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What Should We Think About Jesus

January 13, 2018 Pastor: Rev. Lloyd Gross

Verse: John 1:29–1:34

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WHAT SHOULD WE THINK OF JESUS?
Epiphany 2 

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.'  I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel."  And John bore witness: "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.  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.'   And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."John 1:29-34

The founder of Jews for Jesus, Pastor Moishe Rosen, once wrote in his organization's newsletter of a friend whose pastor invited a rabbi to address his congregation to help them understand how to speak to Jewish people. Rosen was glad that Christians wanted to learn more about his people, but he might have thought twice about having the rabbi address his congregation. Rabbis are good neighbors, upstanding citizens, and generally honest and kind people. But the place to hear them speak is on their own turf, along with Jewish music and Jewish prayers. He is not interested in preaching the Gospel. To have a rabbi tell you why he doesn't believe in Jesus, then have everyone sing My Hope is Built on Nothing Less, seems very silly. Let me follow that by saying all Christians could do well to learn about the Jews, the people God calls "the apple of His eye." The devil also considers them special, enough to make furious attacks on them. We love the Savior's people, we pray for them, but the greatest kindness we can do for them is lead them to regeneration by the Word of the Messiah. Being broad-minded solves nothing. Let those who occupy Christ's pulpit proclaim the Law and the Gospel to bring those who hear to genuine repentance and faith.

The example before us is John the Baptist, the first Christian preacher, by which we mean the first to proclaim Law and Gospel connected to Jesus of Nazareth. His Baptism was a ceremony of forgiveness. He did not know Jesus' name, but said that Someone was coming after him. John was a great preacher, opening peoples' eyes and ears. Finally Jesus came to John, the Voice spoke loudly, the Dove came down which was the Holy Spirit. Apparently John knew that, too. From then on he introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God.

Did John ask rabbis to come tell what they thought of Jesus? Of course not! He loved them, to be sure, he wanted them to come for Baptism, but he knew there was nothing they could add to the Gospel. For all the world's problems there was only one solution, and that was the Lamb. How did the Lamb help? He takes away the sin of the world. So, what should we think of Jesus? We should follow John's example. He is our Lamb who has taken away our sins. He may be many other things, but nothing more important than this. All of the sorrow and grief of the world comes from sin. The Lamb solves the root problem. What good is world peace if we lose the peace of heaven?

Why did John call Jesus the Lamb? Was he thinking about Passover? That was a clear reference point. There was the original event, where the blood of the lamb protected the Hebrews. In the days of the temple there were the morning and evening sacrifice, lambs from the flocks of Judea. Jesus is the Lamb of God, so His sacrifice never needs to be repeated. He fulfilled the Passover by offering that sacrifice, rescuing and redeeming all the children of men.

"Lamb" also implies innocence. God insisted that the Passover Lamb be without blemish and without spot. That was symbolic, showing us that there was no sin in Jesus. His temptations were real, but He was the Stronger One who resisted the worst the devil could do, then spoiled his household. He did not deserve to die. The rabbi might disagree here, thinking that Jesus blasphemed. If Jesus was not what He claimed to be, then He was a bad man. So the rabbi is asking the right question, he just doesn’t have the right answer. Either Jesus is God Incarnate or He is a fraud. When the Baptist called Him the Lamb of God he was agreeing that Jesus was the Messiah, the One that is Stronger, the One who would fulfill all the types. He would be both the Passover Lamb and the Yom Kippur goat, yes, the scapegoat driven outside the camp because the high priest had placed all the sins of the people on his head. From this distance, we might think we're getting the holidays mixed up, but remember every ritual God commanded was pointing to Jesus, no matter what time of year formed its context. All of the festivals were shadows; Jesus was the substance.

Now here is where some start to think, O. K., Jesus is your savior. But I can find God another way. Don't Jews and Muslims, or pagans, or secular humanists all have their own truth? No. What truth they have, we also have. They don't have their own truth. They have their own systems, yes, they have a share of the common truth, but none that we lack. On the contrary, we have the truth they lack. Whose sins does John say the Lamb takes away? The sins of Lutherans? Of Americans? Of Christians? No. He said "The sin of the world," which means starting with Adam and including the last child born before Judgment Day. He took all these upon Himself. He suffered their consequences on the cross. God then proclaimed Him righteous and innocent by raising him from the dead. As John preached, so do we, your sins were placed on that Lamb. Isaiah says in chapter 53: All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. All the others have turned their way. When the Second Temple was destroyed, the Jews turned to the bloodless religion of the Dispersion. The Hindu and the Shamanist, the new-ager and the Progressivist, the Muslims and Masons have all turned their own way. None of those lead to God. So does ours? Ah, we do not have a way. We wait until God comes to us, for that is the only way anyone can be with God.

There are some people who see no need for God at all. They belong to this world, enjoy milling around in its vanities. Jesus loves those people. He is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for them, but they do not know it. We have the comfort of knowing it, knowing that the Lamb has taken away our sins. The devil will rage against us. He will use arguments, threats, bribes, and escapes. He might even enlist the power of the state to turn us from the Lamb. But our comfort in the hour of death is the Lamb who takes away our sins. That is what we should think of Jesus. AMEN.