“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV)
What does it mean to take away the sin of the world?
The word takes away translates a Greek word that means “takes away” or “takes upon oneself.” [Short aside for the geeks out there: There is actually a little disagreement between Greek lexicons on the definition of this word αἴρων. BDAG says it means: to take away, remove, or seize control without suggestion of lifting up. Louw-Nida says that the word means: To lift up and carry away, to carry off, to remove, to take away. Which dictionary is correct? Search me, if the experts can’t even agree, I’m certainly not going to take a side. Translation is notoriously difficult, as I’ve pointed out before].
In what sense does Christ take away the sins of the world? In the sense that he either takes them away, or he lifts them up and carries them off. I actually think that A. T. Robertson gets to the point of this word the best. He writes:
That taketh away (ὁ αἴρων). Either takes away or takes upon himself, in order to bear: either removal or expiation of sin. The one idea, however, is included in the other. The taking away of the sin is through His bearing it.
The word means both things, no matter which picky Greek expert you listen to. Christ as the Lamb of God takes away (lifts up and carries off, or removes, I’m cool with either) the sins of the world. Here is how Peter puts it:
“Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
(1 Peter 1:18–20 ESV)
The final coup de grace in this verse. Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Don’t rush by that. Sit back and let it sink in, because when John the Baptizer makes that statement, he is talking about your sins; he is talking about my sins. Here is one of our first glimpses that Christ is not the Messiah only for the Jews; he is the Messiah for the whole world. Rock on, John the Baptizer! Thanks for saying that, because it means everything to me.