The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29-34
John the Baptist was a bit of a wild man. He lived an outsider’s existence, physically separating himself by living—and preaching—in the Judean wilderness. The gospel stories describe him wearing the garments of an Old Testament prophet and preaching the very sermon of an Old Testament prophet: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near!” (Matthew 3:2). But far from being put-off by any eccentricities, the people longed to hear his message. They came in droves from all over Judea to hear John preach. And they did repent, and he baptized many of them as a sign of their repentance.
One day, Jesus himself comes down the road toward the Jordan River, where John is preaching, calling for repentance—a turning away from sin.
Can you picture it?
John sees Jesus coming and knows the truth of who Jesus is: this is the Messiah, the anointed one, the one God had promised throughout the Old Testament.
Imagine John’s intense gesturing, directing the crowd’s attention to the man walking up toward them: “Look! This is what I’ve been telling you about! The kingdom of heaven has come near—and here He comes, right now. Look! I’ve been preaching repentance, turning away from your sins—but look! Here He is: the Lamb of God! He is the one who will actually take away your sin—the sins of the whole world!”
John is calling us, too, to look—to really look—at the Lamb, and to see Him as the one who will serve as the sacrifice, the one who takes away sin.
In today’s English, we often use “look” to indicate a quick glance or sneaking a peek. This is why I love the way today’s verse reads in the King James Version: “Behold the Lamb of God!”
“Beholding” is different than “taking a look.” Beholding has the connotation of taking a deep, long, contemplative look at something. The sense I have of “beholding” is inspiration and awe, something you don’t see every day. Perhaps even something that takes your breath away?
John knew the truth: Jesus, the Lamb of God, was indeed a sight for these people to behold. And if they understood the truth in that moment, it would have taken their breath away too!
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. Let us commit, over the next few weeks up to Easter, to look—to really look—at Jesus, the Messiah, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Each Friday through Lent, watch for a new devotional here at in all things, one that will hopefully help you “behold the Lamb” from the perspective of one of those who had a role to play in Christ’s journey to the cross. May God bless us all with eyes to see and minds to understand the truth of who Jesus is: the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.