“John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” from the Gospel according to St. John 1:29-41
The Gospel reading today contains a number of important statements. These statements influence how we talk about God, or our theology.
First, let’s look at the statement of St. John the Baptist. “Behold the Lamb of God,” he writes. To those unfamiliar with the Old Covenant between the Lord and Abraham, Issac and Jacob, this might be confusing.
Why would John call Jesus the Lamb of God? As students of the Bible, we know that a lamb is very important to the rituals proscribed by the LORD for worship.
In the book of Leviticus, the LORD tells Moses about the appointed feasts that must be kept by the people. There is the weekly Sabbath, on which no work will be done, the Passover, and the feast of unleavened bread, during which the people are to present an offering by fire to the LORD for seven days.
In the previous chapter, there is a list of proper offerings to be made by fire. There are bulls, and goats, and sheep, and the lamb, all of which must be male and without blemish or mutilation.
Starting in chapter 23, verse 9, the LORD tells Moses that when the people make a harvest of the land, they shall offer a sheaf of wheat to be waved over the fire, and they should offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the LORD. In later verses, there is an offering that involves seven lambs, and in another two lambs.
In verse 26, the LORD tells Moses that there will be an annual Day of Atonement, which we know as Yom Kippur, where there will be more offerings to the LORD by fire. This presumably includes a lamb or two.
I think you get the idea. The lamb is very important to the feasts of the LORD.
Now, here is St. John telling the people, just out of the blue, when he sees Jesus, Behold the Lamb of God. This lamb is offered by the LORD God to take away the sins of the world.
Another translation states that the Lamb will bear the sins of the world, not just take them away temporarily, but will take them, and bear them, and will be sacrificed with them.
The letter to the Hebrews, chapter 10, verse 11, says, “every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take aways sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”
It is important to note that there was a single sacrifice, a single offering for sins. In his one act of dying on the cross, Jesus bore the sins of the world, and paid the price for them. This is the good news!
St. John goes on to testify about Jesus, that he saw the Spirt descend from heaven as a dove and it remained on him. St. John says the one who sent him, which refers to the Father, told him that the one on whom the Spirit remains is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. This baptism with the Holy Spirit is important to us, as it is when we are marked as Christ’s own forever. We become the anointed children of the Father.
St. John goes on to say that this Jesus is the Son of God. For the Jews of that time, that was an amazing thing to hear! Later on, some would cast doubt on Jesus, despite the signs that he did, and say, “we know his family.” He can’t be the Son of God!
But indeed he is the Son of God, prophesied on the Old Testament, For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary.
He is the Word made flesh, as St. John said. But even though he is God, he did not act like he was above everybody else. He humbled himself, and usually referred to himself as the Son of Man, which acknowledges that his mother Mary gave him flesh, so that he could be human.
In the second part of today’s Gospel reading, we heard that the next day, St. John testified again saying, “Behold, here is the Lamb of God!” Right away, the disciples began to follow him. They knew he was more than a mere mortal, though they were not certain of anything.
They do acknowledge him as a Rabbi, or teacher, a high honor in their culture. When asked where he was staying, Jesus said something so simple, yet profound in its implication; Come and see.
“Andrew first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).”
Do you want to be a follower of Jesus? I do, and hope you do, too. I will do my best to represent him to you, but you really just need to look inward. The Spirit of Christ is dwelling in you, and he wants to lead you to a more intimate relationship with him.
How to do that? Simple. Come to church, and receive the sacraments Say your prayers and read your bible. Practice the ways of the Lord, and be obedient to his commandments. Care for the widows and orphans, the poor and the oppressed. Then you will come to realize that Christ is within you, guiding you, and protecting you. Then listen to Jesus say to you, “Come and see.”
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.