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Yeshua the Lamb of God

John 1:29-32:

The next day John saw Yeshua coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He of whom I said, "After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.' 31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water." 32 And John bore witness, saying, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 

John said, "BEHOLD! The Lamb of God."  I want us behold Him once again.

Two weeks from now we will celebrate the Passover. This year Passover and Easter will overlap. That's not always the case. Sadly, in 325 AD the Church made the decision to separate Easter from the Jewish holiday of Passover. An official church document at that time declared that the "wretched [Jews] are...blinded...Let us have nothing in common."

But it's hard to fully behold Yeshua as the Lamb of God without seeing how intertwined His Passion is with the Passover. 

The Lamb's Beginnings 

Let's behold Him from His beginnings on the earth. Thirty-three years before His death at Passover, Yeshua was born as a Passover Lamb. It's in the region of Bethlehem Ephrata that shepherds raised special lambs for sacrifice in the Temple in Jerusalem. 

My wife Ann and I live in the southern part of Jerusalem. We're able to see Bethlehem. We still see shepherds with their sheep and young lambs grazing on those same hillsides. 

It's no accident that on one of these Bethlehem hills, Mary's little lamb was born. Micah predicted that the Messiah will be born in the area of Bethlehem Ephrata, right where Passover lambs were raised. 

"John saw Yeshua coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  So we behold not just any regular lamb, but a lamb that was born to die. To fulfill the Passover sacrifice was one of Yeshua's chief reasons for coming to the earth as the Lamb of God. Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 5:7:

7 "For Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us." 

We need the lamp of God's Word to behold the Lamb of God clearly. So let me remind you of what God's word says about the original Passover. We read this in Exodus 12:12-14: 

12 For I will go through the land of Egypt in that night, and will strike all the

      firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and animal. Against all the gods of

      Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.

13 The blood shall be to you for a sign on the houses where you are: and when

      I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall be on you to

     destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

14 This day shall be to you for a memorial, and you shall keep it a feast to

      LORD: throughout your generations you shall keep it a feast by an

      ordinance forever."

At Passover the Jewish people recall how the angel of death, God's agent of wrath against the evil empire of Egypt, "passed over" and spared the children of Israel from death. The Hebrew word for "Passover" is "Pesach." It literally means to "pass over" or "to spare." 

During Passover we are reminded of what God requires to save souls: nothing but the blood. In the words of Exodus 12:13:

13 When I see the blood, I will pass over you.

On this mission to kill the firstborn of every household dwelling in Egypt, the angel of death would inspect each home for the sign of blood. Whenever the Angel spotted a house whose doorposts and lintel had been freshly smeared with the blood of a lamb, he would spare that household's firstborn. 

The blood was sprinkled on two sides as well as the top, and possibly the bottom threshold of the doorway as well, depending on how you translate the word "saf." Could it be that this was a prophetic picture? For Yeshua's blood dripped from his two extended hands, extended horizontally on the crossbeam. He bled from the top of his head due to his crown of thorns and he bled at lowest part of his body, from his feet. And isn't it interesting that Yeshua said in John 10:9

9 "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved..." 

The Passover Meal (Seder) and the Lamb

Once a year Jews all over the world continue to eat what is known as the "Seder" on Passover eve. This is the meal that Yeshua and his disciples were eating that we call "the Last Supper."

You can't really understand Yeshua's profound words and actions at His last supper with his disciples until you understand that He is the Passover Lamb of God. He is the final sacrificial Lamb whose shed blood takes away the sins of the world.

During the meal there is the reading of the Haggadah, or the "retelling" of the deliverance of the Jewish people from Egypt. Haggadah is word related to the Hebrew word "to tell." The retelling, the story of that first Passover in Egypt, is so important for a Jewish family. Paul would later write to the Corinthians, in 1 Corinthians 11:26:

26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you  proclaim the

      Lord's death till He comes."

That's why it's so important to celebrate the Lord's supper, for we need to constantly retell and recall the amazing work of deliverance that the blood of the Lamb of God has achieved for us. Otherwise we may forget or take it for granted and be unthankful to God for the great deliverance he has provided from our own 'personal Egypt.' 

It's interesting that in those days the cup that they drank from at Passover was wider and not as tall as the cups we drink from. The cup at the Passover Seder meal would have been shaped more like the basin that those priests used to collect the blood of the lamb and then used to pour out the blood on the altar. No doubt Yeshua had that kind of image in mind when at the Last Supper,  in Luke 22:20 it reads:

20 He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant

      in My blood, which is shed for you."

To get further Old Testament background for what Yeshua accomplished on the cross, let's look at Exodus 12. Here we have the account of the first Passover. The chapter's beginning looks like this: 

1 The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,

2 "This month shall be to you the beginning of months. It shall be the first

     month of the year to you.

3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth day of this

    month, they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers'

    houses, a lamb for a household....

6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the

    whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at evening."

Why does God demand the sacrificial death of an animal and the shedding of innocent blood? Because God is holy, He hates sin, and because He hates sin so much He must judge sin, and the price for sinning is extremely costly.  

We need to understand that a lamb in those days was a very valuable animal. It would grow up to provide milk and cheese. It's wool would provide warmth on cold desert nights. The most valuable part of the lamb, from God's perspective, was the blood of the lamb.

Moses spoke these words in Leviticus 17:11:

11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make

     atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes

     atonement for one's life".

Later, when the Jews would enter the Promised Land and when they built a Temple in Jerusalem, they would shed the blood of thousands of lambs as a costly payment for man's debt of sin. 

But once a year, on the 10th of the month of Hebrew month of Nisan, each Jewish household would select the most exceptional year old lamb in their possession and take him into their own home as one of the family. For more than four days, until the 14th of Nisan, that lamb was under the careful watch of the entire family, to make sure that this little lamb was sufficiently worthy to meet the highest standards of a holy God. The rabbis used to say that if fifty blemishes or more were found in a lamb that it would not be worthy as a Passover sacrifice. The rabbis were very specific about where those blemishes were found, no more than five in the ear, three in the eyelid, eight in the eye, three in the nose and six in the mouth.

The Lamb's Final Passion

We've beheld the Lamb's beginning in Bethlehem and beheld Him in the light the Word way back in the Exodus story. Now I want us to behold the Lamb of God in the light of the New Testament story of His Passover passion.

Just as the story of Yeshua's birth takes up a large portion of the gospel story, so does the Passion story.

What's fascinating is that Yeshua arrived in Jerusalem in preparation for the Passover exactly four days before the day that He would be sacrificed as the Passover lamb. Like a Passover lamb, for those four days Yeshua was under the careful scrutiny of the Jewish religious leaders. They tried everything they could to find fault in Him, but no matter how hard they investigated they could not find a single justifiable blemish in His character. 

Even the Roman governor Pilate couldn't find anything defective about Yeshua after his intensive interrogation. In Luke 23:4 we read:

4 Pilate said to the chief priests and the multitudes, "I find no basis for a

   charge against this man."

There was another requirement to meet the stringent standards for a Passover Lamb. In Exodus 12:5 the Lord said to Moses:

5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old.

In a Lamb's years, the prime of life was one year old. I guess any older than that and a lamb is over the hill! 

Yeshua was chosen from God's flock and made a Passover sacrifice also at the prime of his earthly life, at age 33. A priest couldn't even begin his career until he turned 30. So Yeshua gave up His life as a sacrifice for our sins at His prime. The sins of the world were simply so great and such an affront to God's holy character that only something of infinite perfection and value could redeem us all from sin and death.

I find it very fascinating that each Jewish family would take that little lamb into their home for four days. You can imagine that this cute, little, fluffy, cuddly creature would be quickly adopted by the children as the family pet.

I once observed this when we were invited to attend a Passover celebrated by the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim in the region of Samaria.  Every year the Samaritans, now numbering less than 1,000 people, carry on this tradition of sacrificing a lamb at their Passover. One lamb was sacrificed for each average-sized family. It was so touching to see that just minutes before the head of the household would slit the throat of this little lamb and use his blood, we saw the little children in each family petting that lamb and playing with it. You can imagine the horror and personal hurt it was for those little children to watch their own Father take the life of their precious little friend.

We talk about the need to accept Yeshua as our "personal" Savior. Well, it's true. Until you ask Yeshua into your heart and home as your personal Savior and acknowledge that He is your personal sacrifice for your personal sins, God will not spare you; He will not "pass over" you. As one preacher once said, "God has no grandchildren." It's not enough that your parents know Yeshua. You need to make Yeshua your own personal sacrificial Lamb. You must allow Him to become your friend and allow Him into your life. He wants to be your friend, no matter how sinful and unworthy you feel. When Yeshua walked around this earth He was known as the "friend of sinners."

When Yeshua came down to earth as the Lamb of God, He didn't become a hermit, but, instead, John 1:14 declares: 

14 "The Word became flesh, and lived among us."

Yeshua lived His life as member of a Jewish family. When Ge reached age 30, He decided to join Himself to a second family, a spiritual family. He formed a family of disciples.  Although He was the Son of God from the heights of heaven He didn't choose the luxury of an ivory tower. We should notice that He even moved from calling His disciples "servants" to calling them "friends." 

No wonder there was such shock and deep sorrow for the disciples on that Passover day when their precious Lamb was suddenly taken from them, from His mother Mary, from Peter, James and John, His most beloved disciple. 

It's one thing for someone else's lamb to be slain as a sacrifice, but when you lose "your friend" it's an especially painful experience. It's no accident that God determined that a lamb would be so part of the Jewish family that when he was slain, they would all experience a deep and traumatic personal loss, the kind of death and loss that occurs as a consequence of unrepented sin. 

But He was also like the first Passover lamb because Yeshua is our kinsman redeemer, He must be closely related to those for whom He would pay their debts of sin. For He was going to become our substitute. He would take our place, taking upon Himself our sin and take upon Himself the wrath of the holy Judge.

Have you ever wondered why God chose a lamb as His sacrificial substitute for human beings? Why a lamb and not a lion or a bear or a wolf or a gazelle? 

The lamb, of all animals, most closely resembles a human being in his nature and character. Unlike other animals a lamb is one of the most dependent of animals. A lion, bear, a wolf and a gazelle can all fend for themselves. They know how to maneuver around dangerous cliffs and pits and other dangerous geographical obstacles. The sheep on the other hand is known for his foolish tendency to walk right over cliffs and fall into deep pits. Without a shepherd to guide His steps, the lamb is going to seriously harm himself. 

We human beings are just like lambs in that way. We were designed by God in such a way that we constantly need a shepherd to lead us and protect us; whenever we try to go our own way we end up falling and injuring ourselves and eventually die from our foolish worldly wanderings. 

A lamb is also a creature that is easy prey to wild animals. Aren't human beings also equally vulnerable to spiritual attacks from the enemy of our souls? I think of the words of 1 Peter 5:8:

 8 Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary the devil, walks

    around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

So if God was going to choose an appropriate animal as an atoning substitute for sinful human beings, it's only natural that He would have chosen a lamb. 

God Provides Himself the Lamb

At the right time, while we were still sinners, when we were incapable of saving ourselves, God Himself decided to provide His own sacrificial Lamb. 

The Lamb of God would be so perfect and so valuable that He would provide sufficient payment to forgive the debt of sin for not just one family at Passover, but provide forgiveness for all the families of the earth, past, present and future. 

This time it's not we who go and choose a lamb to be our substitute, but it's God Himself who provides the Lamb. I'm reminded of the first time we get a hint of God's plan to one day provide His own lamb a sacrifice for sinners. It's the time God asked Abraham to sacrifice his most precious son, Isaac on the altar. Remember young Isaac's question to his father as they made their way up mount Moriah? In Genesis 22:7-8 we read:

 7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father, and said, "My father?" He said, "Here I

    am, my son." He said, "Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the

    lamb for a burnt offering?"

8 Abraham said, "God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my

   son."

It says in Galatians 3:8 that God "preached the Good News beforehand to Abraham..." Could it be that the day Abraham nearly put the knife to His own son's throat, that He heard the good news about a future day when "God will provide Himself the Lamb?" This person is His only begotten Son, Yeshua-- "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

In that song "Worthy is the Lamb" we have the phrase, "the darling of heaven crucified." Truly God's precious Son, was the darling lamb of heaven and "we'll never know how much it cost to see our sin upon the cross!"

Some people have this mistaken idea that Yeshua was a martyr and victim of Roman and Jewish hatred. But really, the One behind the death of the Son of God was God the Father Himself. Isaiah 53:7 speaks about our savior as:

7 A lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before its shearers is

   mute, so he didn't open his mouth."

But who led this lamb to the slaughter? The Romans? The Jews? Verse 10 says:

10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him. He has caused him to suffer.

God Himself Provides Himself the Lamb. We must apply His blood to our lives by faith.

I want to leave you with one final thought. On that first Passover night, when the father of each Jewish household in Egypt killed a lamb, God determined that it wasn't enough to save His firstborn from the Angel of death. God said, "when I see the blood I will pass over you." 

Salvation came to each household only when they had applied the blood to their door. What does it mean to apply the blood of Yeshua to our hearts? It means to believe and put our complete trust in Him and his sacrifice as the one and only way to be saved from death and hell. Hebrews 11:28 declares concerning Moses, 

28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who

      destroyed the firstborn should touch them."

Even Moses the deliverer, could not save himself. He needed faith. He had to believe and trust God's way of salvation--which was to apply the blood of the Lamb on the doorposts of his own home.

The blood of the Passover lamb only benefited those who believed the message and applied the blood to the doorposts of their home. To kill the lamb and not apply the blood would have had absolutely no effect. In the same way, Yeshua's death on the cross was sufficient to pay for the sins of the world, but its saving effect will only be given to those who apply His blood by faith on the doorposts of their heart.

Yeshua is our Passover lamb. He died once and for all for the sins of the whole world. But salvation is more than simply knowing that He died for the whole world's sins. I need to believe He died this for me and you need to believe that He died for you.

Maybe you haven't yet applied the blood of the Lamb on the doorposts of your heart by faith.  Just as the children of Israel were to eat their Passover meal in haste, so now, not tomorrow, is the acceptable time to receive Yeshua as your Passover Lamb. Now is the day of salvation.  Look on Him today.  Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

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