The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’
I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”
And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.
I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’
And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
[John 1:29-34 NKJV]
My mother loved to see what she called “newly-minted lambs” appearing in the fields. Just like snowdrops and lengthening days, they heralded rebirth and new life. That at its simplest is what John the Baptist is proclaiming here, as we know.
The apostle John also heartens back to the Genesis chapter 22 story of the sacrifice of Isaac, when Abraham heeded the instruction of an Angel to substitute a ram caught in a thicket.
So, just as in the Old Testament, a lamb was slaughtered and burnt on the altar as an atonement for sins; in the New Testament, Jesus took the place of the sacrificial lamb, and took on the burden of sin for all.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
[Romans 5:8-11 NKJV]
In the painting, we see Jesus approaching — separated from the crowd by a halo of atmospherics. Most of the people are watching The Baptist or engrossed in the task in hand. Only one or two may be paying attention to their approaching salvation.
The resentment of discipline of any kind will warp the whole life away from God’s purpose.