The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! —John 1:29 ESV
So what does it mean when John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”? It meant two shocking things for the Jews—and both of them are relevant for us today.
First, it meant that the God-man would die. And not just die, but die like a lamb dies—be slaughtered (see the Greek sphazō in Revelation 5:6, 9, 12; 13:8). Second, it meant that the whole world would benefit from this and not just Jews. This God-man was the Jewish Messiah (see John 1:41). But his death would take away the sin of the world, not just the sin of Israel.
1) Death and 2) Worldwide Sin-Bearing
He was called the Lamb of God, because he would die. That is why God sent him. And that is why he came. That’s why the Word became flesh. Otherwise, he could not die. And he was God’s Lamb for the world—not just a Jewish lamb for Israel.
Those two truths—death and worldwide sin-bearing—are summed up together in John 11:50–52. The high priest Caiaphas spoke prophetically like this:
“Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
He will die for Jews. But not just for Jews, but for people scattered all over the world. John put it like this in his first letter: “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Propitiation means that his death removes the wrath of God because it takes away sin. That’s what propitiation means. The Lamb takes away sin and removes God’s wrath, not just for Jews but for Gentiles scattered among all nations. “By your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe . . . .” (Revelation 5:9).
No Status Excluded
And we see this precious wrath-removal in John 3:36: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). This means that when John says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” he doesn’t mean that every person in the world is saved. He means every person in the world—Jew or Gentile—will be saved if they believe in Jesus and follow him. If they believe, their sin has been taken away by the Lamb. If they believe, God’s wrath has been removed by the Lamb.
There is no race, no nationality, no ethnicity, no socio-economic status excluded. To as many as receive him, who believe on his name (John 1:12), their sins are taken away (John 1:29; 1 John 3:5) and the wrath of God is removed (John 3:36; 1 John 2:2) and they are made the children of God (John 1:12) and given eternal life (John 3:16).
Jesus: Our Lamb and Our Lord
Everyone in this room is a sinner deserving of God’s wrath. There is only one way to have your sins taken away and find favor with God—not working for God. Not cleaning up your life first. That comes later. That’s fruit, not root. The one way is believing in Jesus as the glorious Lamb of God. Jesus said in John 8:24, “Unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).
Therefore, believe in Jesus as your Lamb and your Lord. And you will say with the apostles, “The blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).