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Behold, the Lamb of God
by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
a short story of Good Friday
Every man and woman who joined in the death watch that Good Friday, each could tell you of some personal connection to Jesus.
John the beloved disciple, is there with Mary, Jesus' mother.
So are Lazarus and Mary and Martha, Jesus' friends from Bethany.
The woman taken in adultery stands in shock with dozens of others.
Each has a connection to the man crucified on the center cross. Appalled, shattered, they stand in clumps on that stark hill, drawn together by the sheer terror of what is happening.
But off by himself, as close as he can get to the base of the cross, is a tall, gangly seventeen-year-old with thick black hair and an angular jaw. He is staring at the blood dripping from the rough-hewn crossbar above into glistening pool in the rocky surface below. With each new drop that falls into the pool, Jonathan winces.
Jonathan's connection to Jesus goes back a full three years to Jericho and the Jordan River when he was fourteen. Jonathan was a shepherd who grazed his father's sheep on the Jericho plain. One sultry day, John the Baptist had come preaching and baptizing. When Jonathan could slip away, he ran down to the Jordan in long, loping strides until he reached the crowds at the riverside.
John the Baptist
The Prophet was calling out, "You blind and thoughtless people! You live as if there is no tomorrow. Don't you know that the axe is already at the root of the trees? Don't you know that every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire? Don't you know?"
"Don't you know that the Kingdom of God is at hand, that Messiah is at the very doors? Don't live in your sins any longer! Cleanse your hearts and your ways, and be baptized! Wash away your sins and receive forgiveness from your God!"
Jonathan found himself wading into the water in response. "Yes, Lord, cleanse my heart," he had prayed. "Make me ready for your Kingdom." And as Jonathan came up out of the water he had felt God's forgiveness and newness. At thirteen he had become a son of the Law. At fourteen, he had become a son of the Kingdom.
Behold, the Lamb of God
As Jonathan stood, water dripping from his long hair, a silence settled on the crowd. The Prophet, now silent, stood looking intently. As he continued to look, every eye followed his gaze. John the Baptist was looking intently at a man walking at the river's edge.
John the Baptist pointed his finger towards the man. "Behold!" he said in awe. "Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."
The man on the river bank paused for a moment and nodded almost imperceptibly to the Prophet, then continued along the bank. People parted as he came to them and let him through.
"Who is that?" someone asked
"Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth," said another. Soon the word spread throughout the crowd. "It is Jesus. Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth."
The next day it was the same. Preaching, baptizing for hours throughout the morning and then the Prophet stopped again, and his gaze fell once more upon the same man.
"Lamb of God," Jonathan could hear the Prophet say with hushed reverence. "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."
The Passover Lamb
Later, Jonathan had gone to the synagogue and asked the rabbi, "What is the Lamb of God, Rabbi?"
The old rabbi gestured for him to sit down in the shade and then eased own his tired body onto a stool near the doorway.
Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664), "Agnus Dei" (1635-40) ,Canvas 38 x 62 cm. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid. Larger image.
"You know, Jonathan," he began, "that lambs are regularly sacrificed for the sins of the people."
"Your father takes his best lambs up to Jerusalem every spring for Passover. Centuries ago, when God brought us out of the land of Egypt under Moses, Pharaoh didn't want to let our people go. So God brought ten plagues on the Egyptians. The final plague was to be the death of the firstborn.
"So on that first Passover, a lamb was sacrificed for each family. Each father dipped a branch of hyssop into the blood of his family's slain lamb and daubed it on the doorpost and lintel of his house."
As the rabbi continued to speak, Jonathan's mind could visualize the slaughtered lamb. And he could imagine the fresh blood of the lamb drip down the doorpost and dribble onto the ground.
"At evening on that Day," the rabbi continued, "each father made very sure that each son and each daughter was brought inside the house and accounted for. Because outside that night, the Lord struck the land of Egypt, slaying the firstborn son of every family in the entire kingdom. Every firstborn died, except for those sons and daughters of Israel whose fathers had sacrificed a lamb and painted its blood on their doorposts as a mark of faith.
"'When I see the blood,' God had promised, 'I will pass over you.' And He did pass over us," the rabbi concluded. "Not one firstborn Israelite met death that night when death was all around us. And by morning, all Israel walked free, journeying out of the land of bondage into a new day of liberty."
So, the Lamb of God is a Passover lamb, thought Jonathan. A Passover lamb.
Lambs for the Temple
Jonathan's father had contracted to deliver eight dozen Passover lambs to the Temple a few days before Passover. Jonathan and his younger brother Benjamin were charged with bringing the lambs to Jerusalem.
As Jonathan's flock climbed the steep Jericho Road to the Holy City, he watched the white, woolly backs of these yearling lambs as they bobbed up and down. A week from now, Jonathan thought, each will have been slaughtered, its blood poured out.
What a burden for an innocent sheep, to die for a family. His father's lambs would suffice for ninety-six families, but what about the rest? Only ninety-six families. Surely, there are enough lambs for the others.
Finally, they topped the summit and headed down to the Kidron brook, then up the steep grade into the Sheep Gate. There a priest inspected each lamb for blemishes and certified each as an approved sacrifice.
Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664), "The Crucifixion" (1627), oil on canvas, 290 x 168 cm, Art Institute Museum, Chicago. Larger image.
At the Cross
Jesus, too, was in Jerusalem for Passover. In rapid succession, Jonathan heard bits of news that flashed throughout the city. Jesus had been arrested! Now, he was being tried. Then, condemned to death. How could this be? How could it be?
With duties over, Jonathan was free to roam the pilgrim-packed city. He joined the crowd that surged along the road leading to the killing ground outside the city. Jonathan finally saw him on the center cross, dying. Jesus! He looked like Jonathan remembered him, yet drained, crushed, as it were, by the weight of the world. A crown of thorns had been pressed into his scalp, and his hands and feet had been spiked to the huge cross that stood naked against the foreboding darkness.
Jonathan pushed closer, edging his way through the press of mourners until he came to the perimeter set up by the soldiers.
Now Jonathan stood transfixed, tears running down his cheeks. Jesus spoke -- weakly, yet clearly, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
"What are they doing?" Jonathan wanted to shout. "What are they doing to this holy and righteous man?"
Jonathan's eyes followed another droplet of blood as formed on the wooden crossbeam above, lingered for a moment, and then fell into the pool below the cross.
Perhaps of all the onlookers that day, Jonathan alone remembered and began to understand.
"Behold," Jonathan said quietly. "Behold," Jonathan said weeping, now, dropping to his knees. "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."
You might be interested in studying the scriptures that underlie this story in my study, Behold, the Lamb of God.
In-depth Bible study books
You can purchase one of Dr. Wilson's complete Bible studies in PDF, Kindle, or paperback format -- currently 48 books in the JesusWalk Bible Study Series.
- Abraham, Faith of
- Jacob, Life of
- Moses the Reluctant Leader
- David, Life of
- Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134)
- 28 Advent Scriptures (Messianic)
- Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
- Christmas Incarnation (Mt, Lk)
- Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7)
- Luke's Gospel
- John's Gospel
- Seven Last Words of Christ
- Jesus and the Kingdom of God
- Resurrection and Easter Faith
- Romans 5-8 (Christ-Powered Life)
- 1 Corinthians
- 2 Corinthians
- Colossians, Philemon
- 1 & 2 Thessalonians
- 1 &2 Timothy, Titus
- Glorious Kingdom, The
- Grace: Favor for the Undeserving
- Great Prayers of the Bible
- Holy Spirit, Disciple's Guide
- JesusWalk: Beginning the Journey
- Lamb of God
- Listening for God's Voice
- Lord's Supper: Disciple's Guide
- Names and Titles of God
- Names and Titles of Jesus