April 1, 2007
Last Week of Jesus' Life on Earth
Pastor Brian Shimer
Behold the Lamb!
Matthew 27: 11-57
I. We have heard read an account of many people jeering and yelling at Jesus while on the cross, and these are many of the same people who have traveled up to Jerusalem for Passover. As they have journeyed they have been reciting many Psalms - singing them along the way. And the end of Psalm 130 they have been saying this verse, "God Himself will redeem Israel from all their sins." Little did these people know as they cat-called Jesus, that He was the one on that cross that at that moment was doing what God had promised to do in that psalm. He was dying to redeem them from their sins.
But instead of receiving what Jesus offered they rejected it.
As John wrote in the beginning of his gospel, "Jesus came to the world and the world did not recognize Him and He came to those who were his own (people) and they did not receive Him" (John 1).
You have heard how the crowds, the chief priests, the criminals crucified alongside of Him and others rejected Jesus. You have heard them calling for him to prove to them that He is really the Son of God.
But there were those who accepted Him, who even disbelieved the lie that Jesus was anything but innocent. Of course the women who watched from a distance had faith in Him. But the soldiers even changed their opinions.
These hardened men watched how Jesus died. They perhaps had watched thousands of people die, but Jesus was wholly different. His death left an impact. Of course the earthquake probably helped. But still we find them at the cross, terrified and crying out: "surely this man was the Son of God." That is as much as saying that he was innocent.
Pilate Himself declared, "I find no fault in Him," washed his hands of the whole business saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood" (27:24). He told the crowds that they were responsible, to which they shouted, "Let His blood be on us and on our children."
The wife of Pilate, the Roman Governor, to whom Jesus was brought for trial, recognized his innocence warning her husband, "have nothing to do with this innocent man…" (27:19).
And even His betrayer, Judas, recognized Jesus' innocence, saying to the priests as he threw the coins received for his deed at them, "I have betrayed innocent blood" (27:4)
Now these who recognized Him as innocent were all technically His enemies, but look how they had an opinion of Jesus that said he was something other than an ordinary criminal! Of course the disciples had long believed in His innocence which is something that Isaiah had written about Him 750 years before He was born. Isaiah had said that Jesus would be blameless, innocent - in order words Jesus would be like a lamb.
It was John the Baptist that attached that title to Jesus as He began his ministry. Seeing Him from his place in the Jordan River, John shouted: "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
In that passage of Scripture in the book of John, John the Baptist says he would not have recognized Jesus except that the reason he had come baptizing in water was so that Jesus might be revealed to Israel. And John gave this testimony that he saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Jesus. John says he would not have known Him except that God had told him previously, "the man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is He who will baptize with the Holy Spirit," so John says, "I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God."
The next day John again sees Jesus passing by and says to two of his disciples, "Look, the lamb of God!" And those disciples followed Jesus.
Through John the Baptist Jesus is designated both the Son of God and the Lamb of God. These two titles are used interchangeably here. Jesus was both the Son and the Lamb of God. As the Son He is God in the flesh, fully Human and fully God, who enables us through faith in Him to become children of God. As the Lamb He came to be the sacrifice for our sin, as a songwriter says, "he took on flesh and blood so that He could bleed" for Jesus was as John declared: "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."
Indeed, when John said Jesus was the lamb of God, he was saying that God was planning to provide a lamb, a reality that takes us back nearly 2000 years before Jesus' birth when that was actually promised.
Abraham was the first man God called forth from his homeland to a place God would show him: the Promised Land. God promised not only land but children to Abraham, children to outnumber the stars in the sky and the sand by the seashore. And Abraham childless as he was when he began his journey at about age 75, believed God's promise. After 25 years the promised child was born to Abraham and his wife Sarah. They named him Isaac, or "laughter" for he brought great joy to their lives.
But when the boy was a youth, God came to Abraham and tested him by saying, "I want you to take your son, your only son, whom you love, and offer him as a sacrifice on the mountain that I will show you."
Abraham demonstrates huge trust in God. It is recorded in the book of Hebrews in the New Testament that Abraham believed that if he did offer his son by killing him as a sacrifice that God could even raise Isaac up from the dead.
So, he trusts God by taking the boy, wood, knife, and two of his servants to make the journey to the mountain God would show him. The mountain was in the region of Moriah and was the very mountain where three crosses would one day stand upon one of which the Son of God, the Lamb would die.
Abraham and his son left the servants who had traveled those three days with them at the base of the mountain, and walked up the mountain together. Isaac carried the wood and his father carried the knife and the fire, when Isaac asked: "Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"
Abraham answered his son, knowing that God had commanded him to sacrifice Isaac, saying, "God himself will provide the lamb… my son."
God himself will provide the lamb.
A sacrifice was necessary, it was a sign of obedience to God, and Abraham trusted God even to the point of lifting the knife above his son's prostrate frame that God would provide the lamb.
God stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac that day and showed him a ram caught in the thicket which he sacrificed in Isaac's stead, and so Abraham called the place, "The Lord will Provide" and to this day, we read in Genesis 22:14, it is said, "On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided."
It was on this mountain that Jesus was crucified. It was on that very place that God did provide the lamb. And God did that during Passover in 30 AD.
II. Many of you could tell the story of the Passover. The nation of Israel spent 430 years enslaved to the Egyptians and were delivered through a mighty display of God's power which culminated in the night named "Passover" which the people were to celebrate every year. On the tenth day of the month named Nissan, every family was to choose a lamb and bring it into their home - caring for it until the 14th day and then on that day offer it as a sacrifice, roast it over fire and eat it.
Jesus is the lamb of God - and as such entered Jerusalem on the 10th day of the month called Nissan in 30 AD. As he entered he would have been surrounded by thousands of lambs being herded into Jerusalem. The historian Josephus wrote that during Passover over 100,000 lambs would be brought into the city. So, Jesus rode into town surrounded by the very symbols which pointed to Him.
As He did so, the crowds "chose Him" that day, shouting out "Hosanna" or "Save us!" Too long the people had been oppressed and they were seeking a deliverer -- they wanted deliverance…
…from the hated Romans who held them under military oppression, as the Roman peace was cruelly enforced.
…from economic and social oppression as the Romans squeezed every last cent out of the countries they occupied, making them pay for the cost of the occupation through taxes collected through corrupt administrators. The poor scarcely knew where their next meal would come from.
…from cultural oppression experienced as the Jews lived in the Greco-Roman culture which exposed them to idolatrous pagan festivals, worship and customs.
And … from religious and spiritual oppression as the wealthy, educated and corrupt religious elite imposed an impossibly complex system of religious laws and regulations on the general population without teaching the true spiritual nature of the Mosaic Law.
They were looking for a powerful military savior, but their desire for freedom from current oppressions blinded them to receive a greater freedom being offered. As the first Passover lambs spared the people from death, so this Passover lamb, the Lamb of God would deliver them from the ultimate oppressor, eternal death, and grant them entrance not just into a physical promised land, but into the Kingdom of God, the reign of God in and through their lives. The crowds could not imagine what this might mean and rejected Jesus, calling for him to be crucified just four days after He entered Jerusalem, prophetically saying, "May His blood be upon us and upon our children".
III. But God had sent His lamb, he had provided that lamb, he had acted to "redeem Israel from all their sins" and had done so through Jesus.
In fulfillment with the plan of God from before the creation of the world, Jesus was the lamb of God who took away the sin of the world. We were redeemed by the precious blood of "a lamb without blemish" Peter wrote in his first letter. Jesus was the innocent Lamb of God, an innocence missed by the people who ridiculed, rejected and mocked him, but received by you.
So, how can we behold the Lamb today as John told the crowds to look at Jesus so long ago?
Behold the Lamb of God - the unblemished sacrifice, who shed His life for you to have life. He delivers you and me from eternal death is the means whereby we enter eternal life. And life changes people. We can behold the lamb in people's lives around us who have experienced this deliverance from death. I think of the "woman in red" in Brazil who was in the Village congregation. She had been the town drunk but Jesus got a hold of her, changed her life and she shone with the light and joy of Jesus.
Behold the Lamb of God - as you bring your sins to God, they are forgiven, cleansed, removed from your life as far as the east is from the west. We can see God's ability to forgive as we have received such forgiveness. The most difficult thing for us to do is to believe that we have been thus cleansed. We tend to confess again and again sins long forgiven.
God told me this week, "child, stop confessing those sins, I have forgotten them!" The sins we have confessed, Jesus delivered us from; they are removed.
Behold the Lamb of God who enables you and me to become children of God, sheep before this Good Shepherd, who know His voice. As you receive the meal of communion remember the work God has accomplished for you that enables you to be welcomed at that table.
Behold the Lamb of God by worshiping Him. The entire book of Revelation, the last book in the New Testament, focuses on the worship and surrounds the throne of God and the Lamb of God in heaven. As we worship, as you worship God in your life, you are worshiping, exalting, honoring the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.