John 1:29-42 (Epiphany 2A)                                                

St. John, Galveston 1/15/23

Rev. Alan Taylor


+ In Nomine Jesu +


Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.


The Gospel reading for this morning is the focus of the message. It has deep roots though in an Old Testament passage, namely Genesis 22, where God called Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah. Because that incident is so important in understanding the Gospel reading for today, I’d like to take a moment to refresh your memory regarding what happened on Mt. Moriah. 


As you know, God called Abraham to an unthinkable task. He tested his faith in such a way that you and I are shaken at the very thought of it. He told Abraham, “take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 


Seemingly without hesitation, Abraham did as God said. He “rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.” 


We are told in the Scriptures that God’s ways are not our ways, and His ways are higher than ours. Still, this test of Abraham didn’t seem to make much sense, especially considering the promises that God had previously made to Abraham. It seemed like God was contradicting Himself. 


Abraham and Sarah, you see, were parents of a miracle baby. They had waited a long, long time for Isaac to be born. God had told Abraham that He would make him the father of many nations and that all the people of the earth would be blessed through him, that is, through his descendant, the one that he was now supposed to offer up in smoke on Mt. Moriah! As you may recall, earlier Abraham and Sarah had tried to take matters into their own hands. Sarah gave her maid Hagar to Abraham. And through Hagar Ishmael was born. But now?! Now Abraham and Sarah had Isaac. They finally had the son of the promise. God had finally fulfilled His word. But then He said to Abraham, I want you to offer Isaac up as a sacrifice on Mt. Moriah. Again, the whole thing didn’t seem to make sense.     


And yet, Abraham obeyed God. “(He) took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, ‘My father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ Then he said, ‘Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’” Abraham told Isaac that “God would provide the lamb.” What parent wouldn’t be torn apart by a question like that from their trusting child?  “Father, where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”   


As you know, God stopped Abraham’s hand before the knife was thrust into Isaac’s body. From the rest of the passage in Genesis 22, and from a passage in the book of Hebrews, we know a little something about what Abraham was thinking when he took Isaac to the top the mountain that day. He did believe that God was calling him to take the life of his son. But he also believed that God would raise Isaac up again from the dead. Finally, though he didn’t know that the life of his son would be spared, he did know that God was always going to provide the Lamb suitable to His purposes. 


In the Gospel reading for this morning, John the Baptist connects Isaac to Jesus and ultimately Mt. Moriah with Golgotha, when he points his prophetic finger at Jesus in the Jordan River and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God who is taking away the sin of the world!” You may notice that I translated that verse a little different. “Behold, the Lamb of God (John said) who is taking away the sin of the world.” The word “to take away” is an active participle, which means Jesus was then, even as He is now and always, taking away the sin of the world. 


When John said those words about Jesus, the jaws of the people gathered at the Jordan River that day must have dropped in astonishment. Why? WELL, BECAUSE THEY GOT IT! You see, they knew very well the story of Abraham. Everything about God’s test of Abraham and all the years and years that they, the people of Israel, offered up sacrifices on the altar in the Temple, were coming to an end, because those sacrifices were to focus their attention on this moment and on this declaration of John. “Behold, the Lamb of God who is taking away the sin of the world.” God will provide the Lamb, indeed!


As we think of the story of Abraham and Isaac, I suppose the question that might occur to us is whether God would ever test us in the way that He tested Abraham? In that regard, I think we should first be clear that God does indeed test our faith. He allows certain difficulties, even tragedies, to come into our lives in order to try our faith. Oh, He doesn’t do it with pleasure, but He does do it. Consider 1 Peter if you would. “(God allows trials) so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 


What do those tests of faith look like though? Well, they are as diverse as we are people in this sanctuary this morning. They come in all sorts of different types and in all sorts of different ways. Paul, for instance, was tested severely in several different ways. One of those tests was his own people’s rejection of Jesus, God’s Lamb. The Lamb of God came into the world, and yet, Paul’s own people turned their backs on Him. Where would Paul go? His kinsmen were turning away from Jesus. It is Me, God says, or them. Where will you go, Paul? That test of Paul, of course, can be translated into all sorts of situations in our lives as well. Ah yes, “Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life?”  


The point is, God does test our faith, often in peculiar ways. But the specific test endured by Abraham can be no more, for, the “Lamb of God who is taking away the sin of the world” has come! God has provided the Lamb. He did the unthinkable. The blood of His own Son was shed as an offering for sin once and for all.   


Sin, you see, does in fact require atonement, and according to God’s holy Law, that atonement must include the shedding of blood. As you know, He did not stop the hands of those who would offer up Jesus on the cross. Even in ridicule and abuse and scorn, the Son of God, the Lamb who would take away the sin of the world, stayed on the cross. Blood flowed from the hands and feet, from the brow and from the side of God’s Lamb.


And, my friends, make no mistake! The same Lamb is given to you today in bread and wine here at this altar. He is this very day, “taking away the sin of the world” including your sin and mine. 


As Abraham expected a miraculous resurrection for his son, so God accomplished that resurrection for His own Son, the Lamb that He provided.  You and I, of course, live today in the peace and hope of that resurrection.  Ours is a living God who consoles our troubled hearts even in the face of death and the grave, even in the face of the most unthinkable tests and temptations! 


God provided the Lamb. He came. His blood was shed. And He rose from the dead. Death and the grave were defeated and the tests that remain are never set before us to prove our worthiness to God. They are, rather, to purify the trust and hope that God has given us in His Son, “the Lamb of God who is taking away the sins of the world.”


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.    


The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.


+ Soli Deo Gloria +