1 John 4:10
In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us
and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
John’s Gospel differs from the other three when it comes to the day Jesus was crucified. The other Gospels describe Jesus’ last meal with the disciples as the Passover meal. But John avoids that identification, placing the death of Jesus in the afternoon prior to the Passover meal – at the hour the Passover lambs were sacrificed.
It is with the blood of the lamb, you remember, that the Israelites marked the door of their homes in the night that death swept through Egypt, touching even the house of pharaoh. The blood of the lamb protected them from the avenging angel. The blood of the lamb made possible their going forth into freedom. Those who had been captives went forth to be united in a covenant with God at Mt. Sinai.
Early in John’s Gospel, John the Baptist points towards Jesus and says: “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Something happens in that afternoon where the lambs give their final breath and Jesus declares “It is accomplished,” bows his head and breathes out his Spirit – something that unites what had been divided, reconciles what had been ruptured, mends what had been torn. The breach between God and ourselves is overcome. Our sins are atoned.
It is God who accomplishes this, not we ourselves. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” writes Paul. “In this is love,” writes the author of 1 John, “not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”