John 1:29 “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’”
Travel and Christmas have gone together for hundreds of years. From “Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother’s House We Go” of the mid-1800’s to the Home Alone movies, families traveling at Christmas are something of a tradition. Many of you will be traveling this season. Commercials capitalize on the warm and sentimental feelings we feel about traveling to see family.
Our current season of Advent means coming. It celebrates the coming of the original Christmas guest. But who is he, really? John the Baptist urge us to take a closer look at who is coming for Christmas, for Jesus is the Lamb of God.
In our day, Jesus is well known, or at least his name is. But what people make of him varies widely, even inside Christian churches. One popular version of Jesus today is the therapeutic Jesus. This is the Jesus who has come to help you feel good about yourself. He would never judge you, confront you, or make a fuss about your sins. He has come to give you a shoulder to cry on. He helps you to reach your full potential. He tells you to believe in yourself. He is consistently leading you toward the great goal of life, which is to be happy.
Then there is advice-columnist Jesus. The practical hints he can distribute know no end. He can improve your relationships, move your career forward, or show you how to raise your children. Some days he will even delve into what kind of car to drive, what sort of investments to make, or what kinds of food to eat.
Whether you have been tempted to follow any of these versions of Jesus or another that I haven’t mentioned, they illustrate a problem. We want to mold and shape our Savior to fit our needs as we define them. The Jews of his day had their own version: National military hero Jesus. It’s why they couldn’t recognize the real thing when he came.
We want to mold and shape Jesus this way because we don’t want to accept God’s diagnosis of our problem, his evaluation of our need. If we did, we would see that our problem is not a matter of psychology, relationships, or ignorance. Our main problem is that we are sinners who have offended a holy God. We have not loved God nor our neighbor as we should. We have set ourselves on a path toward hell. The more we redefine Jesus, the more we are sinking into a subtle idolatry that takes us farther away from the help we truly need.
But who is coming for Christmas? “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” “Lamb of God” Jesus is coming. He is more than a cute, cuddly, gentle being. Jesus came to be a sacrifice, just like the Passover lambs offered every year. His mission was to give up his life for us.
By dying, he takes away the sin of the world. God’s solution for sin is not to try to overlook it or ignore it. Sin is far too serious for that. It creates one misery after another for God’s children. It is always fatal in those who have it. It condemns souls to hell. It cries out for God’s attention and practically begs him to do something about it.
Nor can God simply excuse it. If he were to do so, he would cease to be holy and just. There can be no truce, no acceptance, no peace between God and sin.
Instead, he sends the Lamb of God to take it away. He bears it as though every sin ever committed were his fault. His body absorbs all the guilt ever produced. He carries it to the cross where he gives up his life. In that sacrifice on the cross our sin is not only taken away, it is fully and finally disposed of. We have been completely freed of the burden.
Do you see who’s coming for Christmas? The Jesus we need is not just a great preacher, though every Christian likes good preaching. He is far more than a therapist, a love interest, or a self-help guru. What we need this Christmas is a Lamb, a sacrifice, who will take away our sins, make peace between us and God, and give us life that never ends. Jesus is that Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.