2.3 John -- The Lamb of God

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn 1:29).


The melding of Old and New Covenants nowhere occurs more clearly than in this one phrase. The "Lamb of God" points to both the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb by which the Jews were delivered from Egypt, and also the lamb offered as a sacrifice for sin (Lev 4:32Lev 5:5-6). But this lamb "takes away the sin of the world." For John, the Jewish offering becomes a type of the savior of all mankind.


The description of Jesus Christ as a "lamb" is rare in the New Testament, but not unique to John. Paul uses this simile once:

         For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed (1 Cor 5:7).

         Also Peter:

         For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect (1 Pet 1:18-19).

And John himself repeats this imagery in his apocalyptic vision, Rev 5:

        Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth....Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand....In a loud voice they sang:

        "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
        to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
        and honor and glory and praise!"


        In this vision, Jesus becomes the type, an actual lamb with bloodstains.


To complicate matters, in a later chapter in the Gospel, John depicts Jesus as a shepherd:

         "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me..." (Jn 10:14).

         John brings both images together in Revelation:

         the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd (Rev 7:17).

Thus we have Jesus portrayed as both lamb and shepherd!