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Jesus: The Lamb of God

The whole idea behind the complex sacrificial system of the Old Testament is foreign to our modern western society, but at least a general understanding of its significance is essential if we want to understand what Scripture means when Jesus is identified by John the Baptist as the Lamb of God.

In Genesis 4, we learn of the first offerings mentioned in Scripture, those of Cain and Abel. By the time of Abraham, the people God had set aside as His own were very familiar with the idea of sacrifice. When God delivered the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, the Passover celebration included the sacrifice of a lamb.

Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats…” Exodus‬ ‭12:3-5‬ ‭ESV‬

Once the tabernacle was made according to God’s detailed instructions and the priests were consecrated, a daily system of sacrifices began.

“”Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight.” Exodus‬ ‭29:38-39‬ ‭ESV‬

Hebrews 10:11 tells us that these daily sacrifices lacked the power to take away sins. So why did God give such detailed instructions concerning the sacrificial system? I believe there were two reasons: First, God wanted His people to understand that sin separates us from God and that the penalty of sin needed to be paid. And second, the symbolic offering of lambs was a picture of the single sacrifice for all sins that would be offered by Christ.

“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews‬ ‭10:11-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Christ Jesus as the Lamb of God is the fulfillment of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. He also is our Passover Lamb, sacrificed during the time of the Passover memorial. By shedding His blood on the Cross, Jesus once of all time made atonement for our sin and restored us to relationship with God. 1 Peter 1 tells us this was God’s plan all along. And the following verses remind us of the difference these truths are to make in how we live our lives.

“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” 1 Peter 1:17-21 ESV

Lord Jesus, I am eternally grateful that You are the Lamb of God, an acceptable sacrifice because You are without blemish or spot. Thank You for paying the penalty for my sins and making a way for my relationship with God to be restored.

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Jesus, the Son of Man

Of all the names of Jesus Christ given in Scripture, this is the one He used most often for Himself. Why is that? I believe the reason is two-fold:

  • Jesus was identifying with the people He had come to minister to. A son of a man is a man, and while Jesus was God He was also a man. Jesus was truly a human being, God in human flesh.
  • But more importantly, this name of Jesus was given in the book of Daniel as one of the titles for the coming Messiah, a fact that the Jewish people would have been aware of.

I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.” Daniel‬ ‭7:13-14‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

By identifying Himself as the Son of Man, Jesus was saying He was the fulfillment of this prophecy. This still future event will take place when Jesus returns to earth, to set up His eternal kingdom.

“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” Revelation 1:7 NKJV

‭Jesus, I’m so grateful that this life is not all we have to look forward to. Your Word is clear. You will be returning to set up Your eternal kingdom. And because I have accepted Your provision of salvation by grace through faith, The penalty for my sins has been paid and I will be a part of that kingdom. Thank You, Lord, for this glorious truth.

Jesus, the Son of God

Jesus is called the Son of God in many Old and New Testament passages, and I decided today to cover several of these descriptions together. As the Son, Jesus is:

  • The only begotten Son of God – begotten of God through the Holy Spirit and not a human father (Psalm 2:7; Hebrews 1:5)
  • God’s beloved Son – emphasizing His relationship of love with the Heavenly Father (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5)
  • The radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3)

Jesus affirmed the importance of this truth when asked by Caiaphas the High Priest if He was the Christ, the Son of God. He answered “you have said so,” confirming this as truth, even though He understood this claim would be considered blasphemy and worthy of a death sentence.

And the high priest said to him, ‘I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his robes and said, ‘He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.‘ ” Matthew‬ ‭26:63-65‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Another important Scripture concerning Jesus as the Son of God is found in Hebrews 5:

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,” Hebrews‬ ‭5:8-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

If Jesus were not the Son of God in human flesh, we would still be lost in our sin. Jesus – fully God and fully man, perfect in both aspects of His nature – is the only One who could pay the penalty for our sin and restore us to fellowship with the Most High God. He offers salvation as a gift, and the evidence we are a part of His family is our desire to obey Him because we love Him.

Don’t fail to take advantage of this gift that has been provided to us through His grace and accessed by us through faith. I’m grateful that I took this step over forty-five years ago, and in spite of all of the difficulties I’ve faced since then I have no regrets concerning that decision.

Immanuel, God With Us

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Immanuel, meaning “God with us,” is a Hebrew name first appearing in Scripture in the book of Isaiah. In Isaiah chapter seven we read of God instructing Ahaz, king of Judah, to ask Him for a sign. Ahaz refuses. Isaiah 7:14 is God’s response to King Ahaz, as Jehovah God reveals to the king that He Himself will give His people a sign. This prophesy of the birth of the Messiah was over seven hundred years before this One called Immanuel would appear.

In the gospel of Matthew, Immanuel is specifically applied to Jesus before His birth. Mary, who is betrothed to Joseph, is with child, and Joseph knows the child is not his. He is about to quietly break the betrothal, when an angel comes to him in a dream and says to him,

Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭1:20-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Key to the understanding of the name Immanuel is the doctrine of the virgin birth. The Messiah was to be conceived in the womb of a single young woman, a virgin, without the involvement of a biological father. The conception was by the Holy Spirit, which means Immanuel is the Son of God in a fleshly, bodily form.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”‭‭ Matthew‬ ‭1:18-20

So why is this important? Because Jesus was God incarnate, the Son of God in human flesh, and not conceived by a human biological father, the sin nature passed on from Adam to all mankind was not in Jesus. He was the only One qualified as the perfect, spotless Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world by dying on the Cross of Calvary for us. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

 

I Am the True Vine

As we get to the final one of the “seven I Am statements” from the Gospel of John, we come to another very familiar idea, that of Jesus being the Vine and His disciples or followers the branches.

John 15:1 says Jesus Christ is the TRUE VINE. When Jesus calls Himself the True Vine, He is emphasizing the fact that His nature corresponds in every respect to the nature of a vine. He is the genuine thing! And as the vine imparts sap and productivity to its branches, so Jesus infuses His own strength and life into those who are His “branches.”

Bearing fruit is our calling as followers of Jesus Christ, proof that we truly are His disciples. And it is a very natural process. There is no effort or strain involved. Our main responsibility in living fruitful lives is to stay attached to the Vine, Jesus Christ, so that His life can flow in and through us. Or as Jesus said,

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John‬ ‭15:4-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

‭‭Without Jesus, the True Vine, we can do nothing of value to God. But with Him, our lives become increasingly fruitful. Our part in fruit bearing is (1) to stay attached to the Vine, and (2) to cooperate with the process of being pruned for greater fruitfulness.

Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:2b ESV

And this whole process brings glory to our heavenly Father.

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” John‬ 15:8

Father, the desire of my heart is to bring You glory. Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing worthwhile. There is no way in my flesh I can live up to Your perfect standard. But because I am a branch and attached to the True Vine, Your Son Jesus Christ, it’s not up to me. All I have to do is stay attached to the Vine and allow His life to flow through me to produce fruit. And this fruit brings You glory. Thank You for this part of Your wonderful plan.

 

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

 

During the Christmas season, our focus is usually on the manger not the cross, but it’s important that we not lose sight of why Jesus came. Today’s name of Jesus reminds us of the fact that He died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins. But He is no longer on the cross – or even in the tomb. He is alive!

Let’s take a look at the setting where Jesus spoke these words about Himself. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, we learn of the special relationship Jesus had with Mary and Martha. Jesus loved Mary and Martha and had stayed in their home in the village of Bethany. The passage in John 11 that includes this name of Jesus tells us Lazarus was also a friend of Jesus and His disciples.

So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’…  ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep’”  John‬ ‭11:3, 11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

But in spite of receiving word from Mary and Martha about Lazarus’ illness, Jesus did not immediately go to him. Since Jesus always did what He knew to be the will of the Father, this was apparently by God’s leading. Jesus’ words to the disciples in John 11:14-15 explain at least one purpose behind the delay.

So then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.‘”

‭Verse 17 tells us what happened during the purposeful delay.

“On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.”

When Martha hears Jesus has arrived, she greets Him with some solemn words (verses 21-22).

“’Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’”

This is the setting in which these well known words were spoken.

Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?‘”John‬ ‭11:23-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

When Jesus spoke to Martha that day, He was telling her that a miracle was about to take place. Her beloved brother would be raised from the dead. But the meaning of these words goes beyond that. In essence, Jesus was saying, “The whole power to restore, impart and maintain life resides in Me.”

Today, I am grateful that Jesus died for my sins. But I’m also grateful that He is my Resurrected Lord. If you don’t know Him as your sin-bearer and Living Lord, don’t let Christmas pass without coming to Him for salvation. Confess you are a sinner, believe in His finished work on the cross, receive His forgiveness, and surrender your life to Him as Lord. Your eternity depends on this decision, and Christmas is the perfect time to make it.

Jesus: The Good Shepherd

Sheep are definitely not the smartest animals God created! When one sheep decides to go somewhere, the rest of the flock will likely follow. In the hilly terrain of Palestine, this was a source of great danger to sheep. For example, if one sheep jumped off a cliff, and there was no shepherd there to protect them, the whole flock could be lost. Therefore having an alert and vigilant shepherd to watch over them was essential.

In Mark 6:34, it is said of Jesus, “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” Jesus saw those in the great crowd as helpless sheep, unable to defend themselves or make wise choices on their own, like sheep without a shepherd. And He had compassion on them and became the Good Shepherd they were needing.

By examining some of the responsibilities of a shepherd, we can gain more understanding of the meaning of this name of Jesus.

  • A good shepherd develops a close, intimate relationship with his sheep so that they know his voice and trust him. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John‬ ‭10:3‬b ESV)
  • A good shepherd works tirelessly to provide protection and security for the sheep. “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians‬ ‭3:3‬ ‭NIV‬)
  • A good shepherd provides for the needs of his sheep, leading them to green pastures and fresh water. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians‬ ‭4:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬)
  • A good shepherd searches for his sheep when they stray. “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew‬ ‭18:12-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬)
  • A good shepherd cares for and loves his sheep, sacrificing his life for them if necessary. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (‭‭John‬ ‭10:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Jesus, this morning my heart is filled with gratitude that You truly are my Good Shepherd. Thank You for the privilege of knowing You intimately so I recognize Your voice when You speak. Thank You for providing so generously for our needs and for coming after us when we stray. And especially thank You for laying down Your life for me on the Cross. Thank You for being my Good Shepherd.