The Sermon for Sunday, January 15th, the Second Sunday after Epiphany
The Lessons: Exodus 12:21-28; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1;1-9; John 1:29-42
The Text: John 1:29
Bible teacher A.T. Pierson tells the story of a new convert to Christ who had a strange dream in which he was trapped down in a very deep well in the night. He looked up and saw a single star shining far above him, and it seemed to let down lines of silver light that took hold of him and lifted him up. Then he looked down, and he began to go down. He looked up, and he began to go up; he looked down, and he began to go down again. He found that by simply keeping his eye on that star, he rose out of the well until his foot stood on the firm ground.
The dream was a parable, said Dr. Pierson. “Get your eyes off yourself and on your Savior, get them off your disease and on your physician….Here and now, turn your eyes to the Lord Jesus.”
This insight reminds us of our Lord’s words:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
(John 3:14-15, KJV)
By looking at the brass serpent on a standard, Israelites who had been bitten by poisonous snakes would live, and not die (Numbers 21:8-9). Whoever then believes in the Son of man, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was lifted up on a cross, will have everlasting life.
JOHN 1:29: JOHN THE BAPTIST’S PROPHETIC WORDS ABOUT JESUS CHRIST
John the Baptist was directing the attention of two of his own disciples to Jesus Christ when he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, KJV). These two disciples instantly followed Jesus and became his disciples. We have become so accustomed to the Agnus Dei prayer in our service of Holy Communion, that we are inclined to forget the enormous significance of these words.
The Passover was, and still is, the most significant Jewish Festival. Our First Lesson today contains Moses’ instruction to the Israelites to slaughter the Passover lamb (one for each family) and to sprinkle its blood on the lintel and doorposts of their homes, and to stay in their houses till morning. That very night the destroying angel would see the blood of the Passover lamb on their doorways and would pass over all such homes and destroy only the firstborn of each Egyptian family. It was Pharaoh, King of Egypt, who had refused to allow Israel to leave Egypt and go into the wilderness where God was calling them. Eight previous plagues had only hardened his heart against Israel, so that he still did not acknowledge, honor, or obey God. The final plague of the death of the firstborn (humans and animals) forced his hand, and in the middle of the night, in desperation, he summoned Moses and commanded him and his people to leave Egypt and even to pray for him. Though today, the final plague seems a harsh judgement, it was the way that God chose to make Pharaoh let God’s people go.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRIST’S BEING THE PASSOVER LAMB
When St. John the Baptist referred to Jesus the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world, he was speaking prophetically of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, which happened at the time of the Passover Festival. Christ’s death was the sacrifice that atoned for the sin of the world and reconciled to God all who believe in Him. Now if the Israelites listening to Moses’ God-given instructions concerning the Passover lamb had refused to obey those instructions, the destroying angel would have made no distinction between them and the Egyptian families that suffered the loss of their firstborn. The blood of the lambs slaughtered for Passover was a sign of a sacrifice that cancelled death and brought life. When the Lord Jesus Christ is referred to as the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world, it means that there is a new Passover, in which the death of mankind is replaced by eternal life for all who believe in Jesus Christ. This new Passover is for everyone in the world who repents of sin, turns to the Lord Jesus Christ, believes in Him, and follows Him as Lord.
The Passover also represents liberation from a life of slavery, since after the final plague, the nation of Israel left Egypt and escaped from the life of bondage they had lived there for so many years. They had been set free by the Lord to live lives consecrated and devoted to Him. Now through Christ, all who are in bondage to any kind of sin, can find freedom forever by believing in Him and receiving Him as Lord. Therefore St. Paul writes:
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
(Galatians 5:1, KJV)
As we live the life to which Christ has called us, we must be sure to stand fast in the freedom with which Christ has set us free, and we must not again return and be caught in the trap of bondage. It is right then that daily we pray the Lord’s Prayer, which includes as its final petition, “But deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13b), for if any kind of evil still has a place in us, we are not yet completely free.
Now each Israelite family had to eat the lamb roasted on the night of the Passover and leave nothing left over until the morning. This has a symbolism for Christians today. In the world we live in the night of our redemption, and in the exodus from bondage to sin, and Holy Communion is for us a spiritual feeding on the Body and the Blood of Christ our Lord. The Lord himself explained:
I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
(John 6:51, KJV)
Eating the bread of life means spiritually communing with the Lord Jesus Christ, and everyone who does this has eternal life and the Lord will raise him to life on the last day (John 6:54). It also means that every time we make our Communion, we are celebrating Christ the Lamb of God and the New Passover by which God has rescued and redeemed his people from bondage to sin and from eternal death. We stand forgiven and redeemed, justified by faith and grace alone, reconciled to God.
The revelation that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world changed St. Andrew’s life. He became a disciple of Jesus, and he told his brother, Simon, whom he brought to the Lord.
How has coming to know Jesus Christ as Lord changed your life, and with whom will you share this wonderful news?
 pp. 192-3, Arthur T. Pierson: The Gospel: Its Heart, Heights, and Hopes, vol. 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1978.