The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.
1. John had urged the duty of repentance. Now when Jesus made His appearance, John discloses the great object to be accomplished by Him — viz., the pardon of sin. For this mere repentance is insufficient, for it can never remove the penalty of a broken law. It only prepares the penitent to avoid transgression in the future by inspiring a sorrow for and a hatred of sin; so John did not tell the Jews that they would be forgiven because of their repentance; but urged it as an indispensable condition of securing Christ's blessing. When he had done this, he bade them behold the Saviour.
2. The term "Lamb" —
(1) Has respect to disposition and character, and is significant of innocence, meekness, and unresisting submission (Isaiah 53:7). But there were, doubtless, many others to whom the term could be applied besides Christ. But this did not make them saviours from sin. Had Jesus been only a lamb in this sense, He might have been thus qualified for a teacher. But would not John have added something indicative of his Teacher's office? To choose a lamb for illustration, and to mean by "taking away the sin of the world" the influence of sagacious instruction, is utterly confusing and unintelligible; and then, if Christ saves by His instruction, why was not Paul called a saviour of men?
(2) But the term has respect to an atoning sacrifice, by which pardon of sin is secured. And it would be very natural for John, as a Jew, familiar with the Mosaic offerings, and with their application in Isaiah lift., to use the term in this sense. The same idea was familiar to Paul (1 Corinthians 5:7), Peter (1 Peter 1:18-19; cf. Exodus 12:5), and John (Revelation 5:8-14).
3. Jesus is the Lamb of God. This cannot be a mere term of excellence, like "mountains of God," but either the Lamb who belongs to, or is provided by, God. The former would make an inept and frigid meaning; for John is showing the relation in which Christ stands to man. The latter, therefore, is the meaning. Every Jew had to provide and present as a sin-offering a lamb without spot or blemish. What each had done for himself, God now does for all men.
(1) Christ takes away sin. The Hebrews employed the phrase as meaning to bear the punishment or consequences of sin, or to expiate sin, or to forgive it. Either of the first two meanings will answer well here (1 Peter 2:24; Galatians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:29). So Christ takes away sin by removing its condemning and soul-destroying power. The Greek verb means first to lift up and then to raise up and remove, as one lifts a burden and conveys it away. And so Christ took the burden of our sins, and this load He carried away.
(2) He takes away the sin of the world. Other conditions are required besides His expiatory death. The sinner must be penitent, and behold the Lamb with the eye of faith. This done, salvation is as wide as the world of men; and so the proffer is universal.
Parallel VersesKJV: The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.