“Good News For All The People”—Daily Reflections for Advent 2016
THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, December 3rd
John the Baptist said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’”as the prophet Isaiah said… The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Something I like to do to get into the Christmas spirit is to listen to Handel’s Messiah. It never fails. Whether I am listening to a CD or in a concert hall or church sanctuary, I am immediately transported when hearing the Overture’s minor key echoing the darkness of the world before Messiah’s coming. Then it happens! The soothing tenor voice sings Isaiah’s ancient prophecy about a new day coming: “‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,’ saith your God.” The commanding voice in the wilderness cries out: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”
With such a stirring opening Handel introduces listeners to John the Baptist and his mission: to prepare the way for Jesus Messiah! Although Jesus and John were cousins through their mothers Mary and Elizabeth (Luke 1:36), next to nothing is known about their relationship prior to this critical moment in the salvation story. We do know that John the Baptist was “filled with the Holy Spirit” while in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). His father Zechariah was also “filled with the Holy Spirit” inspiring him to sing about his son’s God-given mission:
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins
The Holy Spirit introduces John the Baptist as the herald and forerunner of Messiah, preparing the way for Him to bring salvation and the forgiveness of sins. John points to the young carpenter standing beside him and declares: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Many streams of prophecy converge at this point showing Jesus to be “the Lamb of God”. He is not our Lamb, but God’s Lamb, provided by God as an offering to take away sin. John’s hearers would have grasped the significance of the phrase, “Lamb of God”. The lamb of the morning and evening sacrifices in the temple pointed to Him, along with the lamb slain at Passover, and the suffering Lamb foretold by the prophet Isaiah:
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth
Along with the Old Testament prophecies and sacrifices we must see the countless sacrifices of various cultures as revealing a deep-seated consciousness that sin must be dealt with. It is God’s Lamb, and only God’s Lamb, Who deals with sin, and Who is the answer to the universal human longing for a Savior.
John the Baptist speaks of Messiah as taking on “sin”, singular, as if the whole mass of human transgression is bound together in one awful aggregate and placed on Jesus’ shoulders to bear away. The scope and reach of Messiah’s mission is universal: He takes away the “sin of the world”! “Jesus bears the consequences of human sin in order that its guilt may be removed.” (E. C. Hoskyns, The Fourth Gospel)
All of this is the good news of great joy for all the people. We get to go to people and say: “Have you heard the good news? You are loved! You are accepted! Jesus has taken away the sin of the world!”
Theologian Robert Capon says it so well:
Christianity is not a religion; it is the proclamation of the end of religion. Religion is a human activity dedicated to the job of reconciling God to humanity and humanity to itself. The Gospel however – the Good News of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – is the astonishing announcement that God has done the whole work of reconciliation without a scrap of human assistance. It is the bizarre proclamation that religion is over – period. (Robert Capon, The Mystery of Christ…and Why We Don’t Get It)
Believe God’s good news for all the people! Let it settle in…
- What does John the Baptist’s statement about Jesus being “the Lamb of God” mean to you?
- Do you find yourself thinking more about your sin or the Savior who saves you from sin?