The gospel in 14 words

One of my all-time favorite verses in the entire Bible is early in John’s Gospel. It’s place in the narrative almost feels like an aside, but it is the gospel. The gospel in 14 words, but the gospel nonetheless.

After the grand picture of the eternal Word, who was with God and was God in the beginning, who came and dwelt among us, John wrote, “This was John’s testimony” (John 1:19). He preached in the wilderness, and baptized in the Jordan River. His ministry was causing a stir among the religious leaders of the time. Who was this man? Was this the Messiah—the long awaited Rescuer, the king of Israel from David’s line?

No, John said. That’s not who he was. John was someone different; someone with a message that the people needed to hear. To flee from the wrath to come and bear fruit in keeping with repentance. He was preparing the way for promised Rescuer.

And then, finally, the day came when John saw Jesus and cried out, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 CSB)

“Look, the Lamb!”

“Look,”—or if you prefer, “Behold“—”the Lamb of God.” How can you not get chills reading that? John 1:29 is the culmination of centuries of anticipation. Of studying the Scriptures and examining the prophecies handed down from the likes of Isaiah, Zechariah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and more besides. Hearing God’s promise to deliver his people and place David’s heir on a throne that would last forever.

The anticipation grew over the centuries and the pressure kept building. Some people gave up. Others kept the faith, confident God would deliver on his promise. I get that. I feel that same sense of anticipation every time I read the Old Testament. Even though I know what’s coming, the drama hooks me every time. When I read the failures of the judges and kings and the weeping of the prophets. Of foolish presumption and grief-stricken lamentation. I’m on my seat as the story builds.

When will the one we’re waiting for arrive?

Then John appeared. A voice crying out in the wilderness. Preparing the way for the one who came after but was greater than him.

At at long last: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

I can easily imagine the feeling of those who heard this. Excitement from some. Fear from others. And for many, relief—joy! Finally, the Messiah was here. Finally, God’s promises would be fulfilled. Redemption was at hand—even if they didn’t know exactly what that meant at the time.

The gospel in 14 words

This is, in its essence, the gospel—the gospel in 14 words. John 1:29 captures the heart of everything that makes Christianity what it is. Jesus, the promised one, came into the world. He lived among us and went to the cross. He died for people like you and me—and not only us, but to rescue the world from sin.

The redeemer has come, and the redeemer’s work will be completed. Knowing that, as I read of Jesus’s stories and sayings, signs and wonders, my anticipation grows anew. I look to the Lamb of God with excitement. And that excitement grows because of the words of another John, who saw One who was “like a slaughtered lamb” (Rev. 5:6). Jesus, the Lamb of whom multitudes sing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:12).

Someday, you and I will sing with them. Someday, the story will be finished and all the promises of God will be finally fulfilled. But we’re not there yet. For now, we wait in anticipation. But while we wait, as our anticipation builds, we can have confidence, as we behold the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.


This article is adapted and expanded from one originally published with The Gospel Project (May 16, 2017). Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books including the Big Truths Bible Storybook, Epic Devotions, Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation, and the End of Poverty, and Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World. His next book, published by Lexham Press, will release in Spring 2023.

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