The Divine Service – The Agnus Dei

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John the Baptist was sent for a two-fold purpose, to prepare the way of the Christ and to point Him out to the people. John accomplished the first as he preached, teaching the people to repent of their sins, and baptizing them for the remission (forgiveness) of their sins. He accomplished the second as Jesus was coming toward him one day and John said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

To the Jews in John’s day, these words were more than a nice picture of God’s salvation. For those who saw the lambs slaughtered every Passover, reminding them of God’s redemption of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, this was a picture of how the Christ would redeem the world. It was no coincidence that Jesus was crucified on the day of the Passover. As we near Maundy Thursday (the night Jesus was betrayed) and Good Friday (the day Jesus died) and meditate on His passion and death, the picture of this Lamb of God and what He did to take away the sins of the world becomes quite weighty. It was our sins that put Him there and made Him suffer through being forsaken by God. And yet, Jesus was a willing sacrifice. It didn’t just happen. He wasn’t tricked into it. He let it happen knowing full well what would take place.

At this point in the Divine Service, we sing the words of St. John the Baptist,

O Christ, the Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.

O Christ, the Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.

O Christ, the Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world, grant us your peace.

The three-fold repetition draws our attention to the triune nature of God, while focusing on the person and work of the Son. It is a prayer to Christ for His mercy, mercy to forgive us and to strengthen us during the struggles that we face in this world. If He died to take away the sin of the world, that means that He certainly died to take away your sins. As we approach the altar to partake of the Lamb’s flesh and blood, we come humbly, yet confidently, for the forgiveness and peace that He promises through this sacred meal.

But all this preparation for the Lord’s Supper wouldn’t do us much good if we did not actually partake of it. And so, our faith seeing Christ truly present as He promised, we go forward and receive His forgiveness in our mouths as Jesus’ servant distributes it. We hear the Lord’s invitation, “Take and eat…drink of it all of you…” and “Do this in remembrance of Me,” and we respond, desiring to receive the blessings He gives us as we remember, not only His death, but also His resurrection from the dead, a resurrection that we are preparing for through this meal, eating the Lamb of God for the forgiveness of sins, because where there is forgiveness, there is also eternal life and salvation.

Rev. Gullixson is the pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church at 162 Sneden Street. The Divine Service begins at 9:30 AM every Sunday. To speak with Pastor Gullixson, please call (760) 873-6589.