JOHN’S UNDERSTANDING OF JESUS’ DEATH
“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29.
Recently a dear lady sent an email asking if John the Baptist might have understood that Jesus would die on the cross since he called Him the Lamb of God. It is my firm conviction that neither John nor anyone else believed that Jesus would die. In fact, all four gospels indicate that none of them understood this Old Testament truth.
John was greater than all the prophets, in that he had the distinct responsibility and privilege of preparing a remnant of Jews for the promised King and the kingdom. His message was clear, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins; the King is coming and the kingdom is at hand.”
Everything John believed and preached was that Jesus was Israel’s King and that the kingdom would soon follow their repentance and reception of Him. It never occurred to John that Jesus would be rejected by Israel or be crucified. This is why, when he was in prison, he asks “are you the one we should look for or should we look for another?” Nothing was going as John expected.
When he referred to Jesus as the Lamb of God, he was not thinking of His sacrificial death, but rather, of His purity and righteousness to lead Israel to victory against their gentile enemies. This is what all believing Jews understood.
John probably died a perplexed and confused follower of Jesus Christ.
Zaharias the prophet proclaimed the expectation of Israel when he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, 69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; 70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: 71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; 72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, 74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, 75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. 76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; 77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, 78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, 79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:68-79.
When John spoke of Him “taking away the sin of the world” he was expecting that to happen in his lifetime. He is not speaking of His death on the cross. However, because of Israel’s refusal to repent, that event is reserved until the Second Advent and the end of the Kingdom. It will be during that time, sin will be taken away from the world. Satan, the Antichrist, the false prophet, and all the wicked, will be “taken away” by the wrath of the Lamb of God.
Paul never called Jesus a lamb or the lamb. That distinction is reserved for Israel. We read more in Revelation about the Lamb than anywhere in Scripture. The wicked, who are about to be expelled say, “And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:” Revelation 6:16. “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:” Revelation 14:10. This is the context of the comment by John.
It has been made clear to us, and it will be to Israel (Isa. 53) in the future, that the Lamb also had to die. But, that truth was not understood by anyone in John’s day, and most orthodox Jews do not see it today. Note the conversation on the Emmaus Road. “And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: 20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. 21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. 22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; 23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. 24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. 25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: 26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? 27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:19-27.
These two demonstrate exactly what other believing Jews expected, and how they felt. Note the words “should have redeemed Israel.” The redemption Israel expected did not include a sacrifice, rather it meant the renewing and reclaiming Israel’s kingdom, as spoken by the prophets. The redemption was deliverance from gentile dominion.
This is why John asks the question, in doubt, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” Matthew 11:3. Even though Jesus sent abundant evidence in His answer, John probably died a perplexed and confused follower of Jesus Christ.
Pastor Ken Blue was born in Boswell, Ark. In 1955 he accepted Christ as his Savior. He and his wife Joyce were married in 1955. They have 5 children. He graduated from Midwestern Baptist Bible College in 1969 and started the Open Door Baptist Church in Lynnwood, Wa. where he pastored for 39 years. Because of health issues (ALS) he was forced to resign as pastor. It is his desire to continue to be used of God to help pastors and believers through this ministry.
Al Hughes says
This will probably not set well with our “Baptist Brider” brethren who believe the Baptist Church started with “John the Baptist.” What problems arise when someone does not “rightly divide the Word of Truth.”
Lynne Hall says
Thank you for such a complete treatment of this subject – the Lord; The Lamb of God.
I was raised a city girl in Southern California. But my mother’s mother; my Irish Grandmother raised sheep in Wyoming. Grandpa did most of the work with them, of course. My sister and I spent summers there, because mom was widowed and we weren’t in school at that time. But I remember going through the pasture with Grams, as she checked the sheep for piles and eye problems, and cleared the pasture of “Canadian thistles” so they wouldn’t get blinded. I remember how the sheep would not drink of the running water. they would only drink in places where the water widened out into pools and became very still.
After I became a Christian I found a book called “A Sheperd looks at the 23rd Psalm,” written by a Pastor. I sent it to Grandma Minnie, and she had a Charismatic friend, and she got saved. By this time Grams was in a retirement home, retired from her sheep. I remember she called me after she had gotten baptised.We shall have a wonderful reunion in glory, and I’ll get to meet her friend, Rita Bunch, who led her to the Lord.