Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “Look the Lamb of God!” based on John 1:29 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, January 19, 2020
For years, people walked past Robert Morin outside the entrance of the University of New Hampshire’s Dimond Library. Pacing back and forth, smoking a pipe, always in a ragged sweater and jacket, many wondered if he was a homeless person seeking shelter from the elements. It turns out he wasn’t homeless. He was actually an employee. And after he died in 2015, people learned that he didn’t need the library for shelter, he actually could’ve bought himself a whole bunch of houses. Robert Morin left behind a gift of 4 million dollars for the University he loved so much. He’d kept his wealth under wraps, a secret hidden so well that no one could’ve possibly known.
And it makes a person wonder, could you have pulled that off? Resisted the urge to update your look a little bit so that people didn’t think you’re homeless? Resisted the urge to buy a new SUV so that you didn’t have to keep paying for repair after repair on your beater car? Never taking a trip, never upgrading to a larger home with nicer amenities and newer furniture. I think if I had means like that, I would hope that I wouldn’t flaunt it, but at the same time–it would also be pretty hard to conceal it.
I wonder if it was hard for Jesus to conceal what he had. I know that Epiphany is about Jesus being revealed as Savior of the World. And in that revelation he readily displays miracle after miracle, power upon power: water into wine, calming the storm, even raising the dead. And yet…through it all we still can marvel at how most of the time, Jesus’ power remains under wraps and concealed.
I mean if you were the all powerful God, wouldn’t you have been tempted to use your power to maybe give a nice kidney stone to every Pharisee who ever dared question you? And to use your power to make every vegetable you ate taste like pizza. And to use your power to change every rock hard bed into a plush tempurpedic. And to use your power to teleport to every new location, skipping the long, boring and tiring journey on foot—especially if it was raining hard or the sun was unbearably hot.
But we don’t see Jesus doing miracles like that. Thank God. Because while that type of self-serving savior would be a captivating showman and a magnificent entertainer, that’s really not what we needed. We needed a Lamb.
There he goes again in our text for today, his divinity cloaked, his glory concealed in most unlikely metaphor. Remember that Isaiah predicted in our Old Testament lesson that kings would see him and stand up, that princes would see him and bow down. So when John saw him and had to think of one animal, one metaphor to describe him isn’t it a little surprising that he went with lamb??? I could see him saying, “Look the lion of God.” (There’s ferocity there.) “Look the grizzly bear of God.” (There’s seriousness and power there.) But look the Lamb of God? What is in that metaphor?
Sacrifice. That’s what lambs were for back in Bible days. I don’t know if it’s accurate or not, but tradition says that the firstborn lambs from the hillsides around Bethlehem were bred and raised for a specific purpose, to be sacrificed at the temple of Jerusalem. Day after day for hundreds of years in the OT, wave after wave of innocent, crimson blood, splattering the ground as the prescribed offering for sin.
You might think that that makes no sense and it really doesn’t. You sin, no matter how often, no matter how grievously, and the blood of an animal makes everything ok? It makes no sense, unless you understand that God is the master of symbolism. The blood of a billion lambs couldn’t pay for a single sin. But the blood of God’s son could and would pay for all sins of all people of all times. All of those Bethlehem lambs of the Old Testament were meant to point ahead to the Lamb from Bethlehem, born and bred for a specific purpose to be sacrificed, the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world, the Lamb of God who would take away your sin. His mission was to literally save the world. That’s super hero stuff—and this is no movie, no comic book. This is real and eternal. And he did it. In the lamb of God we see glory revealed.
Would it have been hard for him to conceal everything he had in this cloak of humanity? Would it have been hard for Jesus to be a Lamb when he had a Lion’s power? Well, given the choice to be lion or be a lamb, what would we choose?
You don’t have to look to hard at your heart to see that the lion’s life appeals to us. We want to roar once and have everybody around us listen and fall in line. No questions, no back talk, no hint of criticism. We want to receive respect, even though we don’t very readily give it. We want to be heard, but we really have very little interest in listening. Being served comes easily to us, but living with a servant’s heart is something that constantly eludes us. In a sentence, we want to do what we want, when we want, as much as we want—even if it’s not what God wants. And that’s a problem, fellow lions. Because God created us, not the way other around. And we exist for God, not the other way around. And we just don’t get it.
We look in our hearts and we see selfishness. We look at our lives and see the hurt that we’ve caused others. We look at God’s law and we see his just anger. But then we look at the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
And when we see him, and what he’s done for us, who he’s made us, that very fact changes us. If Jesus willingly wrapped himself in humility and meekness, maybe it’s not such a bad thing for us to do the same. Maybe you don’t need to prove to everyone how valuable you are. Because God has determined your value. It becomes less important what people think of you, because quite frankly, you’re not living for them—you’re living for Someone Greater. It becomes more important to please your Father. It becomes okay for someone else to get their way. In short, we become a little less lion and a little more Lamb (with a capital L).
That changed heart doesn’t just happen by itself. Look regularly, and see the Lamb of God as he is championed in public worship. Look regularly and see the Lamb of God as he is revealed in his Word. Look regularly, and see the Lamb of God as he offers you his body and blood. Look regularly, and see the Lamb as he covers over your sins in Holy Baptism. The point is, if you look at him enough in Word and Sacrament, and you start to look like him in your life.
And one day, you’ll look like him in eternity. You see, during his earthly life, Jesus cloaked himself in humility and kept his glory under wraps. But now he reigns with radiance unhindered and power unlimited. The Lamb today is reigning on his throne. So it will be for you. Today, we carry on in less than glorious fashion. We fall, we fail, we’re frail. We make bonehead mistakes. We suffer humiliation. But one day, glory will be revealed in us, too. Whatever strikes fear in your heart today, whatever drags on your spirit. Whatever weighs on your mind. Know that it won’t last. One day, by faith, you will reign with the Lamb with radiance unhindered. May the Lamb bless and keep you till that day as you look to him. Amen.