The Lamb of God
Exodus 12: 1-14. John 1: 29-42
So I am in the common room as a theology student and we are talking about what happened to us over the Christmas break.
And my friends from Northern Ireland were laughing about an incident when they were stopped by paramilitaries.
I can’t remember if they were catholic or protestant paramilitaries, but there car was stopped in the middle of the countryside and the paramilitaries demanded money.
I would have been terrified.
But one of the students at the back of the car leaned forward to the open window and shouted, ‘Have you been saved by the blood of the lamb?’
The paramilitaries thought they had some nutters on their hands and waved them on.
They all thought this was a hilarious story.
I was wondering about what kind of idiot would take a risk like that.
But that got me thinking.
That is a phrase right out of the bible.
The lamb of God, the blood of the lamb.
Yet how much do we know about it?
I think it is a short cut phrase…
Like when you have a film, you only have 90 minutes to tell a story so you take some short cuts to tell the tale. Like as soon as the baddy comes on the scene he wears black…that way you know within seconds that he is the baddy, and you don’t have to waste time explaining to people why he is doing bad things.
Or deformities; look at bond villains.
In Octopussy the villain had webbed fingers.
Blowfelt, the biggest bond baddy had a scar above his eye.
Just wee short cuts.
There is one short-cut that we use that we don’t even know that we use.
What colour was Jesus’ robe?
You might think white, but no where in the Bible is there even a suggestion that Jesus’ robe was white. The reason we think Jesus robe is white is because in the films and pictures that we have seen the artists put Jesus in a white robe to symbolise his purity and goodness.
In truth, in Jesus day a pure white robe would have been pointless, it would have been a nightmare to keep clean. But when an artist was painting a picture he couldn’t have the audience trying to guess which one was Jesus, so Jesus ended up as the dominant figure in the pure white outfit.
And here is John the Baptist using a short cut.
In one phrase John the Baptist could explain to those around him, everything that Jesus was about.
Because we haven’t been brought up in the same faith as John’s listeners we don’t know the language, so don’t know the short-cuts.
So lets start off with the basics.
The blood of the lamb goes back to sacrifices and what they mean.
It is easy for us to think of sacrifices as being barbaric.
We look at the scene in the Old Testament.
The Egyptians were going to be punished, and to prevent the Israelites from suffering the same fate they killed a goat, or a lamb, instead.
Later on in the Old Testament we see that when people had done wrong, the punishment of the wrong was placed on a sacrifice and it was killed.
And we think that is hard, why should the innocent suffer for what it hasn’t done?
Why should the guilty get off scot free?
But I don’t think that’s the message that the Bible wants to give us.
I think we have misunderstood what is being said here.
Anyone remember who in the Bible gave the first sacrifice? Abraham? Noah? Abel?
It wasn’t anyone sacrificing to God.
It was God making a sacrifice for humans.
Adam and Eve are cast out of the Garden of Eden.
They are cast out because they decide that instead of following God’s path for them they were going to do their own thing, and that would destroy everything that was precious in the garden.
So they couldn’t stay.
They did what they wanted to do and it had dire consequences.
But they are not prepared for the outside world.
They probably wouldn’t survive.
Even though they had chosen to go against Gods path for them.
God doesn’t give up on them, God kills animals to make clothes for them so they can survive.
God gives them what they need.
Later on we have Abraham. Abraham was far from perfect.
He lied all the time, had favourites in his household that undermined all the relationships. Tried to second guess not only what God wanted to do in his life, but how God wanted to do it.
For instance…he knows God wants him to have a son.
But his wife isn’t conceiving…so his solution…his solution isn’t to have faith in God and stay faithful to his wife. His solution it to have sex with his wife’s slave to see if she conceives his son.
Eventually through his wife he does have a son called Isaac.
But then he feels that God wants to see how faithful he truly is. Now in the environment that he lives in, the greater the problem, the bigger the sacrifice. In that environment if the king believed that his country needed a sacrifice, then often it would be one of his own children he would sacrifice to the Gods.
Abraham believes his God is far more important than these heathen gods, so his sacrifice must be even better then theirs.
So off goes Abraham to sacrifice his son.
And again Abraham doesn’t have the foggiest what he is doing.
Abraham is going to do what he thinks he should do, and what he is going to do will have such dire consequences.
He doesn’t know what he should be doing.
And he has done so many things wrong.
But God doesn’t desert him.
God doesn’t abandon him.
At the very last second, when he has the knife to his sons throat.
God finally gets through to him and supplies what he needs.
And even in our Old Testament passage today.
The slaves weren’t innocent.
God had given the land of Israel to Abraham and his descendants.
But one bad decision after another.
One generation of idiots followed by another.
Had led the people to this point.
They were close to being wiped out.
They were under the power of a pharaoh that wanted them exterminated like vermin.
The slaves had deserted the true path generations before.
The people didn’t believe in God, they didn’t trust God.
But God didn’t desert them. God gave them what they needed.
And so we find ourselves at a riverbed.
John the Baptist is surrounded by people who know that they have done wrong.
They haven’t trusted God in a long, long while.
They have done their own thing and their own thing has had such dire consequences.
They don’t know what to believe in, don’t know what to do.
And John says to them,
‘There is the lamb of God.
You know how in the past our ancestors botched things up,
how they got themselves in the mess that they were in,
or sometimes circumstances just messed up their lives, but God didn’t desert them, God gave them what they needed.
So now it is your turn.
You may have botched things up, you may be the author of your own downfall, or maybe you were doing what you thought right, but it was just the wrong thing to do…
well in that man over there,
God is showing us that he doesn’t give up on us,
that through Jesus, God will give us what we need.’
And some followed.
And found out that John the Baptist was right.
We live in a very different world than the world of the Old Testament and the New Testament.
But some things don’t change.
We are still often are the architects of our own downfall.
We do things sometimes out of the most selfish of reasons, we know we are going against God’s path for us, but we go down there anyway, and then are shocked when we find ourselves in a very dark place.
Or sometimes we don’t know what we should do, so we just follow the crowd. Like Abraham we believe that if everyone else is doing it then it must ne right, but it doesn’t feel right and deep down we know things are getting messier and messier.
Or sometimes, like the slaves, we have been caught up in a life that were a series of mistakes that we had no say in, but the actions and mistakes of others have influenced our life for ill for a long, long time.
And we are just stuck in the mess thinking we are so powerless.
The life that we live isn’t the life that we want.
Something seems wrong and we don’t know what to do about it.
What we need to realise, is that there is one more thing that has never changed.
God hasn’t given up on us.
Through Jesus he gives us what we need.
Through Jesus we have an example to follow.
Through Jesus we have a vision of a God who always cares.
Through Jesus we see how far God will go to help us.
Through Jesus we see that whatever sacrifices are needed, God is willing to make them.
All we need to do, is follow.
By spending time with God in prayer.
By reading scripture or Bible study notes.
By sharing what is going on in our lives with others.
By lighting a candle, and thinking as it is lit, what it means for Jesus to be the light of the world, the light in our lives.
We can see that God hasn’t given up on us.
Through Jesus, God gives us what we need.
Through Jesus, we have an example to follow.
Through Jesus, we have a vision of a God who always cares.
Through Jesus, we see how far God will go to help us.
Through Jesus. we see that whatever sacrifices are needed, God is willing to make them.
All we need to do, is follow.