From The Crucified Is My Love
Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
This testimony of John’s is the heart and the star of the whole gospel. It is true, John’s mouth was soon closed by a bloody death, but the apostles proclaimed it further: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” They too have died, but this gospel rings through all centuries and hallows them. And when today the church of the Lord gathers to celebrate the Holy Supper, she looks up to the Crucified One and thousands of voices sing, “O Lamb of God, who bears the sin of the world, have mercy on us and give us your peace!”
We are often weighed down with our work, our cares and suffering, but if we had to bear the full weight of our sin and guilt, we would sink under it into eternal night. The beam of the cross that the Lord carried to Golgotha on his torn and bleeding shoulders was heavy, but the invisible burden that rested on that cursed wood was heavier. It was not the sin of one man that was laid on the Lamb of God, but of all people – truly, the sin, guilt, and death penalty of the whole world. The season of Lent admonishes us to look well at this Lamb, and John exhorts us with his challenge, “Behold.”
Just as once the children of Israel in the wilderness, seeking help from the bites of fierce snakes, looked up to the bronze serpent, so we too would look to the Crucified One, who bore our burden and atoned for our guilt. We would look at him with ever fuller, ever deeper and more grateful faith. But for this, new and pure eyes are necessary. We must beg the Lord for these if we want to grasp our Redeemer’s suffering in the depths of our hearts.
With such eyes, my soul, contemplate your suffering Savior. See him in the garden of Gethsemane in the shadow of night, lying prostrate on his face, struggling with death and sweating drops of blood. See him in the judgment hall, bearing in silence the lashes of the cruel executioner, enduring spitting and a crown of thorns. Take your place below the cross at Golgotha and hear the seven last words of the dying man. Look at the bloody wounds on his head, his limbs quivering with pain, his eyes filled with tears.
Look still deeper: look into the heart of Jesus and see his obedience to his Father and his compassion for you. See his heart break and his head bowed in death. Look until your heart also breaks in pain and love, and your eyes overflow with tears of gratitude. All who look at him and bear him in their souls like this together form the great invisible church of God here on Earth, which will be revealed on the day of glory. She will see this Lamb again as her glorified, eternal King. Then she will experience the prophecy of the new covenant: “The Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes,” (Revelation 7:17).