself and about Jesus.  “The next day,” John saw Jesus walking toward him (John 1:29).  John points to Jesus 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. (Gen. 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” (Gen. 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” (Gen. 22:7)?  Abraham says, “God will provide for himself the lamb” (Gen. 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.

The story always raises questions.  I recall seeing a Woody Allen film in which the story of Abraham and Isaac is told, and then an old Jewish man says, “Of course the real question is, ‘What kind of God would ask Abraham to do such a thing?’”  There isn’t an answer to that question in the Old Testament.

To answer that question, you have to go to the New Testament.  There we see that the sacrifice God provided was his only Son, who he loved.  And the whole point of the ancient story (that always makes us squirm) 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 (Rom. 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. (Ex. 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.

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Isaiah makes it clear that the Lamb, who will be the substitute and the sacrifice, is a person: “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted… like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (Isa. 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.  When John sees Jesus, he says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
Notice, the word ‘sin’ is singular, not plural.  Dr. Harry Ironside, pastor of Moody Church in Chicago during the 1930s and 1940s says, “Sins are only the effect of a cause, and the Lamb of God came, not only to take away the individual’s sins, but to… deal with the sin question as a whole… He not only atoned for all our acts of sin, but He died for what we are as sinners by nature… Within this heart of mine there are tendencies to sin that are worse than any act of sin I have ever committed.  This is true of us all.  We are sinners by nature.  Sin dwells in us.  Christ died to put away sin, not merely sins, by the sacrifice of Himself…  God took all that into account when Christ hung on the cross…. [1]

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.

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
What happened on the Day of Atonement gives us a powerful picture of the Lamb of God taking away sin.  A live goat was brought to the High Priest, who would then place his hands on the goat’s head and confess aloud the sins of God’s people.  That’s a long prayer!

When the High Priest placed his hands on the head of the goat and began confessing, it symbolized a transfer of sins: “He shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness…  The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself” (Lev. 16:21-22).  The goat was taken away, never to be seen again, and their sins were taken away with it.

“Now,” John says, “Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away sin!”  Notice the present tense.  The great work of bearing sin took place “once for all” on the cross.  But Christ rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven where he lives to take away the sins of his people.  Matthew Henry says, “He [Christ] is always taking away sin, by the continual intercession of his blood in heaven, and the continual influence of his grace on earth.” [2]

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.  Jerry Bridges says this well: “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace.  Your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.” [3]

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
As you follow the theme of the lamb in the Bible, as the substitute and sacrifice who takes away sin, you will see a widening stream of God’s mercy:

  • In Genesis (the story of Abraham) the substitute is for one person—Isaac.
  • In Exodus (the story of the Passover) the sacrificed lamb is for one family.
  • In Leviticus (on the Day of Atonement) the scapegoat sent out into the desert is for one nation—Israel.
  • And in the New Testament (when Jesus Christ comes) John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Q: For whom is this good news?
A: Jesus Christ is good news for people who want to get rid of their sin.

Christ takes away sins.  If you want to hold onto your sins, the coming of Jesus Christ will not sound like good news to you.  There was a time in Jonah’s life when he wanted to run away.  Remember how God dealt with him?  But he came to a place of saying, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8 NIV).

When you come to the place of saying, “I want to be clean.  I want to be free from my sin.  I want to get this off my shoulders and to be done with it.  I would like to have my record wiped clean before God, to be at peace with him, and to know that for me, there is no condemnation,” then the coming of Jesus Christ is very, very good news for you!

Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  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.  You have a High Priest to whom you can confess, and he can do for you what no one else in the world can do.

You can confess your sins to a trusted friend, a pastor, a priest, a counsellor, or to an accountability group.  Any of these may be good things to do.  They can hear your confession, but Jesus can do more than that—he can take your sin away!  Jesus can do this for you because he is the Lamb of God.  He is the substitute, the sacrifice, and the sin-bearer.

Christ Gives the Holy Spirit

“This is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” (John 1:33)
The word ‘baptize’ means to dip, immerse, drench, or saturate.  If you roll these together, ‘baptize’ speaks to us of an abundant supply.

“This is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” (John 1:33)
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God—the third person of the Trinity.  So to be baptized in the Spirit is to be drenched, saturated, or filled with the very life of God himself (Eph. 3:19).

Think about what that would mean: If you were immersed in water, there would be a certain wetness about you.  If you were bathed in light, there would be a certain brightness 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.  Water imparts wetness.  Light imparts brightness.  Sewage imparts odor.

Here we are being told something wonderful.  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.  This is what our Lord was referring to when he said: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me… out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).  John goes on to say, “Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit when he said this.”  So as you look to Christ and believe in him, the life of the Spirit will flow in you.

“This is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” (John 1:33)
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.

Christ fulfills the two great promises of the Old Testament:

  • “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean” (Ezek. 36:25).
  • “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes” (Ezek. 36:27).

Q: For whom is this good news?
A: Jesus Christ is good news for people who hunger and thirst for God.

He is not good news for people who are satisfied with their religion.  There are many people who would say, “I was baptized as a baby.  I go to a place of worship.  I pray when I feel that I need to.  I sometimes give.  From time to time I read the Bible.  I belong to a good church.  And that’s all I need.  What more could I want?”

While there were people who felt like that in the time of Jesus, the people who came to John in the desert were different.  They were circumcised.  They went to the synagogue.  They kept the festivals.  But for all that, they felt that they were not yet ready to meet with God.  They knew that they had sins to confess, and in their hearts they had a deep longing to know him.

So they came to the desert.  They confessed their sins, and John baptized them in water.  Then Jesus came and John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  I baptize you with water but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The next day, Jesus walked by again, and again John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  And when John’s disciples heard this, they left John and followed Jesus.  Of course!  Why in the world would they stay with John?  He is not the Christ!  He said himself that he was not worthy to untie the sandals on the feet of Jesus!

Why would anyone stay with John, when they could follow Jesus?  John could hear confessions of sin, but Jesus can take sin away!  John can baptize with water, but Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit!

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.

Behold (Look at this!)

I want to say to you today, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world…

This is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (John 1:29, 33).

People who are humble and hungry will respond, “This is what I need and this is what I desire.  I want today, in a fresh way, for my sins to be taken away.  I want my life to be filled, drenched, saturated, and immersed, not with some of the muck that has been filling me, but with as much of the life of God as I can possibly contain!”

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.


[1] H. A. Ironside, John, p.55, Loizeaux Brothers, 1978.

[2] Matthew Henry, Commentary in One Volume, p. 1511, Zondervan, 1961.

[3] Jerry Bridges, Who Am I?, p. 92, Cruciform Press, 2012.


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