Lamb of God

Lamb of God

Second Sunday of Epiphany

Readings: Isaiah 49.1-7; Psalm 40.1-11; 1 Corinthians 1.1-9; John 1.29-42 (view all)

Having just concluded a period of celebration of the amazing and wonderful birth of Jesus…

His virgin birth.

The angels announcing his birth to the very startled shepherds.

The three wise men who had travelled a vast distance over a long period of time, guided by a star.

The need for his parents to flee with him to Egypt for his own safety, when he was but a I few days old.

…the gospel passage set for today tells us about the period when he was about to embark upon the work for which he had been sent to our world by God, his Father. 

The mystery and wonder of which, together with his wonderful message, should keep us excited, happy, secure and trusting in the Trinity all the days of our lives. Speaking for myself I find that none of the power of Christ’s words, life and message has been lost over the years since I first heard everything as a very young child.

The passage tells us much about Jesus, John the Baptist and Andrew the brother of Simon Peter.   

It tells us about the second day in what was to be an important week in the life of Jesus. By this time his baptism and temptations were past and he was about to set his hand to the work for which he was sent to our world by his Father. John the Baptist is paying Jesus a spontaneous tribute. His words leave us in no doubt that he knew exactly who Jesus was by this time and the awe and wonder in which he held him. As you probably remember, when Christ appeared before him and wanted to be baptised by him he said that it should be the other way around for Christ should have been baptising him.

In verse 27 of this chapter, John says of Jesus,

He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.

Here he is recorded as calling him by that tremendous title which has become woven into the very language of devotion – The Lamb of God. So what was in John’s mind when he gave Jesus this title?

It is considered that it may well have been that he was thinking of the Passover Lamb for the Passover Feast was not far off. We all know how special the Passover Lamb was in the history of the Jewish nation. 

Alternatively, as John was the son of a priest he would have known that every morning and every evening a lamb was sacrificed in the temple for the sins of the people. So long as the temple remained, this sacrifice was made daily – even when the people were starving in war and in siege. As such John may well have been saying that although the lamb is sacrificed twice daily, it was only Jesus whose sacrifice could deliver men from their sins.

A third possibility is that in the Old Testament there are two great pictures of the lamb given by the prophets. Jeremiah writes,

But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter.

Jeremiah 11.19

Similarly, in Isaiah there is again the great picture of “the one who is led to the slaughter” – Jesus (Isaiah 53:7).

Certainly this picture of Jesus by Isaiah became to the early church one of the most precious forecasts of Jesus in the Old Testament. It may well have been that in giving Christ this title he could have been the first to realise that Jesus was the person about whom Isaiah was talking about. 

In the bible there is sheer wonder in this phrase the Lamb of God.

It certainly haunted the writer of Revelation for he uses it 29 times. For all of us who know the full story of what happened to Jesus, I guess the phrase sums up the love, the sacrifice, and the triumph of Christ.

Although John was a relative of Jesus he is saying that he did not know initially who Jesus was, but that he does now know what Jesus was. It had suddenly been revealed to him that, in fact, Jesus was none other than the son of God. 

Once again John is pointing out that he himself is nothing other than being the one to prepare the way for Jesus.

As it is recorded in this passage, John then goes on to tell the two disciples who were with him, what had happened when he baptised Jesus.

I have often wondered at what point in his life Christ realised that he was the son of God. And at what age did he realise what he had been sent to our world for. We know the vital importance which the Holy Spirit became in the lives of the disciples, for at Pentecost each one was transformed from a terrified individual who was afraid that they too would be crucified like their master, to people who no longer had thoughts about their own lives, but become much more Christ like. The Holy Spirit empowered them for the work which lay ahead of them.  

Because of his amazing birth I often wondered, when I was young, whether Christ had the Holy Spirit within him from day one or thereabouts. But as we know from the recordings of his baptism it was at that point the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove and remained. 

As far as the Fathers of the early church was concerned, the Holy Spirit could only be seen by the eye of the mind and soul. But John saw it as it descended upon Jesus and heard the voice of God saying to him,

He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit.

In talking about Jesus like this, in reality John is virtually inviting two of his disciples to leave him and to follow Jesus. Jesus tells us that one of the important things about following him is to forget ourselves. John certainly fitted into this category. He knew his place and how so much more important Jesus was than him and that his task was merely to prepare the way of Jesus and to tell people about him.

Jesus speaks to these disciples and asks them what they are seeking. Everything which Christ did, he tells us, was to do what his Father wanted him to do, and in approaching the disciples in this way he is doing what his Father would have wanted. For it is considered that before we come to know God and form a relationship with him via Jesus, God has come to us first. As such God seeks us out in one way or another so that we may be aware of him and his love for us.

If you think about how you came to know God in Christ, it was because God had in some way made himself known to you. You might not have realised this at the time of course. There are many ways in which could have happened. It could have been through the pages of scripture, which we may have started reading at home. 

Or it may have been that you first heard scripture in church. But certainly, in whatever way God in Christ made himself known to us we can rest assured that he loves each and everyone of us, as Christ himself told us, and this applies no matter how unworthy we may feel about his love for us. 

The fact that John recorded this as happening at approximately four o’clock in the afternoon, indicates that he himself may well have been one of the disciples referred to in this passage. The disciple who is mentioned by name is Andrew. Interestingly enough Andrew was someone who like John the Baptist was happy to take second place. Again and again he is identified as Simon’s brother. It is clear that he lived under the shadow of his brother. People might not have known who Andrew was, but they certainly would have known Peter.

Taking second place is often not easy for some people to accept, but Andrew shows the kind of person that he was in so easily taking second place in so many instances. The passage tells us that Andrew went to find his brother and to take him to meet Christ. 

The passage ends with Christ showing how good he was at weighing people up for he says to Simon Peter that, 

You will be called Cephas which is the same name as Peter and which means a rock.

Amen.