"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
John the Baptist is baptizing at the Jordan, but we understand from this account in the fourth Gospel that he is also there to identify the Messiah when he comes. As Jesus approaches him, John cries out, “There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”
John, whose preaching in the other gospels emphasizes the threat of power and judgment, an ax laid to the root of the tree, a winnowing fan on the threshing floor, sees that Jesus is from the outset a different kind of Messiah, one who will be sacrificed to save the world, God’s suffering servant who will bear on his own shoulders the burden of sin for our sake.
John also sees another sign laden with prophetic significance. God’s Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove, and remains on him. Here is the sign given to Noah after the great flood that the time of punishment has passed and a new birth in hope is now initiating the renewal of the earth and a time of grace for the world, coming up out of the waters of death.
What savior is this, who comes among us not to judge, or to sort sinner from righteous, who brings peace and renewal to all? What is this different kind of powerful messiah who takes on himself the penalty for the faults of others, whose message is healing and mercy, Good News?
Onto the battlefields, into the ruined cities and refugee camps, among the victims and those huddled in fear and want, into the shadow of death and the long night of war walks the Lamb of God, Emmanuel, God with us. There is no other place of safety except to be with him, the Suffering Servant, who alone knows the way forward.