The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, “Here is 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 ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
It seems that we have an extended week of Christmas theme. In fact, we have moved on to the Ordinary Time. This week is the transitional week from Christmas to Ordinary time. In this transitional week, we see two persons: John the Baptist and Jesus.
However, John invites us to look at Jesus: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (verse 29)” How familiar are these words to us. We say them at every Mass, but do we know what do these words mean? These few simple words really tell us how Jesus takes away the sin in what capacity.
John points out that Jesus is the “Lamb of God”. However, this lamb is not a passive lamb as most of us would imagine. If this imaginary was correct, we may ask, how could he take away the sin of the world? Therefore, the image of Jesus as the “Lamb of God” must be an active and strong one. How can John recognizes Jesus, “the lamb”, is powerful and active? We must remember that John comes from a priestly family. His father, Zechariah, was a priest. So, John knows something about “the lamb” in the scriptures.
The first aspect of “the lamb” seen in the biblical tradition can be found in the Book of Exodus, where the blood of slaughtered lambs was sprinkled on the door posts on the night of Exodus. So, the lamb’s blood gives life to others.
Another aspect of “the lamb” seen in the biblical tradition is well expressed by prophet Isaiah, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7).” This is another well-known scripture to us.
But John sees both aspects of “the lamb” in a different light. What he sees is that Jesus is not only “the lamb”, but “the Lamb of God”. How can John know that Jesus is “the Lamb of God”? It is from the way how Jesus reveals himself. Though Jesus is “the lamb” in the sense of the scripture, he is not self-pitying. Instead, he is full of confidence because he knows it well that he is the beloved son of God as affirmed by the Father through the Holy Spirit at the time of his Baptism, when he heard a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased (Luke 3:22).” This affirmation of his identity as the Son of the Father gives him the confidence to carry out the mission given by his Father because he knows that he is secure in the hands of God and that he is loved by God.
At this point, it is appropriate to ask ourselves: Whether we also feel secure in the hands of God and loved by God? How often we seek the love of the people? How often we feel insecure when we are different from others? How often we turn to people and things to satisfy our needs for security and love?
Apart from Jesus, John knows about these because he listens to God, who sends him to baptize with water, saying to him, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And John continues, “And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” From this short passage, we may ask: Can we listen to God as John did? Can we see what God has done as John did? Can we testify as what John did?
To listen to God’s words, to take part in God’s actions, and to evangelize the Good News are the basics of being a Christian. In these three stages, like the images of the lamb in the Bible, we move from passivity to participatory and finally, activity. Take John as an example. He listens to God’s invitation to baptize people with water. He takes part in God’s action by going to River Jordan to baptize people with water. In his baptizing ministry he meets Jesus and eye-witnesses God’s work. He then tells others what he has witnessed.
In every Mass, we are reminded of these three stages. We first listen to God in the liturgy of words, we then take part in the liturgy of Eucharist, and at the end of the Mass we are sent out to proclaim the Good News in our daily life. We should be thankful to God for inviting us to take part in his Kingdom. Amen.