So often we hear this phrase said about Jesus, that he was “the lamb of God” and that he “takes away the sins of the world” — but what do those things mean and how did he take away sin?

John 1:29
The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (cf. Jn 1:36)

The New Testament writers repeatedly refer to Jesus as a lamb; but not only that — as a ransom too. Jesus even introduces himself that way at one point:

Mark 10:45

For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. (cf. Matthew 20:28)

To better understand the terminology and analogy we need to go back to the Torah, the Old Testament, and look at this from a Jewish perspective and what the sacrificial lamb initially meant.

The main comparison that is drawn between Jesus and the old sacrifices, is that of the Passover lamb. The link between the two is really quite amazing and to be honest, I didn't realise just how much of this Jesus fulfilled in himself until I was writing this. First we need to go back to the very first Passover to see what it meant for Israel.

Advertisement

The whole story can be found in Exodus 12, but the relevant parts to the lamb are about how it should look and be prepared, and the reason for the blood covering:

Exodus 12:5-7, 13

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. […] The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

The instructions about the Passover meal also go on to say that no bones of the lamb may be broken (v. 46) and that nothing must be left overnight (v. 10). Already I’m sure you can see some of the parallels with Jesus and other prophecies and Scripture concerning him in these ways, primarily in the Psalms, and specifically John 19:33; Numbers 9:12 and Psalm 34:20 concerning his bones not being broken. But it doesn’t end there — even the day that Jesus was crucified aligned with the Passover sacrifice of the 14th of Nisan (by our calendar, April), and later died that evening. The Jews asked Pilate to let them take the bodies down that same day (which was unusual, but done because of the Sabbath), so that meant that Jesus wasn’t left overnight, thus fulfilling the obligations of the Passover ritual!

Advertisement

The apostles obviously recognised these parallels, as they refer to them in their epistles — see 1 Peter 1:18-20, 1 Corinthians 5:7 and basically all of Revelation. But how does this help us in our sins? The Passover wasn’t a sin offering, yet somehow the death of Jesus in this way saves us from our sins. To better understand this, and to grasp why in various places Jesus is called our “ransom”, we need to go back to the reason for the original Passover, not the ritual.

Passover was what God did when he delivered his people from the slavery of the Egyptians.

The blood of the lamb was the symbol that they belonged to God, and so escaped death.

Originally the paschal lamb was about Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and slavery, now Jesus is the greater lamb who rescues us from slavery and bondage to sin by his blood. The blood on the doorposts covered the Israelites from the angel of death, and now by Christ's blood that covers us, we are saved from eternal death (Hebrews 9:11- 14)!

Advertisement

Paul covers this topic of sin as our master which we are slaves to quite often (Romans 6:16-18), and how through Jesus we have been set free by being baptised into his death, so that we are dead to sin and alive in Christ (Romans 6:4-6).

Romans 6:11

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Sin was what led us to death, and the whole of the Law of God pointed this out: sin equals death (Romans 6:20-23). But now as Peter wrote, we “were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors”, though not with money or earthly things, “but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Christ’s life and death satisfied the requirements of the Law and with his blood we were ransomed for God from our slave-master, sin (Romans 8:2; 7:4).

Advertisement

There’s many theories about what exactly the apostles meant by the word “ransom”, and the most prominent theory of the atonement for the first one thousand years of Christianity is what is known simply as the “Ransom Theory”, followed by the later, related theory “Christus Victor”. Both attest to Jesus’ victory over sin, death and the devil/powers of evil, though the former has varying ideas about who the ransom was paid to. One of the popular theories was that the payment was to the devil, tricking him into freeing people from his power in exchange for Jesus – but death couldn’t hold him and so God wins, and the devil loses. Others say the debt was paid to God himself to free us from his wrath.

Personally, I think Revelation 5:9 gives us a hint because it says that the “four living creatures and the twenty-four elders” who are around the throne of God sing a new song in which they say: “by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe”.

In a ransom situation, it is the bad guys, the kidnappers, who demand a ransom in exchange for freedom. If the ransom was paid to God, then that would make him the kidnapper and us his victims. But the song in heaven is about how Jesus was the ransom payment in order to get us saints back to him! God is the victim here, with his loved ones being held hostage; and what is the captor? Sin and death.

Jesus sacrificed himself and allowed himself to be the embodiment of the Passover lamb so that by his blood he could seal people and save them from death forever. He wasn’t a human sacrifice to God, but by God so that we can be set free from the slavery of sin and be raised to new life where “death will be no more” (Revelation 21:4)!

John 8:36

So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.


Further Reading:

 

Contribute on Patreon

Enjoying this? Consider contributing regular gifts for this content on Patreon.
* Patreon is a way to join your favorite creator's community and pay them for making the stuff you love. You can simply pay a few pounds per month or per post that a creator makes, and in return receive some perks!

Subscribe to Updates
Order my new book today from Amazon or fortydays.co.uk

Subscribe to:

Have something to say? Leave a comment below.

Leave a comment   Like   Back to Top   Seen 411 times   Liked 0 times

Subscribe to Updates

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe to free email updates and join over 107 subscribers today!

Order my new book today from Amazon or fortydays.co.uk

Subscribe to Blog updates

Enter your email address to be notified of new posts:

Subscribe to:

Alternatively, you can subscribe via RSS

‹ Return to Blog

We never share or sell your email address to anyone.

I've already subscribed / don't show me this again

Recent Posts

Francis Chan turns towards a more historical and ancient view of Communion

| 14th January 2020 | General Interest

If you follow certain Christian blogs, or have Christian friends on Social Media, then you may have seen a short video clip being shared which has been taken from a recent sermon by popular Evangelical pastor/speaker and author, Francis Chan of Crazy Love ministries. Depending on who shared the clip will depend on which reaction you have seen; some are praising his words, others fearing for his future calling it a “red flag”. And all of this over a short statement he made about communion! I recommend you watch this 3 minute clip below before continuing, if you haven’t seen it already. I would also recommend watching the whole 47 minute sermon for some better context, where he talks about his struggles and journey to this point in his faith around the topic of communion — something he was wrestling with even back in his BASIC series teaching on Communion from around 2012, views which have clearly moved on since then towards a more historical view. Chan says he isn’t making any sort of “grand statement” here, and goes on to give a brief, if little distorted, overview of church history: “I didn’t know that for the first 1,500 years of church history, everyone saw it as the literal body and blood of Christ … And it wasn’t until 500 years ago that someone popularised the thought that it’s just a symbol and nothing more. I didn’t know that. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s something to consider.’” This part isn’t too far from reality, really, though a little over-simplified. But I understand his zeal and excitement about this discovery of his, as I went through the exact same mind-blowing realisation around five or so years ago when I first delved into the writings of the Early Church Fathers and was forced to come to the same conclusion that there was something there to seriously consider. If the Church had always understood Jesus’ words and the interpretation of Scripture in a fairly singular and unified way for nearly two millennia, then who was I to come along and say my understanding exceeds the wisdom of everyone before me? It was actually one of the earliest texts, from a second century bishop called Ignatius, that really tipped me over the edge from a “memorialist” view (that the bread and wine are purely symbolic, nothing more), to a sacramental view (that the bread and wine are a means of grace that God uses). Ignatius was writing against a heretical group who were teaching a false doctrine about Jesus not really coming in the flesh, and uses communion as an example to prove the opposite, which also gives us an interesting and early view on the sacraments: “They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again.”— Ignatius Of Antioch: Letter To The Smyrnaeans (c.108 AD) At first reading I was stuck by the literal nature in which Ignatius spoke of the Eucharist (communion), and as I read more of the Early Church Fathers, that same, common thread kept appearing: they all held to a view of Communion which was definitely more than simply a symbol or memorial (you can read some more quotes on the topic here). Chan later talks about unity in the early church and how he longs to see that type of unity again in the Church globally, explaining that making communion more central to worship would help with that. Chan then laments about the apparent disunity within Protestantism, citing the dramatic statistics of there being “30,000 denominations” in the Protestant world. It’s a common claim, often from Roman Catholic apologists, but it’s not exactly accurate; there’s really only about six general umbrellas if you boil it all down: Lutheran, Anglican, Reformed, Baptist, Methodist and Pentecostal/Charismatic. Most “non-denominational” churches are still largely Baptist in their theology, despite avoiding an...

Does Christmas have pagan origins?

| 19th December 2019 | Christmas

For most people, the question of the origins of Christmas is probably far from their minds. Some may recognise and give a cursory glance towards the Biblical narrative on the birth of Jesus as something to do with it (although a 2017 study showed that almost 1 in 20 Brits thought Easter was the birth of Jesus!);—but in some Christian circles the question (accusation?) that “Christmas is pagan” is at the forefront of their minds. Table of Contents When was December 25th celebrated? The Christian Calendar Further Reading & Sources: As time goes on and we move further and further into the future, away from the initial events of the first Nativity, the festival of Christmas has morphed into something altogether different than how the first Christians recognised and celebrated it (if they even did). We know from historical records and study now that a lot of what has been incorporated into the festivities surrounding Christmas does have pagan origins, but does that make the holiday itself still pagan today? Are you inadvertently worshipping “the birthday of the Unconquered Sun” (Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) when you celebrate on the 25th of December? Let’s trace a little bit of history and see how the early church viewed these festivals, as they were still happening in full force whilst the Church was still young and were a contemporary concern, and what date they pinned the birth of Christ on to. Much of the earliest references to the Nativity occur in a passing way as a commentary on the event rather than anything celebratory about it. Justin Martyr in his First Apology (~160 AD) mentions that Jesus was born 150 years before him, in the time of Quirinius (or Cyrenius as some translations have it – cf. Luke 2:2), where his readers could “ascertain also from the registers” the accuracy of his statement. Tertullian (197 AD) also references this census as a place where “Mary is described”, in which New Testament scholar W. M. Ramsey saw as proof that Tertullian at least, had access to documents which we no longer do. Origen (~248 AD) even mentions that in his own day, “there is displayed at Bethlehem the cave where Jesus was born”, and that “this sight is greatly talked of in the surrounding places—even among the enemies of the faith” (now known as The Church of the Nativity)! The first person we see write about a specific date of the birth is Clement of Alexandria around 195 AD in book one of The Stromata, and he speaks about others who have tried to pinpoint the exact day and month of Jesus’ birth, which brings up a variety of dates: From the birth of Christ, therefore, to the death of Commodus [December 192 AD] are, in all, a hundred and ninety-four years, one month, thirteen days [18th November]. And there are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord's birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus, and in the twenty-fifth day of Pachon [20th May]. And the followers of Basilides hold the day of his baptism as a festival, spending the night before in readings. […] Further, others say that He was born on the twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth of Pharmuthi [19/20th April]. — Clement of Alexandria, 195 AD So from this quote, we have Clement calculating the birth of Christ to around the 18th of November, 2 BC by our calendar today, and others still who he mentions have worked it out to be around April or May time. He also mentions other people who placed the date of birth on January 6th in 2 or 3 BC, which for any liturgical people reading this, will recognise as another important date in the Christian calendar (we'll come back to this date later). Keeping and celebrating birthdays was a very Roman thing to do, so it’s no surprise that earlier Christians from a more Jewish heritage didn’t see any importance on marking the exact day and month that Jesus was born, as it was his death and resurrection which...

Power Cuts and the Fear of God

| 11th November 2019 | Devotional

The other week we had a series of power cuts in our town. It doesn’t happen very often here where I am, but there was particularly bad weather recently which damaged some cables; but sitting in the dark winter evening, my phone low on battery power, it made me realise just how much we rely on electricity for nearly everything these days. We don’t even have a gas supply so we were completely cut off from doing anything! Now it might sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget how dependent we are on modern conveniences until it’s suddenly taken away and you’re sat in the cold surrounded by tiny little tea-light candles. The following Sunday, the sermon at church touched on the fear of God, which got me thinking about how that concept is still kind of strange to me—God is love, He’s our Father, we’re His children… but then we are to also fear Him?  What does this have to do with electricity and power cuts, I hear you say—I’ll come to that in a moment. I’ve often been taught that the word “fear” used in this context actually means “respect”, so I decided to look up the Greek and Hebrew words that are used when we see the words “fear God” in the Bible. It wasn’t exactly what I expected to find. 2 Corinthians 5:11 is where I began, as that was the verse quoted in the sermon. Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are revealed to God, and I hope that we are revealed also in your consciences. I thought I may see a Greek word with a semantic range which includes “respect” or “honour” maybe, but what I found was the word φόβος (phobos) which literally means “alarm or fright; be afraid, fear, terror”. It’s also where we get our English word “phobia” from! So I went forward a couple of chapters to this verse: 2 Corinthians 7:1Having therefore these promises, beloved, let’s cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. But again, the word “phobos” was used, so now I decided to search across the New Testament for this phrase, and the next passage that came up was in Romans. Romans 3:18“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” This is part of a larger passage which ends on this verse about the fear of God (still using the same Greek word), where I saw a footnote to say it had been a quote from Psalm 36:1. Ah, I thought, maybe the Hebrew word used for “fear” will show something different! I thought wrong. This particular verse in Psalm 36 used the word פַּחַד (p̱aḥaḏ), which has a wide meaning such as: a (sudden) alarm (properly, the object feared, by implication, the feeling): — dread(-ful), fear, (thing) great (fear, greatly feared), terror. So again, the type of fear is an actual fear!  A little searching through the Old Testament revealed that the word “fear” has a couple of other Hebrew words which lie underneath the English translations, one of which does also mean “reverence” as well (יָרֵא [yârê], found in Gen 22:12 and 1 Sam 12:14). So maybe there is an element of that understanding in the Greek by the time the New Testament writers came along who meant that ‘fear’ as awe and reverence as well. So this all leads me back to where I was a week or so ago, sat in church listening to a sermon, wondering when my power would be back on. As I thought about all of this, the combination of electricity and the fear of God combined into something that helped me put some perspective on it: the fear of God is like a live, sparking electric cable.  I’ll clarify my thinking—if we saw an electric cable on the ground, flailing around and sparking  everywhere, we should be fearful of that because touching it could kill us! But when electricity is used right, it is good for and to us; it provides power and comfort etc. Without it we lose access to pretty much everything these days and go into darkness—Much like if we lose sight of,...

Patristics.info has launched!

| 13th September 2019 | Early Church

Hey everyone, so I’ve launched a new website called Patristics.info to be a new resource for all things early church related. I’ve added a few texts which I already had formatted from my book manuscript, plus other resources like timelines, maps, recommended books etc. I’ll be adding more soon in the coming days. I’ve also created a “topical index” page too which is auto-generated from the tags on the pages to aid with searching, plus I created a word highlighter on each page so you can search keywords in a text and have them highlighted if you’re looking for particular things. If anyone would like to be involved to contribute resources or blogs, or have any book you’ve written which you’d like linked/advertised on the site then just get in touch! I want this to be as useful a tool for people who are interested in this area as much as for people who are new to Patristics (the early church fathers). Features and functionality Much of the site is ready to go in terms of functionality and resources etc for the time being. I’m still working on adding more Early Church texts to the site, but this takes a lot of time as I need to transcribe them from unformatted text into a nicer format for reading, plus inserting all of the footnotes as well (I’m currently half way through 1 Clement now). While I mention the footnotes, I’ve created a feature similar to Wikipedia where if you hover on a footnote number, it will display a popup with the footnote text in it hopefully making it simpler to read the Patristic text and quickly see any additional information from the original translators as you go. This should also work well on mobiles too. Inline footnote hover popups Another new feature I’ve created is the Quote Search page: https://patristics.info/quote-search.html This is an experimental tool at the moment while I still perfect it, but please give it a go and submit any feedback if you can. The page will allow you to search a keyword and bring up a list of contextual quotes from within the Church Father texts where that word is mentioned. As far as I’m aware, there’s nothing else like this available online in this format so I hope it will prove useful for study! Example quote search for the word “baptism” I hope that you enjoy the site and find it a useful tool. Please share it online etc. and if you want to get involved with creating blogs or resources just get in touch, or if you feel so inclined, you can support this project financially via Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/LukeJWilson Go and explore the site today: Patristics.info !...