Restoring God’s Image and Likeness in Man

THE MYSTERY OF THE LAMB: VI

The world is filled with mysteries, but none is like the one that was given to John the Baptist, who announced, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the World.” John did not introduce Jesus as the “King of Israel,” but as “God’s Lamb” that could atone for man’s sins. All the other atonements and all the other sacrifices had become of no use to the redemption of mankind. The sacrifices became monumentally important when the people, to whom the atonement sacrifices were entrusted, became delinquent in their application only to themselves. The apostle Paul clarified the reason why Judaism was not fulfilling, but rather resisting “God’s Redemptive Will” for the world:

When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that is, how the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (Ephesians 3:4-6; John 1:32-34).

In a more lengthy disclosure, Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you (Romans 8:1-11).

The atonement and the sacrifice of Christ as God’s Lamb is the most important redemptive act of Jesus the Christ. Without the atonement or the sacrifice of Christ, there would be no reconciliation with God, a Kingdom for Christ, and the salvation for Christ’s followers. It was and it still is Christ’s redemptive and Christ’s reconciling actions, as the Lamb, that Jesus the Christ became “the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Jesus, Himself, declared that His redemptive work was far more important than just believing in Him, as a person. It is Christ’s sacrifice that secures redemption:

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the father (John 10:37-38).

I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father (John 10:14-18).

Jesus, as the Preacher and as the Prophet, announced that the Kingdom of God “being on hand and being near.” Nevertheless, the Kingdom of God did not commence until after Christ offered Himself up to die on the cross. And then, Christ offered Himself again as He had to return to life (the Resurrection). Jesus began building His Kingdom and His Church after He had become the “Ransom” for many; for without the “ransoming” and without the “processing of souls” for His Kingdom, there would be no Kingdom of God. Hence, all sins can be forgiven, but not the sin against the Holy Spirit who processes the souls and who builds the souls into His Kingdom and His Church.

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come (Matthew 12: 31-32).

Now he was casting out a demon that was dumb; when the demon had gone out, the dumb man spoke, and the people marveled. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons”; while others, to test him, sought from him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and house falls upon house. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace; but when one stronger than he assails him and over-comes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoil. He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Luke 11:14-23).

Jesus, the Lamb, Himself, came into being by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place this way.  When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus (Matthew 1:18-25).

Jesus’ redemptive work as the Lamb of God began in the Spirit and ended in the Spirit on the cross. In fact, it all began at home in Nazareth:

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:14-21).

Jesus’ last Words on the cross were, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” Having said this he breathed his last (Luke 23:46). And before that final hour, and in Jesus’ last Prayer before He allowed Himself to be sacrificed in Gethsemane, He prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). On the very day, Peter had identified Jesus as the Son of God, Jesus also revealed to his disciples the redemptive reason for His coming three times:

And he began to teach them that the Son of man “must” suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly (Mark 8:31).

And he went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he would not have any one know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him (Mark 9:30-32).

And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and kill him; and after three days be will rise” (Mark 10:32-34).

The disciple, and most of their contemporaries, did not understand how a harmless Lamb of God could deliver a nation or an individual. Particularly, the disciples had a vision that they would govern the twelve tribes of Israel, as Jesus had indicated to them earlier. Now, at last, Jesus with the disciples were on the way to Jerusalem. And the music, which was ringing in the disciples’ ears, was finally to be fulfilled, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who follow me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28). When two of the disciples wanted to sit on Jesus’ right and on Jesus’ left in this new Israel, Jesus had to interrupt the disciples’ fantasy:

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him, and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one on your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:35-45).

Jesus expected a similar sacrificial service from his disciples. And for that reason, the disciples, too, were to be endowed with the same Holy Spirit. By washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus demonstrated how they should serve one another (John 13:1-11).

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life. Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and than he will repay every man for what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing her who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-28).

When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:12-17).

Immediately after Jesus, the Son, had laid down His life for his sheep and for his followers, the Holy Spirit was sent from the Father and from the Son. Like their Lord, the followers, too, will demonstrate Christ’s love by their obedience to Christ’s Teachings and to His Commandments:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I did; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom they world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.

I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, now is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him. “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will loves him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear it not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go hence (John 14:12-31).

The first thing that Jesus did as the “Risen Lord” was to pass on the Holy Spirit or the Breath of God to his the ten disciples:

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut were the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:19-23).

We might ponder this: God is Spirit (John 4:24), the Spirit of God moved over the mass, which became the universe (Genesis 1:2). The Spirit of God or the Breath of God brought forth all life and all movement necessary to sustain the cosmos. One has to be a fool to think that he or she can breathe without God’s Breath (Psalm 14:1). If man cannot see God with their naked eye (not seeing the creation) — how can they see God in the spirit (not recognizing Jesus the Christ)?