Read John 1:19-51
“Behold, the Lamb of God!” (Jn. 1:36).
For most Americans, I suppose the term “lamb” conjures up images of a somewhat frail and perhaps playful barnyard animal — the kind of animal that a pre-teen girl would look at and say, “Awe! How cuuuuuute!” (I know because my daughter was a pre-teen once.) It is the kind of animal that is still weak, maybe naive, and certainly in need of protection.
That is not the image John the Baptist was trying to convey when he called Jesus the “Lamb of God!” This Lamb to which John referred was the very One whose coming he was born to announce (v.23). This Lamb would do what John could not — baptize with the Holy Spirit (v.33). This Lamb came after John in birth, predated him in existence, and exceeded him in priority (v.30). This Lamb was no frail human to be protected from the evils of the world. He is the very One who had come to deal powerfully with those evils. He is the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (v.29).
You see, for those with an Old Testament background, lambs brought thoughts other than frailty and protection to mind. The blood of a spotless lamb was the very thing God required to be painted on the doorposts of homes at the time of the first Passover in Egypt. (See Ex. 12.) Such lambs were part of the daily sacrifices made by God’s people. (See Lev. 14.) And here, with the title “Lamb of God,” we are given a glimpse of Christ’s future sacrificial death and its end result. Through His death, Jesus dealt with the sin of the world. This Lamb represented sacrifice and forgiveness.
So on that first Christmas, there were not only lambs being tended by shepherds in the fields outside of Bethlehem. There was also a Lamb placed in a manger. It is more than a term of endearment for a cute little baby in need of the protection of his parents. That manger was already in the shadow of a cross to which the Lamb of God, the Christ of Christmas, would willingly go.