The Lamb of God

3 January 2006: Days before Epiphany
John 1, 29-34: The Baptist Witnesses before the Disciples.

We have different ways of telling a story. Mark tells the story of the baptism of Jesus straightforwardly. Matthew and Luke redirect claims that Jesus was greater because it would be a difficult claim when it was the Baptist who baptized him. John on the other hand continues to witness the story by a flashback and only recalls the coming of the Spirit upon Jesus and stays with Him.

The Baptist calls Jesus the “Lamb of God who takes the away the sin of the world”. What does John mean? There are three contexts to understand this. First, it may refer to the Jewish picture of the triumphant Lamb who will destroy evil in the world at the last day. Second, it may be likened to the Paschal Lamb of the Passover who, by his death, delivered the world from sin. The Jews believed that the lambs offered in the Temple carry their sins away. In other words, instead of them being killed for their sins, the lambs are offered in their place. Originally, it was the blood of the lamb that delivered the Israelites from the angel who destroys when they were in Egypt. Finally, it may mean that Jesus is the servant lamb of Isaiah (Isaiah 55,7), who was being led without complaint like a lamb before the shearers, who ‘bore the sins of many and mediates for those who have sinned’.

Nonetheless, John confirms seeing the Spirit ‘descending like a dove from the sky and remaining’ in Jesus. The Dead Sea Scrolls speaks about this, “God will ... cleanse human being though a holy spirit from all wicked practices, and will sprinkle on them a spirit of truth as purifying water.” Thus, when Jesus baptizes with the Spirit, we are cleansed from our sins and we are purified.

Today, we are therefore asked again to see another angle in our knowledge of Jesus. First, what personal title would you give to Jesus? If John called Jesus the Lamb of God, the Son of God, what would you call Jesus? What are your experiences that would support such a title?

Second, we are asked to look once again at all our wicked practices, and ask Jesus to send His Spirit into that aspect that needs growth. Rumer Godden said that there is an Indian belief that everyone is a house of four rooms: a physical, a mental, an emotional and a spiritual room. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time, but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not complete. Thus, what room needs the visit of the Holy Spirit?

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