behold, the Lamb of God

Weary of the world (which certainly includes my own selfish desires and motives) this advent season, my need for a greater, deeper, more complete understanding of Jesus drove me to the Gospel of John. Ironically, this Gospel doesn't detail any part of the birth of Jesus, but his first appearance is most telling of Who He is: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (-John).

Jesus' introduction here includes two parts - who He is, and what He does. It's not so different than any other introduction we might find ourselves in when we meet someone new. (Another entire post could be written on the man who is doing the introducing, whose entire identity and purpose was found in paving the way for the One to come...) Jesus is introduced here as 1) "of God" - belonging to God and 2) he "who takes away the sin of the world" - the Savior.

Studying the chapters that follow over the past couple of weeks, I have found those themes to be consistent throughout the book of John. Before, during, and after nearly every interaction, miracle, and teaching, we read of Jesus emphasizing again and again that He is who He says He is and that He is true and that what He says is true, not because of His own witness, but because God is His authority. Over and over He places Himself into submission under His Father, and in doing so, justifies Himself.

"The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory, but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood." - Jesus at the Feast of Booths

In his conversation with Nicodemas, Jesus tells him that "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit". The spirit is self-explanatory and self-defending... if you have it, you know it! Jesus belonged to God, and that made Him who He was and made His word true. Those of us who are believers are God's, and that justifies us. We do not have to continue to prove ourselves or seek worth or justification because under His authority, our identity is secure.

Identity struggles are commonplace these days, and insecurity abounds. Across all aspects of culture, from in-person conversations to online threads, we see fear-based responses, choppy and inconsiderate words, and self-justification flung around like confetti. We seek our worth and justification in how we are viewed by other people, and so we compare and grow angry, retreat in hurt and offense, and take matters into our own hands to try to preserve and present ourselves in a way that is not flawed.

In John 12, Judas was offended by Mary's use of the alabaster box of ointment, and the way that I read through John's explanation of Judas's motives indicates that he was offended not because someone had truly done wrong, but because he was convicted of his own sin - he knew that he was a thief, and in his pursuit for self-justification, he pointed out Mary's "waste" instead. Rather than turning to Jesus, submitting himself under the authority of the Father and finding relief that way, Judas's response to his own failure and fear was to accuse someone else of wrong.

The world is offended. The world was offended by Jesus, because He told them they weren't enough. The world is currently offended by Jesus because they don't want to need Him; they want to be able to take care of their own sin. Offense is something that has to have cause, and it is something that is often not intentional. The definition of "offend" is this: "to cause hurt feelings or deep resentment. OFFEND need not imply an intentional hurting but it may indicate merely a violation of the victim's sense of what is proper or fitting."

If we are offended by the plan of God, it is because we are not of the Spirit, so our thinking is our own authority. And we are offended because our sense of what is proper or fitting is being denied. When we submit to God's authority and align ourselves under Him, as Jesus did over and over again, God's sense of what is proper or fitting becomes our sense of what is proper or fitting. We do what He tells us to do under His authority, so we do not have to constantly worry or strive or justify ourselves. There is so much peace because we are not our own. At the beginning of chapter 13, I see Jesus as a man completely satisfied and fulfilled, even though He knew His time to die was drawing near. "Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end." Jesus had loved completely and thoroughly, never offended, and fully able to do his tasks even in the face of adversity, because He had complete confidence that He was God's and that He was doing God's work. He had loved fully.

If I offend or hurt someone, or am offended or hurt by a friend, and find myself responding from a place of insecurity about the type of person I am, or how they view me, I have to ask myself whose glory I am seeking. Under the authority of God and with the help of the Spirit, I can find grace to be humbly repent of my actions or nature if necessary, and to be justified through faith in Him, whether I was the one who caused offense or felt offended. We read that many of the authorities believed in Jesus, but did not confess their belief because of their fear of the Pharisees - "for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God." Often, the reason I don't run to God with my offense is because I care more about what someone else thinks that I do about what God thinks. I seek to make it right with another person, outside of the authority of God. This can never truly tie up the loose ends, because justification for sin is only in Him.

Seeking to be justified of men will never find us satisfied - nor will justification ever come. Our Father is is God and our Teacher is Jesus, and so They are where we must seek our approval and success. I want to be able to say as Jesus does in John 14:

"I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father."

The Lamb has been born. And He has died. And death was not the end! And so there is hope! Near the end of the Gospel, John writes the purpose of the book: "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

There is Life, under the authority of the Giver of Life Himself.

Behold, the Lamb of God!

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Hi, I'm Hannah.

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