Jesus the Lamb of God John. 1, 29-42
Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Rev. Neli Miranda
Just some days ago, on January 6, we celebrated the Epiphany, the manifestation of God to all peoples. That day we received God among us through the baby Jesus, a poor newborn, lying on a manger. This image surprises us and challenges our human ideas about divinity and grandeur, because the manifestation of God is given in the poverty of a stable, not in a royal palace; not in power and richness but in smallness, in the midst of labor pains, in the simplicity of life, on the edge of poverty. Thus, the Divine Presence is always in our midst surprising our senses and challenging our patterns of thinking.
This Second Sunday after the Epiphany, the manifestation of God comes to us through a singular image: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! – proclaims John the Baptist (1, 29). A lamb? Such a contrasting image to our traditional messianic expectations!
Jesus grew up in Nazareth, a small and unimportant city in the region of Galilee. His father was an artisan, a carpenter, and maybe Jesus´ life began with doing some carpentry work. St. Luke testifies also that the young Jesus “increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor” (2, 52). It is great to know that Jesus did not increase in the arts of wars, neither in knowledge of weapons, nor in richness…
This is the one, of whom John the Baptist testifies today: “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him… This is the Son of God!” (1, 32 – 34). John had witnessed an Epiphany when Jesus came to him to be baptized. Therefore, he knew well whom Jesus was and introduced him to his disciples, using a very provocative image: Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
Among the Jews, the lamb was a living image with a great religious significance. In the Old Testament, we read of the paschal lamb, whose blood saved the Israelites from death (Exodus 12); also, about the lamb sacrificed every day in the morning at the temple of Jerusalem for the sins of the people (Exodus 29, 39). The prophet Isaiah also speaks about the suffering servant who is “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” and who “bore the sin of many" (Isaiah 53, 7 - 12). Finally, the book of Revelation tells us about the victorious lamb: “Worthy is the lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (5, 12). Therefore, these biblical images of the lamb directly brings us the idea of purity, innocence, obedience, humility, service, gentleness, sweetness, peace, sacrifice, death, healing, redemption, forgiveness and victory.
These meanings speak to us about Jesus as the Son of God, not as a cultic victim but as the Lamb of God through whom God enters our history and offers us reconciliation and salvation. In this way, Jesus reveals himself not as a traditional, powerful and warrior king but as one who comes to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many (Matthew 20, 28). So, in the midst of a world ruled by the cruelty of the Roman Emperor and Herod, and the oppression of the local Jews authorities, Jesus the Son of God emerged as a peaceful lamb.
By this unconventional introduction, John the Baptist guided his disciples to Jesus, the Lamb of God. With these “expectations”, they began to follow Jesus. They had nothing ensured except their own death. Nevertheless, they embraced the ministry of the Lamb of God among the people. Jesus taught them a new way of life: leaving behind a life based on self-centered and embracing a life based on self-giving. Thus, they found a new way of living, a new way to save this sick world by reconciliation and sacrificial love.
Jesus´s community learned from the image of the lamb. They did not seek for wealth, power or positions as rulers but strived to be servers, healers, peacemakers, and to bring God to the people. Indeed, their way of living stood in stark contrast to the brutal and inhumane ways of living among them. As a result, many of them were slaughtered as lambs for the prevailing system. Nevertheless, Life is more powerful than death and their sacrificial service bore fruit to this world.
The image of Jesus as the Lamb of God is not very popular or attractive to many Christian traditions. Thus, this image has been transformed into the image of Jesus as a king, a warrior, a ruler, a conqueror, a military, a murder of pagans… So, Jesus´ community has struggled during the centuries to maintain alive her faith in the Jesus who comes to transform and save this world without any violence.
Jesus was not a perpetrator of violence but a victim of the violent system that daily slaughter the innocents. Still, he emerged victorious from death. For Life is the response of God to this system of death. And, while this system continues slaughtering the innocents, The Epiphany of God will continue coming through a fragile child, or, through the tender image of a lamb, to remind us of the original essence with which we were created of God.
Jesus as the Lamb of God calls us to change our traditional patterns of thinking that lead us to seek for power, material wealth, fame, etc. Rather, Jesus calls us to stand in solidarity with the innocents and the suffering of this world. Jesus calls us to stop and not to think only of ourselves but to open our minds, our hearts and our hands to this world.
This time we are called to embody the Lamb of God in the midst of our world. Our world today needs salvation; needs more peace than war, more love than hate, more innocence than evil, more tenderness than cruelty, more reconciliation, healing, solidarity, service, humility, etc. Thus, we are called to live as lambs of God bringing peace and reconciliation on this sin sick world.
May the Divine Presence who comes to us in the simplicity of life bless us abundantly; May the Divine Presence inspire and encourage our ministry among the innocents and the suffering of this world! (color emphasis lr)
The Reverend Neli Miranda Lopez
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for Mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. - see welcome letter at sidebar - at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
Parking inside on the convent back grounds