Sharing the stage of salvation history – 2nd Sunday in ordinary time –John 1:29-34 ( Click the link to read the text)
The narrative of today’s Gospel is part of events that took place over three days (verses 19, 29 and 35) and at its heart is the person of John the Baptist. Central also to these texts are two sets of words, ‘testimony’ and ‘the Lamb of God’. The choice of this text within its larger context seems to be a ‘handing over of sorts’ by the one who was called to prepare ‘the way’ for Jesus who ‘is THE way’.
It is John who gives us an insight into what the agenda of Jesus, ‘THE way’, would be like and he does this by presenting Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God’ both in today’s text and again in John 1:36. To a modern day Christian mind the ‘lamb of God’ would be easily accepted as a title that we use for Jesus but its deeper connection would evade us. Not so for the first century listeners of John the Baptist; they were Jews and they got it!
When John the Baptist called Jesus the ‘Lamb of God’ he awakened a dormant memory that was embedded in the history of the Jewish people. It was in the book of the Exodus that the people were called to take a ‘lamb’ and sacrifice it. Now John was pointing to Jesus the Lamb who would once again be sacrificed for them.
But the idea of a sacrificial lamb was also prophesised by Isaiah in the fifty third chapter when describing the suffering servant as a ‘lamb’ who was led to the slaughter and as a sheep silent before its shearers. John was presenting Jesus as the fulfilment of the prophecies; this was the NEW EXODUS and Jesus was the NEW PASSOVER LAMB.
But John also presents him as the Lamb of God who ‘takes away the sins of the world’ (kosmos in Greek). Jesus is no longer the ‘lamb’ only for the Jews or for that matter the lamb who takes away the sins of the Church but the lamb who takes away the sins of the world. He has come for all and to be shared by all. This sharing is seen in John 1:36 where John points to Jesus for the second time and two of his disciples, Andrew and an unnamed disciple follow Jesus.
Where does that leave John? He embraces the second word that is integral to these texts – he is the testifier. Repeatedly John testifies ( Greek: martyr) that he is but a ‘voice’ ( verse 23) He was called to SEE (verse 32), he was called to HEAR ( verse 33), he was called to move from ignorance to knowledge ( verse 32-33)and he was called to testify to Jesus the Son of God.
The time has come for the curtain to fall on John’s ministry and he does this with no ill feeling. John becomes for all of us the example of letting go and letting God take over. His work done, his mission accomplished, he now lets the spot light fall on the star of salvation history while he fades away in the wings.
Fr Warner D’Souza