Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Lamb of God

Jesus | The Lamb of God

Easter is upon us, and Easter ushers in thoughts of its meaning, namely Jesus' passion. Let's set the scene for the story by identifying our state. Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." This death-penalty for sin comes from the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:17) and is inherited by all mankind via what is called original sin (Rom. 5:12). It can be seen based on the structure of the verse that since death is paralleled to life (see diagram below) the death referred to is an eternal death.

Romans 6:23 - Structured

The wages that are received are like any other wages: earned, deserved, and "what you have coming." This is a similar idea to earning a wage at a job, you've got your paycheck coming. In this case, however, what you did to earn the wages was sin. Sin is, or results from, an inward preference for anything above God (Romans 1:22-23,3:23). Sin is an exchanging of God for lesser things. This is why eternal death is necessary because God, infinite and all satisfying God, has be traded for things which are lesser and could never satisfy (Jeremiah 2:12-13). The Bible says we should be shocked and appalled that such a horror would happen.

But, thankfully the verse does not end there. God has a free gift (unearned, undeserved, something you don't have coming) which is paralleled to the wages (see diagram above). That free gift may only be bestowed by God and is not earned. As much as we receive the wages because of sin, so we receive the free gift because of God alone (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10). The gift is Himself in the person of Jesus whom we get to spend eternity with, beholding His glory(John 17:24; Revelation 5:9-10,12).

Surely at this point you're asking yourself, "How do I exchange the wages, that I rightly deserve, for this free gift, which I could never earn?" The answer to that question (and there is an answer) is worth spending your life and energy to find. It is good to note here that you must answer the question for yourself. Not answering the question is accepting the wages you've earned...

The original answer to this question was to kill a lamb, and its blood would be a sign that God would pass over His people (Passover) and not kill them (Exodus 12:5-13). This answer was a picture of the true and perfect answer, who is Jesus Christ -- the Lamb of God. Consider the quoted commentaries here in comparison between Jesus' passion and the Passover lamb's passion, some meditation, and then application.

"To be sure we don’t miss the connection, the New Testament says that “Christ, our Passover lamb,has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7b).
For Jesus to be our Passover lamb, he had to meet God’s standard of perfection. Back during the exodus, the Passover lamb had to be physically flawless. In the case of Jesus, the perfection God required was moral: Jesus had to be utterly sinless. The Bible is careful to show that this was indeed  the case. By virtue of his virgin birth, his nature was free from the corruption of original sin. Nor did Jesus commit any actual transgressions. Peter said, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (1 Pet. 2:22). The book of Hebrews says that he was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Even Pontius Pilate said, “I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 19:6b). Jesus was morally perfect. Therefore, when it came time for him to die, it was as an innocent victim—he “offered himself unblemished to God” (Heb. 9:14). Hebrews uses the word “unblemished” because the writer was thinking of the kind of sacrifice that God required in the Old Testament: a perfect lamb, without spot or blemish.

It is theologically significant that Jesus was crucified right at the time of the Passover feast (see John 13:1; 18:28). This helps us see the connection between the first Passover and the final  Passover—the Passion of Christ. The day that Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem was the very day that the Passover lambs were driven into the city, and when Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples, he was celebrating the Passover (Matt. 26:17). He said, “This is my body.… This is my blood” (Matt. 26:26–28). His disciples didn’t understand it at the time, but Jesus was really saying, “The Passover is all about me. I am the sacrificial lamb.”

Then Christ was crucified. It was late in the afternoon on the eve of Passover. At twilight, lambs  would be sacrificed by every household, according to the Law of Moses. All over the city fathers were getting ready to make the offering, gathering their families together and saying, “God has provided a lamb for us.” Over at the temple the high priest was also preparing a lamb to present as an atonement for Israel’s sin. Then there was Jesus, hanging on the cross, with the sacrificial blood flowing from his hands and side. He was the Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world."[1]

The blood on the door-frame turned away the wrath of God in Exodus 12:1-13, and in the same way Christ's blood made a propitiation[2] (Rm. 3:24-25) for us so that, with His blood applied to our frame, God turns away His wrath from us.

Josephus notes "several hundred thousand lambs were herded through Jerusalem every Passover." This reminds us of the Hebrews text in 10:4 "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins."[3]

God, on this Passover, provided the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (Jn. 1:29,11:51-52; 1 Cor. 5:7; Rev. 13:8 // Ex. 12:46 c.f. Jn. 19:36).

Pastor John Sittma notes that:
“The Torah required selected lambs to be put on public display for four days (Ex. 12:3–6) to verify that they were without blemish. Jesus, following the triumphal entry, presented Himself in the temple for that exact period, for that very purpose. He submitted to testing by the Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, and scribes (Mark 12:13), tried before the Sanhedrin and Pilate, He proved spotless.

“This is my body” and “this cup is a new covenant in my blood” are Lord’s Supper keystones, but they were spoken during the Passover Seder. The meal — and the true exodus — are found in Jesus. Passover was both a family and a communal feast. The lamb chosen “for the nation” was staked out in the temple courtyard on Passover at 9 a.m, and slaughtered publicly at 3 p.m. So was Jesus — nailed to the cross at 9 a.m., He died at 3 p.m., just as the four-footed beast died in a liturgy that concluded, “It is finished!” [4]

Jesus is our Passover lamb. He is the answer to the question of how to receive the free gift and exchange our wages of sin (2 Cor. 5:21). The reality that He died, was buried, and rose from the dead  demonstrates that the check, paying for the sins of the redeemed, cleared (1 Cor. 15:3-5). There are three facets which are commonly part of this exchange; that is, trusting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. They are:
  1. Trust
    1. Believe on Jesus, and not on self, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31). 
    2. It will involve a believing in Christ that receives Him and gives up on any hope of your meriting anything (John 1:12-13). Some describe this as coming to the end of yourself.
  2. Turn
    1. This means you repent/turn from the sin you have committed and forsake it so that you might gain Christ (Acts 3:19; Luke 13:5).
    2. Repent is commonly used in the Bible but is hard to nail down. Here are a few pastors who've helped me wrestle with what repentance is: Tim Conway | RC Sproul | John Piper
  3. Treasure
    1. Believing in Christ is coming to Him with all of your desire to drink and eat so as to satisfy your soul of its eternal longings (John 6:35). 
    2. Beginning to posture yourself to devote your time, energy, and effort under the waterfall of God's word and blessings so that He remains the glorious giver and you remain the empty receiver (Matthew 6:24 - You serve money by seeking to benefit from it and devoting all your energy to that end; therefore seeking God so as to receive from Him in such a way that He gets the glory. - 1 Peter 4:11).
    3. Consider also Philippians 1:21; Matthew 13:44; Isaiah 26:8 NIV.
Don't wait until tomorrow to Trust/Turn/Treasure if you never have because we don't know what tomorrow holds in store (Proverbs 27:1). It is my prayer this Easter that, as you've considered the reality of Jesus as the perfect eternal passover lamb, you will be treasuring Him like never before because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.[5]

For His Glory & Your joy,

1. Philip Graham Ryken and R. Kent Hughes, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), 330–331.
2. Propitiation is the work of God to absorb his divine anger toward sinful man. -Desiring God
3. Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 6.9.3, The Works of Josephus, trans. William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987), p. 749.
4. Read Online Here --- originally in TableTalk Magazine
5. Here are two wonderful John Piper messages explaining the truth behind the statement: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him (pt1 | pt2).