“…Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29 NASB
Christmas brings with it the opportunity to do just that… to behold the Lamb of God!
Beholding the Lamb of God was John the Baptist’s description of Jesus and recognition of why He had come to this world. No longer a baby born in Bethlehem some thirty years earlier, Jesus would within three years fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy [Isaiah 53]. Jesus was that Lamb “led to slaughter” who would endure the cross, and receive the punishment for our sins as Peter wrote, “with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” [1 Peter 1:19].
So then, what does the term “behold” mean? Something much more than merely visual acknowledgment. For example, if Jesus and John the Baptist (John), born within months of each other, had spent any time growing up together in their earliest years, then conceivably John could have easily picked Jesus out of a crowd or at a family gathering by virtue of their related mothers, Elizabeth and Mary. Interestingly, Dr. Luke wrote of preborn John leaping for joy, in his mother’s womb, when she heard visiting Mary’s greeting. Kindred spirits, you might wonder? Similarities in growing up, for sure [Luke 1:80; 2:40] that is, until John headed off into the wilderness. Yet, both had very different work to complete on earth.
And, it wasn’t until the Holy Spirit positively identified Jesus as the Messiah, that John could truly recognize Him as the One for whom he had been preparing the way, as God’s appointed messenger. Finally, the pieces were beginning to fall into place as Isaiah’s prophecies began unfolding before his very eyes. As John’s public ministry was ending and Jesus’ was just getting underway, they were preaching the same message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” [Matthew 3:2; 4:17]. John exhibited Christ-like humility as he beheld Jesus the Messiah, recognizing that Jesus’ role needed to increase while his own must decrease. The significance of standing in the very presence of God, who had taken on human form, even baptizing Him… was not lost on John [Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:2-4 John 1:23-34; 3:30].
Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, arrived virtually unnoticed, in humble fashion, yet fulfilling a host of Old Testament prophecies forever impacting mankind. Like John, others had been waiting for the Messiah’s coming, as well. Luke writes of Simeon holding baby Jesus in his arms and saying, “For my eyes have seen Thy salvation.” [Luke 2:30]. Even some, who weren’t waiting, still came to recognize Jesus as the Son of God. Consider the Roman centurion, an eyewitness to His crucifixion, who said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” [Mark 15:39] and praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent.” [Luke 23:47].
Although terms such as “camel’s hair”, “locusts”, and “wild honey” were part of John’s everyday vocabulary, “Christmas” was not. But despite not knowing what he missed out on centuries later, John did receive the one thing that he undoubtedly would have wanted most of all, had he been able to participate in the gift exchanging experience associated with and sometimes even defining Christmas: beholding the Lamb of God!
Note the exclamation points expressing John’s reaction to that most sought after gift, each time he used that phrase [John 1:29, 36]. In other words, this was no ordinary “ho-hum” event in John’s return from the wilderness. How then can we ever allow ourselves to become nonchalant about anything Christ-related?
Is it possible, even as well-meaning believers, to fall into rote-induced routines… even about Christmas? Ruts that can easily limit our definition of the “Christmas Story” to just the narratives provided by Matthew and Luke along with some familiar Messianic Old Testament prophecies. Everything in Scripture ultimately points toward God. Such as the character and attributes of the Father, the prophecies and arrival of the Messiah, and the often overlooked and underappreciated role of the Holy Spirit.
Believers do focus heavily on Christmas and Easter, and rightly so. Yet, it raises some tough questions: Who or what will successfully vie for their attention during the remaining 363 days of the year? Will those days be “up for grabs” as to their willingness to discern and obey the voice of the Good Shepherd? What about you?
Isaiah metaphorically uses a foundation corner stone to describe the coming Messiah in Isaiah 28:16. Take note of the specific words used by Isaiah. Jesus fulfills this prophecy both as the foundation stone and the cap stone. Nothing worthwhile can ever be built apart from Christ. Apostles Paul [Romans 9:33; 10:9-11] and Peter quote from this prophecy. Peter wrote, “Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, And he who believes in Him shall not be disappointed” [1 Peter 2:6].
Have you ever been disappointed with a Christmas present, that wasn’t on your wish list? There is much to appreciate and enjoy about a Christmas centered on Christ Himself. Better than any material gift we could ever give or receive. The most precious and most perfect gift of all eternity is for all eternity, the Lamb of God who willingly took your sin upon Himself. Unwrapping His gift of salvation will not disappoint you.
John‘s unique role of announcing the coming of God’s promised Messiah was completed. The role of every believer since then is to proclaim that Jesus also died and rose again. This portion of God’s overall eternal plan, the “relay race” of disciple-making began long ago. Now it’s our turn to accept the “baton” handed-off to us, and in God’s strength, finish the course with enduring faith [Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Timothy 4:7].
May Christ’s ultimate purpose for coming here, not be lost on those who call Him Savior and Lord now, as they celebrate His birth at Christmas… so that those yet to believe, can also behold the Lamb of God, as their Savior and Lord, for all eternity.
GBC Elder, Alan Summers