THE LAMB OF GOD, WHO TAKES AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD
(A biblical refection on THE 2nd ORDINARY SUNDAY (YEAR A) – 15 January 2017)
Gospel Reading: John 1:29-34
First Reading: Isaiah 49:3,5-6; Psalms: Psalm 40:2,4,7-10; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:1-3
The Scripture Text
The next day he 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 ranks before me, for He was before me.’ I myself did not know Him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that He might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness, “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on Him. I myself did not know Him; but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34 RSV)
Today’s readings give us some biblical nicknames for Jesus.
In the first reading, Isaiah calls Him God’s Servant, and then proceeds to identify His mission. Through His Servant the Lord will show His glory, gather Israel back to Himself, and reveal His light to all the nations.
In the Gospel, John the Baptist dubs Jesus as the Lamb of God, and then he, too, goes on to describe the Savior’s mission. As the Lamb of God, Jesus will take away the sin of the world, baptize with the Holy Spirit and demonstrate that He is in fact God’s Chosen One.
In his Pelican commentary on this Gospel, John Marsh concludes that in this one word lamb, the evangelist had drawn together overtones of meaning from Old Testament prophecy, current Passover practices and the apocalyptic hopes of the times.
First, Old Testament prophecy. In Isaiah 53 the Servant is crushed for our sins and is led like a lamb to the slaughter. Nevertheless, because of his suffering he will take away the sins of many and win pardon for their offenses.
Second, current Passover practices. Every year the Jews re-enacted the Paschal story of Exodus 12. They slaughtered a year-old male lamb without blemish and sprinkled its blood on their doorposts. They then prayed that the Lord would pass over their homes as He destroyed their oppressors.
Third, the lamb in apocalyptic literature. In the book of Revelation the lamb is first slain as a victim for our redemption but then becomes a victorious conqueror who takes His seat upon God’s throne.
Now that we know where John the Baptist got his nickname for Jesus, so what? Let’s face it – the Lamb of God is not exactly a popular title suggesting strength, such as Richard the Lionhearted. But if we look more closely, we will see that the title Lamb of God does, in fact, stand for courage.
Although the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 went in silence to his sacrifice, he also went in strength and by his own choice. As followers of Jesus, can we take up our cross freely, with dignity, and in strength?
The paschal lamb was a means of liberation for God’s Chosen People from the oppression of Egypt. To be a disciple of the Lamb implies that we accept the challenges of liberation – whether from economic injustice or racial bigotry.
The Lamb of the Book of Revelation is a conquering Lamb – a Lamb who makes war on poverty and hunger, and who battles against immorality and corruption. We witness to the Lamb every time we fight for human rights, stand up for decency and protest incompetence in government.
The Lamb of God is more that a nickname. It is a challenge for us to keep on taking away the sins of the world so that it can truly be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Source: Fr. Albert Cylwicki CSB, HIS WORD RESOUNDS, Makati, Philippines: St. Paul Publications, 1991, pages 45-47.
Prayer: Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us. Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world; have mercy on us. Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world: grant us peace. Amen.
Jakarta, 15 January 2017
A Christian Pilgrim