It must have been an incredible moment, especially for those who had ears to hear and hearts prepared by God to understand the fullness of the Baptizer’s confession. John had known from the beginning that he was called to be the forerunner of the Messiah. He knew that he was not the Light come into the world, but the one ordained by Almighty God to bear witness of the Light, that all through Him might believe (John 1:6-9). John was baptizing in Bethany, beyond the Jordan, and some came to him and asked him, “Who has authorized you to baptize the people?” (cf. John 1:19-27). Of course, John could have easily claimed to be someone greater than he was—for the priests and Levites sent from Jerusalem had already supplied answers of their own: “Are you Elijah reincarnated? Are you the Prophet that is greater than Moses?” John denied their suggestions and claimed to be the least in the kingdom. It was on that next day that John saw Jesus coming toward him and cried out to all, “Behold! The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!” John, having previously baptized Jesus and heard the heavenly voice, goes on in verse 34 to declare that this Lamb is the very Son of God and only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John was doing his God ordained duty in pointing the people to Christ. We know that Andrew was among those who beheld the Lamb that next day and believed. The final prophet of the old order had borne witness of the Messiah and Andrew believed and bore witness of Him to Peter, his brother, who went on with all the apostles to bear witness of Him to many others down through the ages until one day you and I believed on Him Who takes away the sin of the world.
“Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt, yonder, on Calvary’s mount outpoured, there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.” (Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord, words by Julia Johnston)
There are only three ways that men can “behold” Jesus. The first is spoken of in our text, and that is with eyes of flesh. Jesus was seen by men; and yet, in the days of His flesh He was hated by men, as the prophet Isaiah declared: “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” This is the way all men in their natural, fallen state behold Jesus. A second way that Jesus is beheld is by the eyes of glory. In some way, the souls of just men made perfect behold the Savior Who won their salvation. And all we who believe will one day, in glorified bodies, behold the Lamb of God as He is, for we shall be like Him. This is what the apostle John saw in a vision of glory in the book of the Revelation, chapter 5:
“Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
The third and final way is to behold Christ by faith. This is implicit in our text as John speaks of Christ. He is no mere man, but the God-Man and only begotten Son of God Who has come into the world to save sinners. John looked upon Christ as a man, but saw through eyes of faith that He was, and is, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. The Christ-hater Saul would experience this transformation in his own life in a dramatic way as Ananias went to him in obedience to the Lord and told him, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, Who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once…” (Acts 9:17, 18). It was this sight through eyes of faith that the Apostle Paul would later speak of in writing to the believers in Ephesus: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” This beholding by faith is always of the free mercy of God!
As we come this week to the Lord’s Table, we come as those who do not see Christ in the flesh, for He is now at the right hand of God the Father. We do not yet see Him as He is, for we have not yet been made fully like Him with glorified bodies and perfected souls. We come as those who behold Him by faith. Believing is seeing. And we come desiring that we might see Him more clearly, that our love for Him and hatred of all that is against Him might grow, and that our lives might be more fully conformed to His image. Consider this One Who died and became accursed for you, dear believer. And come with joy to the Table He has spread before you that we might together feast upon Him by faith, receiving grace upon grace. Listen to the wise counsel of John Flavel (1628-1691):
“Is there any among you that desire to get up your affections at this table, to have your hearts in a melting temper, to awaken and rouse up all the powers of your souls in so great an occasion for it as this? Behold the Lamb of God! and this will do it. Christ calls off your eyes and thoughts from all other objects to Himself…Fix the eyes of faith here, and you will feel a pang quickly coming upon your heart…Your eyes will affect your hearts; while you behold, your hearts will melt within you.”
In Christ, the Lamb of God Who takes away our sins,
Pastor Ted Trefsgar