The Bible was written over a 1500 year span of time by about 40 authors. The Bible was written in two primary languages: The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, with small portions of Ezra, Daniel, and one verse in Jeremiah written in Aramaic and the New Testament was written in Greek. In the New American Standard translation of the Bible there are 1189 chapters, 31,173 verses, and 807,361 words. The United Bible Society reports that there are at least portions of the Bible that have been translated into over 2527 languages, 518 people groups of the world have complete Bibles translated into their language and new translations are being completed each year. The Wycliffe Bible Translators are working with over 1,500 people groups right now to translate the Bible into their language. The Bible is the most translated book in the history of the world. The second most translated book, available in 260 languages, is Pinocchio.
The Bible is the most controversial, yet powerful document that has ever been written in the history of the world. Nations have banned it. Dictators and Kings have confiscated and burned it. Popular figures in our society mock it, demean it, and discount it almost on a daily basis. In April of this year Bill Maher was on The Jimmy Kimmel Show when he said, “The Bible is insane, Bronze Age malarkey.” What is it about the Bible that has caused it to become such a lightning rod throughout history?
At the same time, untold millions of people from every nation on the planet and from every walk of life have turned, and continue to turn, to the Bible for direction, comfort, counsel, and strength during times of sorrow, suffering, confusion, and anxiety?
The Bible is God’s Word. It reveals to us truth that is available to us in no other place. It is truth that has caused common, every day men and women to stand firm in the face of certain death. God’s truth strengthened those awaiting Hitler’s gas chambers, God’s truth inspired Martin Luther King Jr. to stand up and speak out rather than sit down and be quiet, and God’s truth continues to inspire and move suffering people around the planet. God’s truth has transformed broken lives with its healing power. God’s truth alone has the power to break the bondage of addiction, make faithful the faithless, and bring the prodigal home. You can’t learn these important truths in the halls of academia, they aren’t published in People, The Wall Street Journal, or Sports Illustrated, and you won’t find them on the 24 hour news programs. They can only be found in the Word of God.
The Bible is the bedrock of life. If you are going to build a house you need a solid foundation or the house will eventually crumble and so it is with life. You can build your life upon success, notoriety, or getting what you want, but these are a mirage and not an oasis. Our oasis, our refuge, is in Christ alone. To learn about Him, His ways, and His call on our life we must read, study, and learn the Word of God.
There are so many important truths for us to learn in God’s Word, but none of them are more important that the truth we will focus on today found in John 1:29-34. Let’s read it together.
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! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” (John 1:29-34 NIV)
John the Baptist’s ministry was to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming, we learned about that last week. If you will remember, some of the religious leaders had sent out a committee to find out more information about John the Baptist. Who was he? Could he be the Messiah? Elijah? The Prophet? Who was he and what was he doing? John’s answer was that he was not the Messiah. He wasn’t anyone of any importance, but what he had come to do was to prepare the way for the Lord. John said, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.'” (John 1:23 NIV)
It’s just a few verses later that we come to our Scripture for today where John sees Jesus and says, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:30 NIV) A little bit later we read where John saw Jesus the next day. Look at John 1:36 with me.
36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36 NIV)
What is really interesting about this title that was given to Jesus, “the Lamb of God,” is that it is only found in the books that were written by the Apostle John. He uses it twice in his Gospel and then he uses it again in the book of Revelation several times. Let me show you just a couple of those places. In Revelation 5:11-12 we read about the Lamb of God.
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:11-12 NIV)
Now turn with me to Revelation 17:14 where we find that the Lamb of God will triumph over all of the powers of darkness and evil, the beast. Read with me.
14 They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings–and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” (Revelation 17:14 NIV)
The Lamb of God. The One who was slain is worthy of all praise and glory and honor. The Lamb of God is the mighty Victor over sin and all of the powers of the enemy. These are truths found only in God’s Word, but where did the Apostle John come up with the title, “The Lamb of God?” I’m so glad you asked. I want you to know that he wasn’t trying to be creative or come up with some new and novel way to describe Jesus. He found the title in the Word of God and applied it to the One that all of the lambs found throughout the Old Testament pointed towards.
The reason why folks like Bill Maher and those who don’t read and study the Bible believe that it is merely fables and “Bronze Age malarkey” is because the practices, culture, and religious customs of those who lived in biblical days are so foreign to us who live in 2013 in the United States. The idea that a lamb would have any significance in our day and time seems preposterous to us, but the idea of a sacrificial lamb was more than familiar to the Jewish people. The first time we run into the idea in the Hebrew Bible is found in a familiar story in Genesis 22.
After waiting 25 years for the son that God had promised, Abraham was called to take his son up Mt. Moriah and offer him to God. We know that Isaac wasn’t a baby or a toddler when this event took place because Isaac understood the sacrificial system and he had some questions for his dad. Read along with me beginning in Genesis 22:6.
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. (Genesis 22:6-8 NIV)
And Abraham was right. Just as he raised the knife to slay his son, the son that God had given him, the Lord provided a substitute and Abraham’s son, Isaac, was spared.
We run into the lamb again in the very next book of the Bible, the book of Exodus. The Hebrews had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years, but we read in Exodus that God was about to deliver them from bondage. God orchestrated 10 plagues on the Egyptians to free His people, but up until the 10th plague Pharaoh wouldn’t let them go. The 10th plague, the death of the firstborn throughout the land, would be the final straw. Before the Lord passed over Egypt the Lord instructed Moses to tell the Hebrews to take a lamb and slay it, after slaying the lamb they were to smear some of its blood over the door frame of their houses. The houses with the blood of the lamb on the door frames would be “passed over” from the judgment of God and their firstborn would be spared. Turn to Exodus 12:12 and let’s read together.
12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. 14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD–a lasting ordinance. (Exodus 12:12-14 NIV)
And Passover has been celebrated among the Jews from that day to this. Each Sunday that we gather here at Britton Christian Church we celebrate what we call The Lord’s Supper, but the truth of the matter is that the Scripture we draw from in our celebration was Jesus celebrating the Passover with His disciples. In Mark 14:12 we read,
12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” (Mark 14:12 NIV)
Lambs weren’t just sacrificed at the Passover celebration in Jerusalem. Up until the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. there were sacrifices made when the people became aware of their sins. In Leviticus 5:5-6 we read,
5 when anyone becomes aware that they are guilty in any of these matters, they must confess in what way they have sinned. 6 As a penalty for the sin they have committed, they must bring to the LORD a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for them for their sin. (Leviticus 5:5-6 NIV)
Why were all of these sacrifices made on behalf of the sins of the people? Who came up with such a system? That’s a great question and the answer is found in Leviticus 17:11 where God says,
11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. (Leviticus 17:11 NIV)
God wanted His people to know that their sin was not without consequence. We often hear people say, we’ve probably said it ourselves when confronted with our sin—“Why should you care? I’m not hurting anybody else!” The truth of the matter is that sin has a ripple effect, our actions, our decisions impact the livese of others, and most importantly, sin grieves the heart of God. God instituted a system that would remind people that their sin was costly. Each time someone would visit the Temple and see those animals slain they knew it was because of their sin. Their forgiveness was granted through the death of another.
Yet, we read in Hebrews that it is impossible for the blood of animals to truly cleanse us from our sins. All of the offerings that we made, all of the lambs that were slain were simply preparing the way for the day when the Lamb of God would come to take the sins of the world upon His shoulders. Let’s read Hebrews 10:3-10 together.
3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. 4 It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; 6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. 7 Then I said, ‘Here I am–it is written about me in the scroll– I have come to do your will, my God.'” 8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”–though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:3-10 NIV)
I told you, this is truth that you can’t learn anywhere else and yet it is the most important truth that you and I can ever learn in our lives. Not only was the sacrificial system set up to prepare the way for the coming of the Lamb of God, but the prophets spoke of the One who was to come who would bear the sins of His people. Turn with me to Isaiah 53 and let’s read together.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. 4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. (Isaiah 53:3-10 NIV)
Before we leave here this morning I want you to know that the skeptics and cynics can continue to demean and mock the Word of God, they can continue to try to come up with ways to do life apart from God, but let me assure you, it will never work. When we live life our way, and ignore the call of God to live life according to His will, we just break things. We think we know what’s best, we think we know better than God about what we really need in life, but when we go after it, and get it, we find out that we’re still not satisfied. Not only will we never be satisfied, but there’s another consequence of living life how we want rather than seeking to walk with God—we will end up with lots of regret, guilt, and shame. What are we to do with our guilt? How can I get rid of this shame? Nothing the world offers can alleviate the guilt and shame we accumulate as we live according to our own terms. But, there’s hope for you and me. “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” He has come, not to condemn you and me, but to save us, deliver us, and redirect us away from the path that leads to destruction. John wrote,
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17 NIV)
It is my prayer that this very morning you will recognize your need for the Lord, that you will realize that there is no greater need that you have than to surrender your life to the One who gave His life for you. Won’t you invite Him in?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
July 7, 2013