It was a hot, sunny day as Andrew walked along the dusty road toward Jerusalem. A few steps ahead of him walked his father, head gray with age yet still very strong. It seemed a bit strange to Andrew that it was only he and his father making the journey this year, for in years past, all his brothers and sisters had accompanied them. But they were all grown now and had families of their own to care for, and soon even Andrew himself would probably be leaving home.
At Andrew's heels, following obediently, was his most beautiful young lamb. This was a special lamb, for this lamb was the whole reason for their long trip to Jerusalem. He was also very special to Andrew personally because he loved that lamb more than any other that had ever been born into his family's small flock.
Andrew's family were not shepherds as were many of their neighbors, but were fishermen by trade. Yet they did keep a small flock of sheep from which they were able to get enough wool for their clothing plus provide for other needs. Ever since Andrew had been quite young he had been the one in his family who cared for the sheep, taking them often from one pasture to another, caring faithfully for them. Sometimes he would go out fishing with his older brothers, especially with Simon who was next to him in age, and with whom he was very close. But most of the time he was left home to watch after the sheep and other things there.
Andrew was a good shepherd to the sheep, and loved them all, but this young lamb, which today followed so obediently in his steps, was very close to Andrew's heart. He glanced back at the lamb as they walked along the road, remembering so clearly the night of its birth. It had been a cool, spring evening and Andrew had taken the flock down into a sheltered valley quite a distance from their house. He realized that it was a bit far to go with them, but he knew that it would be a nice place for them to spend the night. He also knew that one of the sheep was due to have a lamb soon, but he certainly didn't expect it that night. As they settled in, he noticed that that certain sheep was behaving strangely. As the night wore on it became obvious that she would soon be having her lamb. This troubled Andrew for he had never been alone with the sheep when one was having its lamb, especially this far from home. Andrew's father knew a lot about helping the mother in case she began to have trouble during the delivery. Andrew began praying to the God of his father for a safe delivery.
The dark hours of that night passed very slowly for Andrew. The mother sheep began crying out in distress. Something was wrong. Andrew felt helpless and totally without the wisdom he needed to help her. She continued to bellow in pain, and looked pleadingly toward Andrew for relief. "What should I do?" His heart was breaking as he sat listening to her groans. His mind suddenly flashed back to something his father had been talking about at the table that morning. His father had spoken of how their God would not continue to delay long if he heard the cries of His people for justice and deliverance. His father always talked of such things, but that morning he was speaking with great conviction, and it had struck Andrew to the heart.
Now Andrew felt himself to be in a similar condition. Could he just sit by and let his sheep suffer without even attempting to help? No! He jumped to his feet, breathing a prayer to God for wisdom. Andrew's hands moved skillfully to free the entrapped lamb from its mother's womb. In just a few minutes it was all over and the lamb lay cuddled at Andrew's side, as if he knew it was Andrew who had saved his life.
As Andrew looked down at the new lamb, he was immediately struck by its beauty and perfection. The lamb's soft eyes gazed up at him with a look of seeming gratitude. That night a bit of pain had pierced Andrew's heart as he watched the first clumsy movements of this spotless male lamb, for he knew what the perfection of this little creature would mean. Though he hated to even think about it, he knew that this lamb would serve a greater purpose.
For once a year it was Andrew's job, since he was the shepherd in the family, to pick out the very best of their young male lambs. He knew all the sheep well so was able to pick the most perfect and precious of them all. It was always difficult to make this decision because Andrew loved all of the sheep and because each and every one of them was valuable to the livelihood of Andrew's not so wealthy family. The lamb which he chose was to be given up to their God as a sacrifice. And for Andrew and his family it truly was a sacrifice. A sacrifice was necessary each year to the God of Israel for the forgiveness of their sins.
When Andrew was younger he had not fully understood what this sacrifice was all about, but now he was beginning to see his own sins all too well. Andrew's father had explained to him many times about their God and about how in the beginning when God first created man, man had sinned. From that sin, death came into the world and only through the shedding of blood could man's sins be forgiven and he could be saved from eternal death. His father had also explained that it was true mercy that their God had made a way so that they could be forgiven and would not have to die as their sins deserved. God's way was that they would shed the blood of a lamb. This was their sacrifice. Andrew knew that for it to truly be a sacrifice it must hurt. This was why his family had always been careful to give the most perfect and spotless of their flock to God as He had commanded, giving the one which it hurt the most to give.
So this year, as he had every year, Andrew had gone out to the hillside to choose the lamb which they would take to the Temple in Jerusalem. In the back of his mind he already knew which one it must be, but he tried to ignore that voice of his conscience, looking at the different male lambs of the flock, examining each one. "Maybe it should be this one. No, maybe that one..." He was trying to overlook that special lamb which was so close to his heart. Then he felt a tug on the back of his tunic. It was his favorite lamb nibbling at the leather pouch that hung at his side to see if it contained a special treat. Andrew had often brought treats with him just for the purpose of giving them to his favorite of the flock. Looking down at him, Andrew cringed. "How can I try to deceive myself or our God?" he thought. He knew which one was their most precious and perfect lamb, and the only one which he could honestly call their 'sacrifice'.
In their visits to the Temple, it had often bothered Andrew when he would see people bringing in animals which were puny and sick. He knew that wasn't right and he couldn't understand why the priests would just receive them as if they didn't even notice their flaws. Andrew's father saw this happening, too, but he had never slacked up on his standard for their own sacrifice. Andrew greatly respected his father for that. His father also never gave the slightest ear to the offers of the men with stands set up in the Temple court, who were selling inferior animals for sacrificing. He knew what was a proper sacrifice which would please their God. All this greatly grieved his father, and Andrew, too, now that he was getting old enough to realize what was going on. It seemed as if the people didn't think that their God could see their deception. His family knew that God always judged men by their hearts, so they always wanted to give their best. And this little lamb, which today accompanied them on their long journey, was truly their best.
The sun was rising high in the sky now as they walked, making the heat nearly unbearable. Andrew's father eyed a shady spot up ahead and decided to rest awhile. They sat down in the tall grass under a large tree. Andrew's father lay back in the grass, sighed, and then began talking as he so often did, especially on this yearly journey to the temple. During these times he would speak about a better day when God would once again speak to His people. He spoke of their people's need to hear the voice of the prophets in their land. And he spoke of the hope which was nearest his heart, that of the coming of the Messiah. He was old now and his life would soon be over, but he wanted to be sure that this hope burned in the hearts of his sons as it did in his own. Andrew loved to hear his father talk like this, and he had grown to love the God of his father.
As they talked, the little lamb frolicked playfully in the tall grass, eating his fill. Andrew watched him with pleasure, thinking that this was truly the most lovely lamb which they had ever had in their small flock. His eyes filled with tears, seeing that young lamb so full of life. He skipped to Andrew's side and lay down as if sensing his grief. Andrew burst out in tears.
"Why, why, father, must he die for my sins? I should be the one to die ... I hate my sin. Why am I such a slave to this evil heart of mine?"
His father put his compassionate arm over Andrew's shoulders, saying, "Son, we need a Savior. We need salvation. Were it not for the mercy of our God, you would have to die for your sins. This is His provision for you, my son. And in this there is a greater purpose."
Andrew continued to sob, thinking of the fact that soon the knife of the priest would be piercing the throat of his precious lamb, draining all of its blood. Looking down at the lamb, he said, "Your blood for my sins! I am guilty and you are innocent."
His father, wiping the tears from his own eyes, being touched himself by the anguish his son expressed, said, "The life is in the blood and without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness for our sins." He, too, hated their plight as fallen men. "All we can do is pray, crying out to our God for the consolation of Israel."
They sat together silently for a while and then Andrew's father motioned for them to continue on their journey. The lamb followed submissively without even a command, oblivious to his fate.
As they neared the village of Bethany, they heard the sound of many voices in the distance. They wondered what it could be. Turning aside from the main road, they headed toward the river from where the sound seemed to be coming. As they rounded the top of the hill overlooking the Jordan River, they were amazed at what they beheld. In the river stood an unusual-looking man. He was calling out in a loud voice to the crowd which had gathered. He was also baptizing some of the people as they walked out into the river to him. Andrew's father recognized those being baptized as his fellow Jews.
"What?" he exclaimed, "Is this man baptizing Israel? Only the heathen have ever needed to be baptized. Can this be a prophet of our Holy God, calling His own people to baptism?"
They walked quickly down the hill toward the crowd. In the midst of the group, some of the priests and Levites from Jerusalem appeared very disturbed at this man preaching from the water. They yelled to him, "Who are you?" Andrew was glad they had asked that question for that was just what he was wondering. Some people in the crowd answered the question, "He is John the Baptist, sent to us from the God of Israel." The Levites hushed the crowd, advising them to let the man answer himself.
"I am not the Anointed One," replied the man they had called John.
"What then, are you Elijah?"
"I am not," he responded.
"Are you the prophet?"
"No!" he called back.
"Who are you then, so we may give answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?"
"I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness. 'Make straight the way of our God,' as Isaiah the prophet said."
As Andrew heard these words from John, his heart leaped. He pressed through the crowd to draw nearer to John. The priests and Levites continued their interrogation, "Why, then, are you baptizing if you are not the Anointed One, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"
John answered, "I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie."
After that he refused to respond to any more questions.
Andrew didn't like the way the priests were speaking to this man. It seemed strange, because Andrew had always greatly respected and admired the priests and Levites when he had seen them each year at the Temple in Jerusalem. But now they seemed so different. He was puzzled as to why they were treating this man of God with such disdain. To Andrew, it was obvious that this man had been sent from God, and he wanted to hear more from John. Andrew was pleased at the way John was not intimidated by the hostile spirit of the priests and Levites.
Andrew had become so wrapped up in listening to John speak that he had totally forgotten about his father and the whole purpose for their trip. But soon he felt the warm hand of his father rest upon his shoulder. Andrew turned and looked into the eyes of his father, conveying in that one look more than a thousand words could have said. Andrew's father seemed to be equally as touched by John's words. Without a word spoken, they turned and walked arm and arm into the cool waters of the Jordan.
"May Israel see the meaning of this baptism!" Andrew's father shouted as John was baptizing him.
A few moments later, Andrew and his father stood together, dripping wet at the edge of the water. John finished speaking and began walking away. Andrew's father motioned for his son to come along with him to continue their trip to Jerusalem. Andrew hesitated, glancing in the direction John was walking. His father caught his son's hesitation and turned, looking him straight in the eyes, saying, "Go, Andrew. Go and do what your heart is telling you to do." He spoke in a voice torn with emotion. His father embraced him warmly and turned to leave, not looking back. Andrew stooped to pet his lamb for the last time.
"May I fulfill the purpose for which I was created as you are fulfilling yours, our sacrificial lamb. There is hope for Israel now, for God has sent us a prophet. Perhaps our redemption comes soon for he speaks of the Anointed One. Oh," said Andrew, rising to his feet, "I wish you could understand." He directed the lamb to follow his father.
Andrew watched as his father walked off through the crowd. Andrew knew that the tears that he had seen in his father's eyes had not been tears of sorrow, but rather of joy. It was a joy coming from deep within, as he realized that what he had desired fervently all his life would soon be coming to pass -- perhaps even before his death. His father and the lamb vanished in the crowd and Andrew turned to follow the hope of Israel.
The next day, Andrew stood once again at John's side as John cried out to the people of Israel of their need for baptism in order to be prepared in their hearts to receive their Anointed One. Then, suddenly, John stood in awe as he gazed upon a certain man who had just approached the crowd. John raised his arm, pointing toward that man and exclaimed, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
Andrew's heart stopped as he heard these words. His mind went immediately to his own lamb who was probably at that very moment being slain on the altar for his own sins. "Why did John call this man the LAMB OF GOD? Is this God's own lamb? Did God search heaven for the most perfect, spotless, and precious of His own flock? A lamb that would take away the sins of the whole world? What can this mean?"
The man to whom John was pointing walked into the water, coming to him to be baptized. At first John refused, saying that he was not worthy to do that, but that it should rather be that this man would baptize him. The man insisted, saying, "Please, do it at this time, for all righteousness must be fulfilled." John then baptized him.
Andrew's mind was bursting with questions, not fully understanding all that was happening.
As this man came up out of the water, John suddenly called out. "This is He whom I spoke of, saying, 'After me comes a man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.' And I did not recognize Him before, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen, and now tell you certainly that this is the SON OF GOD!"
"The Son of God?!" Although Andrew didn't understand much, he surely knew what it meant when John said, "The Son of God." As Andrew was pondering these things, the man who was just baptized disappeared into the crowd.
Andrew's mind was in a turmoil. "Who is this man? Is He God's Lamb and God's Son? Is God's own son the only lamb which can satisfy His standard of perfection? Is this the only sacrifice which God can make that will take away the sin of the whole world? This will surely be the ultimate sacrifice. Is He God's Lamb sent to Israel for us?" Andrew found no rest for his questioning mind.
'Behold, the Lamb of God!' Those words thundered through Andrew's mind, piercing his heart, 'God's Lamb, God's Lamb, the Lamb of God!'
Andrew walked quickly from the water to follow that man of whom John had spoken. Andrew knew in his heart what that meant ... the Lamb of God, the Lamb of God..
See also the article, The Sacrifice.