Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Lamb of God who Takes Away the Sin of the World

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 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.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. [7] 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus [8] was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter [9]). (John 1:29-42 (ESV)
“The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this and they followed Jesus.”
It’s always a peculiar thing to me that after all John has to say concerning Jesus that John ever has any disciples left to take care of him in prison or go as Jesus if he is the one they should be waiting for or should they look for another. When Jesus comes, John’s purpose in life is all washed up. He was to prepare the way of the Lord. The Lord is now here. Here is the one who ranks before him because he was before him. John hints at the divinity of Jesus, his preexistence as the Son of God begotten from all eternity before he was born of the Virgin Mary. John points at his death and sacrificial nature of Christ’s existence by calling him the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.  Finally, this will be the hint that gets two of his disciples to break rank and follow Jesus. “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
Agnus Dei is how you say that in Latin, the Lamb of God. It doesn’t point to a glorious end. For first century Jews concerned with scripture, it would bring to mind a couple images. It would bring to mind the suffering servant of Isaiah of whom it was said that he would be silent like a lamb brought to slaughter, and that he would bear the sins of many. It would bring to mind the Passover lamb that saved the Israelites from the angel of death in Egypt. It would be a graphic memory for all of them who had gone to the temple year after year in Jerusalem to celebrate the feast. They would bring their choicest of lambs to the temple in long lines, Father and son, perhaps with the one lamb the family had, raised for this purpose only, almost like a pet kept in the backyard. One of those bummer lambs you see in the classifieds. Not sure how they would have bottle fed a lamb in first century Palestine, but I’m sure someone figured it out. There would be many of them on the temple mount. One by one pulled down to the pavement, and without hardly a bleat the throat slit and the blood collected, tossed on the altar, and running red through the gutters cut into the stone for that purpose. The orchards below the temple always had the choicest of fruit. I don’t know if you have ever seen a lamb slaughtered, but it is rather uncanny how little a fight, how peaceful the whole thing goes off. It would have been the image brought to mind for the disciples of John. The image that would find fruition on the cross, when before the Sanhedrin, before Pilate, before Herod he would make no protest.
Perhaps that is why the rest keep their distance, and those that follow, follow apprehensively.  “Behold the Lam of God, and the two disciples that heard him say this followed Jesus.” But it would be Jesus who would turn and tell them to come. It would be Jesus that would choose them, and show him where he stayed. “Come and you will see.” He says.
What choice do we have? “Come and you will see.” It’s really the point of this text selection for this Sunday, this second Sunday in Epiphany. The season that emphasizes the earthly ministry of Jesus, before he turns towards Jerusalem to play the part of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world during Lent. Come and see. Come and you will have your own Epiphany. Or as it says elsewhere, Seek the Lord while he may be found. It is what the disciples are doing. What are you seeking? The Lord! The one who ranks before John because he was before John, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  But the disciples got to follow, watch from a distance until Jesus told them to come.
Jesus tells you to come. It was a journey that began with your baptism. There Jesus made you his disciple. There he discipled you, as his own disciples followed through on the great commission. “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all I have commanded you.” And so they his disciples, the church, made you a disciple. But they were the words of Jesus that said come and you will see. Where do we go? We go where Jesus promises to be, we go to where Jesus stays. This is not a mystery.
Where two or three are gathered in my name, he says. And so we begin the service with his name, and are gathered in it, and here he is for us and with us, and here he stays. And then it is no longer we who come to him, but he who comes to us. In his word, all of scripture that testify to Him alone. Then it is he who comes to us in the bread and the wine, the body and blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, our paschal lamb that must be eaten. It’s a wonderful thing. Because then he follows us home, to be with us day in and day out around the breakfast table before school and work in family devotions, at lunch when we break bread with coworkers and classmates and console them in hardships with the words of Christ, that perhaps they too like these disciples of John would be inspired to follow Jesus to where he stays. Then he follows us and stays with us in all we do, dwells within our hearts and permeates all we touch. And then the Lamb of God who Takes away the sins of the world blesses all that we do, forgives all that we fail, and sanctifies all that we touch, whether at work or at play, at home or away.

Now the peace of God that Surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

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