Sermon Briefs: John 1:29-34
Alan Walker in Religion or Christ made the point that only through Christ can one come to the Christian God, to the Christian church, to the Christian conscience, and to the Christian salvation. In his sermon, he starts and ends with the chapel at the UN, its only symbol a vase of flowers. He concludes that we need not a chapel with flowers, but a savior.
Paul Schneider was a small-town pastor who preached openly against the Nazis. Walking home from church one Sunday, his wife asked him not to, wondering what would become of their children. He said, "Shall I care for our children's bodies and fail their souls?" That stance cost him his body. (Walker does not say what became of the children.)
C. H. Spurgeon states that John lived on prophecy more than on locusts and honey. The true herald is like John, watching and preaching. His message is brief but emphatic—this is the one. John's followers are examples of listening, for they heardand followed and went forth and told others.
In 1857 Spurgeon went to the Crystal Palace (obviously not the Crystal Cathedral), where he was to preach. To test the acoustics he called out, "Behold the Lamb..." An unseen workman in the balcony heard him and considered those words. After a hard struggle he was converted.
Richard Chevenix Trench, the Dean of Westminster, preached a series of sermons before The University of Cambridge. The one on this text, specifically verse 29, is Christ the Lamb of God.
It is interesting to see what the doctrinal disputes are at a given place and time through the thrust of the preaching then. Trench felt the doctrine of atonement was under attack and undertook to defend it.
Jesus is all the sacrificial lambs of the Old Testament, not one specifically, but fulfills especially the word to Abraham, "God will provide himself a lamb." The two disciples immediately left John and followed Jesus, because John could take them only as far as repentance. We long, however, not just for a work of our own, but a work of God, on which we can rest. This the disciples of John saw in Christ, the Lamb of God.
Sacrificial lamb is the central function and office of Christ and is thus the center of any doctrine. This sacrifice of Christ is the bearing away of the world's sin. Here, then, he creates an interesting reverse argument for the vicarious atonement theory: If Christ is lamb only in purity and not in sacrifice, the bond between Old and New Testament is lost and there is much of the Old Testament that we cannot continue to claim as divine. So, he seems to be saying, in order to protect the Bible as divine Word throughout, we must adjust New Testament doctrines accordingly.
He then takes on those who claim that humanity has an inward moral sense anterior to Christian doctrine, that rejects the atonement theory, by attempting to show that atonement is actually in line with moral sense.
Surely all the dealings of God must be righteous. How can it be righteous to lay upon the back of one the penalties of others? Trench says the more accurate question is, "How can it be righteous for one to take upon himself the penalties of oth !-- Generation of PM publication page 5 --> ers?" Heroic self-sacrifice is more than righteous.
It is surely not unrighteous for God to take pleasure in the willing sacrifice of "His Son," to be "satisfied" by it, in the same way that we rejoice in the sufferings of the martyrs, not because of the suffering, but because of the heroism. Christ "satisfied" not the divine anger but the divine craving for perfect holiness.
How could one man's sacrifice satisfy for so many? It could, because he was not merely human but divine as well.
The atonement is a two-faced act, one face toward God, one toward humanity. Any lesser faith than that of the atonement, Christ as the sacrificial lamb, will not satisfy the yearnings of our souls, just as the disciples who left John to follow Jesus found that greater satisfaction.
John Robert McFarland