John the Baptist described Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, NKJV). This image was easy for any Israelite familiar with the sacrifices offered in the temple and the sacred history recorded in the Old Testament to understand. Abraham had revealed his faith that God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering (NKJV); and the Lord did provide the animal to be sacrificed in place of Isaac (Gen. 22:8, 13). In Egypt, a lamb was slain by the Israelites as a symbol of their divine deliverance from the bondage of sin (Exod. 12:1-13). Later, when the sanctuary service was established, two lambs were to be sacrificed on the altar each day, continuously: one in the morning and the other at twilight (Exod. 29:38-39). All these sacrifices were symbols of the coming Messiah, who was led as a lamb to the slaughter because the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:6-7, NKJV). Therefore, by introducing Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, NKJV), John the Baptist was revealing the vicarious nature of Christ’s atoning death.
During His ministry, Jesus repeatedly announced His death, even though it was hard for the disciples to understand why He had to die (Matt. 16:22). Gradually, Jesus explained the great purpose of His death.
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends (John 15:13, NKJV); this holds true even if they do not understand nor accept that sacrifice. On the cross, Jesus shed His blood for many for the remission of sins (Matt. 26:28, NKJV).
It is important to notice that Jesus died voluntarily. As the Father gave His one and only Son, so the Son gave His own life to redeem the human race. Nobody forced Him to do so. No one takes it [my life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself, declared Jesus (John 10:18, NKJV). Even Caiaphas, who openly rejected Jesus and led the plot to kill Him, involuntarily recognized Jesus’ substitutionary death (John 11:49-51).
Think of how much ingratitude humans have toward God and what He has given us in Christ. How can we make sure we don’t fall into that trap? Why is this so easy to do, especially when we are going through difficult times?