17 To Adam He said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. 21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After He drove the man out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. 4 Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth.
1 Peter 1:18-21
18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
The Bible was written over a period of about 1,500 years. It’s in fact a collection of 66 books in one, written by more than 40 different authors in three languages. It contains history, poetry, law, narratives and letters. You would be hard pressed to find any other book that is so diverse, yet it all meshes together perfectly. And all of it revolves around, and points us to one person: Jesus Christ. Even Genesis, the first book of the Bible, teaches us about Jesus. It is here that we begin a scarlet thread of blood and truth that stretches all the way to the final chapters of Revelation. Today we share in Holy Communion, and our theme for this morning is Jesus Christ – the Lamb of God.
The first thing we need to understand is the necessity of the sacrificial lamb. When God created us and placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, everything was perfect. God said it Himself after creation: “It is very good.” And for a short while, human beings lived in a perfect, sinless world. Adam and Eve were innocent and pure. Not even clothing was necessary. They were naked and unashamed with each other, and more importantly with the God who created them.
Their relationship with God was naked and unashamed. Because there was no sin, they had nothing to hide from God, so they were spiritually naked in God’s presence. Can you imagine being completely open and honest with God? No shame, no fear, no hidden secrets? We had that for a while, and we will have it again in eternity. This is one of the truths that Holy Communion reminds us of, but we do need to go back first.
So after a perfect beginning, everything changed when sin and evil came into the world. Adam and Eve sinned against God, and they became self-conscious of who they had really become. Their physical nakedness and their futile attempts to cover their shame was merely a symptom of a far greater problem. Once their spiritual nakedness was a beautiful thing, because they had no secrets from God, but now their nakedness shamed them, because their sin was exposed. In Genesis 3, after the fall, God went looking for Adam. When He couldn’t find him and called out to him, Adam spoke the words that reflect the problem of every human being: “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Genesis 3:10)
Our sin shames us.
Atheists claim to be free thinkers. They say that belief in God is an old fashioned and irrelevant concept. There is also more than a little contempt and arrogance from many atheists towards Christians. Would you like to know the real reason why so many people insist there is no God? Because the alternative shames them. If you are going to acknowledge the existence of the God of the Bible, one of the first things you need to accept is that your sin has offended Him. Not only that – you also need to understand and confess that there is nothing you can do to undo the mess you’ve made of your life before a Holy God. Sinful human beings don’t like that idea. Falling on your knees before God and confessing that you are guilty takes tremendous courage. The greatest act of cowardice is to look at all the clear evidence of the reality of God around you, and to blindly and arrogantly insist that there is no God. Because if there is no God, there is no higher authority to whom you are accountable. If I can fool myself into believing that God does not exist, then my sin doesn’t matter.
But thanks be to God. He has opened our eyes to the awful truth that our sin does matter, and that we are now faced with a problem we cannot fix on our own. We need Him to make it right. We desperately need a sacrificial lamb to undo the mess we’ve made of our lives. The Lamb of God is absolutely necessary.
And the first hint we see of the sacrificial Lamb of God is in Genesis 3.
Adam and Eve’s feeble effort at covering their shame was doomed to fail. They made clothes out of fig leaves. But by their own efforts, they could never cover up or wash away the guilt and shame that they felt. And so God killed an innocent animal and made clothing for them. This was the first blood sacrifice, and it points us directly to Jesus.
The English theologian Arthur Pink said that this was the first gospel sermon, preached by God, not in words but in symbol and action. Genesis 3:21 – “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” You may not have thought about this before, but the gospel of Jesus Christ is in these words. From this one simple yet profound verse, we learn four things about salvation: (1) It is from God alone. We can never cover our guilt by our own efforts. (2) It is accomplished by the death of an innocent substitute. (3) It is accomplished by the shedding of blood. (4) It is accomplished by the slaying of a spotless lamb.
We aren’t told in Genesis 3 that the animal the Lord killed was a lamb, but the follow-up story about Abel’s sacrifice in the next chapter of Genesis certainly implies it.
So the first point is that we need the Lamb of God. The second point for us to see today is that God has provided that lamb. I wonder if Abraham really understood just how profound his answer was to his son Isaac’s question in Genesis 22: “Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
God Himself will provide the lamb. It’s been said that sometimes God whispers, and sometimes He shouts. Genesis 22:8 shouts so loudly that the words are still echoing today.
Abraham was instructed to offer Isaac as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah. This mountain is later identified in Scripture as Mount Zion, and many Biblical scholars believe that this is quite possibly the very mountain on which Jesus would later be crucified. It was here that Abraham was told that God alone would provide salvation on that mountain, that He would provide the Lamb. Genesis 22:14 says, “Abraham called that place ‘The Lord Will Provide.’ And to this day it is said, ‘on the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
Now we move on to the slaying of the Lamb. In Exodus 12 we find the story of the Passover in Egypt, and in verse 13 are the immortal words “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” Again, these words point directly to Jesus and the Cross of Calvary. When we accept the gift of salvation offered to us in Christ, His blood cleanses us. His blood paid the price.
But why did Jesus have to go through the agony of the Cross? Why can’t God just forgive us? You often hear those questions. The answer is simple. Hebrews 9:22 says it best: “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
The Lamb of God had to die in your place. Had He not shed His blood and died, the only means of paying the price of your sin would be by your own eternal death. Without the death of Jesus, the perfect, unblemished sacrificial Lamb of God, there would be no salvation.
Isaiah 53 is one of the most quoted passages of the Old Testament that point us to Jesus as the Lamb of God. It is often used on Good Friday, and with very good reason, but there are so many other verses throughout the Old Testament that are clear prophecies of Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist introduces Jesus in the most dramatic way just before His baptism. He could have said, “Behold the King of kings and the Lord of lords,” or “Behold, the creator of the universe,” or “Behold, the one, eternal God.” He could have used any number of perfectly appropriate titles when he introduced Jesus, but in John 1:29 he simply said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
This is an evangelical verse. In other words, what John was doing here was pointing people to Christ, and that remains the task of the Church and every Christian today.
Jesus Christ, the sacrificial Lamb of God is to be proclaimed to all the nations.
The message of the gospel of Jesus is absolutely crucial for many reasons, not least of which is that Jesus is the only way, truth and life.
One of satan’s greatest deceptions is that there are many ways to gain salvation – all you need to do is take your pick from the smorgasbord of options the world offers us. But that is not what Scripture teaches us.
Our reading from 1 Peter today puts it like this: “You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”
Our faith and our hope is to be found in Christ and in Christ alone. This is one of the things we will be doing today – asking God to remind us of the peace we now have in Him.
The Lamb is necessary, the Lamb is provided, and He was slain. This is what makes Him worthy of our love, devotion and praise, both in this world and in the world to come. In the very last book of the Bible the apostle John is given a glimpse – a Revelation – of a breath-taking scene that all believers will see for themselves one day: “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. And when He had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’ Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!’ Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!’ The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshipped.” (Revelation 5:6-14)
The Lamb is to be worshipped. He is worthy of our praise, because He is the One who has made reconciliation between sinful human beings and a Holy God possible.
One day we will see Jesus face to face, and on that day we will fall before His feet in awe, wonder and worship. And one of the greatest gifts we have in this life is the privilege of worship. When God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden, the place that symbolised His presence, they were cut off from God. The lamb He killed that day speaks of the hope that there was. But for a time, the gate to that Garden was firmly closed. But now it is open once more, and that gate has a name. His name is Jesus Christ. So in His grace and by His mercy we are brought back into the presence of God once more – not through anything we have done, but all and only because of the Lamb of God, who was crucified, dead and buried. But He rose again! That’s the hope we have.
Finally, the Bible ends with a warning about the Lamb’s Book of Life. The Lamb is keeping a book, and in it are the names of all those who come to God by faith in Him. There is no other way. This is the scarlet thread of blood and truth that progressively unrolls throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, pulling all the books together around one master theme: God loves us, we disobeyed Him, and He redeemed us through the blood of the Lamb.
The invitation to come to God is for you. How will you respond today?
Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bidst me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come…
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Genesis 3:21 and 22:1-8
Discuss the prophecies of Jesus in His role as the Lamb of God in these passages.
Which other examples from the Old Testament can you think of which also point to the Cross of Calvary?
One of the points we looked at on Sunday was the necessity of Jesus as the Lamb of God. How would you answer the following:
Surely it wasn’t necessary for Jesus to die?
If we are truly sorry for our sins, why can’t God just forgive us?
If the sacrificial Lamb of God was both necessary and provided by God, where does this leave followers of other religions?
John the Baptist was doing more than merely introducing Jesus to the people in John 1:29.
Discuss some of the deeper implications of his words in this verse.
How are we as the Church to continue what John began?
Holy Communion means many different things to different people, and there are many mysteries to this Sacrament which we just cannot understand.
Discuss in your group the symbols of Communion that point us to Jesus as the Lamb of God.