There is this story of an artist working on a church roof in Werden, Germany. And all of sudden his safety belt snapped and he fell. As fate would have it, at that moment a lamb was beneath grazing on the little grass that grew in-between the rocks. The artist fell on the lamb and crushed the poor animal, but the artist survived. The artist did a remarkable thing and sculptured a lamb and placed it on the roof of the church in gratitude. It stands there to this day. We begin this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time with the account from the Gospel of John where John the Baptist points out Jesus and identifies Him as the ‘ Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’.
As we know, in the Law of Moses a lamb was usually sacrificed in the Temple in expiation for the sins of the people. And in the old covenant the blood of the Passover Lamb as the book of Exodus chapter 12 relates, delivered the Israelites in Egypt from slavery and death. While in the new covenant the blood of Jesus -the ‘Lamb of God’ poured out for us on the cross cleanses, heals, and frees us from our slavery to sin, and from the “wages of sin which is death” (Romans 6:23). Again in the language of the Jews, the word ‘Lamb’ can also mean servant. Hence Jesus is identified as the ‘Suffering Servant’ spoken of by the prophet Isaiah (Is.53:1-12), who is to sacrifice himself for his brothers and sisters. And by his sacrificial death, Jesus remains the true Lamb that replaces the Paschal Lamb of the old covenant.
Certainly John the Baptist did not point out Jesus to his disciples for their mere admiration or for them to wonder. Obviously, not. It is rather for his disciples to follow Jesus, as the Lamb of God who comes to take away our iniquities and redeem us from our sins. If we read further in today’s gospel verses from Vs. 35 and following we see that, the very next day when John sees Jesus a second time and once again identifies him as the Lamb of God. At this point two of John’s disciples who were walking with him, (one of them was Andrew), left John and started to follow Jesus. Later, Andrew brought his brother, Peter to Jesus. By this John the Baptist’s role as a fore-runner and witness to Jesus as the Messiah is being fulfilled. John remains a pointer to Jesus. He is one who draws others to Jesus. And that gives him (John) inner joy and fulfillment.
In like manner, John the Baptist points out Jesus today for us to behold and follow HIM as the Lamb of God that takes away our sins. Good to know, by the virtue of our Christian commitment, we are all called to share in the same vocation as John. As we follow Jesus ourselves, we are meant to point out Jesus to others and lead them to Him and not to make others lose their sight of Jesus. Therefore, John’s identification of who Jesus is, as the ‘Lamb of God’ as well as his call for us to ‘Behold and follow HIM’, remains so important in the life of the Church and in our Christian commitment, that the Church keeps repeating this invitation at every Eucharistic celebration through the mouth of the priest, when Jesus comes down upon the Altar in the form of the Sacred Bread and Wine after the consecration. ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’.
This phrase remains words of personal invitation to each and every one of us, to look onto the Lord Jesus, commit ourselves onto him and to follow him in our life journey. Most often many of us take this invitation for granted. Perhaps because we have heard it time and time again, that now, it sounds like a routine call which requires no personal response or commitment. Yes, John the Baptist is the forerunner of Jesus and he comes to prepare the way for him. By identifying Christ as the ‘Lamb of God’ and leading his disciples to Him, John has really fulfilled his mission. John is, therefore, effectively telling us today that there is no other one who can save us from our sins order than the Lamb of God -Jesus. We should, therefore, wholeheartedly follow Jesus and place our life and trust in HIM as the author of our salvation who has come as the ‘Lamb of God’ to take away our sins. Give God the first place in your life and allow his principles to determine your decisions and life choices. (Bible References Is.49:3,5-6, Ps.40:2,4,7-10, 1Cor.1:1-3 & Jn.1:29-34)
Fr. Dominic Udegbe