Here is the Lamb of God (2nd Epiphany A)
“Here is the Lamb of God”
2nd Sunday After the Epiphany (Year A)
January 19, 2020
John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
On the Church Calendar, we are now in the Epiphany Season. It’s probably the least appreciated season of the church year. But the Epiphany Season is wonderful. It’s about epiphanies (duh!). It’s about the moments in life when we realized something. Aha! Eureka! I get it now! So many of these stories are about these moments of realization, transformation, and conversion.
This Gospel story is about John the Baptist and his disciples having epiphanies. They had moments of realization about who Jesus was. John talks about his own conversion from unbelief to belief. He explains how he once didn’t know who the Messiah and the Son of God was. He knew his cousin Jesus. He had grown up hearing stories about his mom’s miraculous pregnancy and his auntie Mary’s even stranger pregnancy. Both he and Jesus were special boys were treated with extra love (and maybe a little spoiled).
But as he grew up, John received a call from God to break from his family’s tradition. God led him into the wilderness and do a different ministry from his father, the priest Zechariah. Instead of ministering in the temple, he ministered along the banks of the Jordan River. There he preached a message of repentance. He told people to turn their lives around and return to God’s ways of righteousness. Obey the Law; love the Lord; love your neighbor. And as a symbol of your conversion, wash in the river and be made clean. Get baptized and go and sin no more. John was doing that work of preaching and baptizing off the grid, outside the religious establishment.
John was criticized by the religious leaders, the priests of the Temple who knew him and his family, and the zealous reformers called the Pharisees. Both groups alike thought that John was too eccentric and too out there to be trusted. But despite this intense criticism, many common people flocked to John. They wanted to hear him preach. They wanted to hear him call out the corruption of the establishment. And they entered the waters of the Jordan and got baptized. John earned many followers, disciples who hung around and learned from this strange holy man who wore camel clothes and ate locusts and honey.
But John always knew that the movement wasn’t about him. He knew he was a forerunner. He was a prophet who was sent to prepare the way for another. His job was to get the people of Israel ready for the true Messiah, the Son of God and Savior of the world. His job was not to make himself popular but to figure out who this Messiah was and point the people to him.
Here, John finally figures it out. He has the a-ha moment. He has an epiphany. He sees Jesus and the movement he is beginning and something clicks.
John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’
John admits that he had to learn this. He didn’t recognize him at first but then when he baptized Jesus something changed. He saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove and remain on him. That was the proof from God that Jesus was the Chosen One, the Messiah, the Anointed One, and the Savior of the World.
And John summarizes this epiphany, this realization, with the phrase, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus is the Lamb of God. That means that he is the one to be sacrificed. He is the one who absorbs all our guilt even though he did no wrong. He is the one who saves us from sin when we couldn’t save ourselves. And Jesus is the Lamb sent from God for this purpose, prepared to be our Savior from before time and forever.
It’s like the story from Genesis 22 of Abraham climbing up on the mountain thinking that he needs to sacrifice his son Isaac to please God. He gets to the top and just when he is about to slaughter his son, God provides a substitute. God provides a suitable young ram, a lamb of God, who takes Isaac’s place. Even though we deserve to face the consequences of all the terrible sins of humanity, God steps in our place. God becomes a human being, a peaceful messenger of Good News, who decides to die for us even while we are still sinners. This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
Imagine the excitement and awe in John’s voice. He searched high and low, near and far, for this Savior of the world. And then he realized God had placed him under John’s nose the whole time. “Can you believe it, y’all? It was my cousin Jesus the whole time! He is the Lamb of God! He is going to save us from all we have done and left undone. He will lead us to holiness. He will destroy the powers of sin and death. Jesus can rescue us!
Good News of the Week:
Human beings can be pretty bad; we can be narrow minded and self-centered. But if we seek God, God changes minds and changes lives. God has already acted to save us all from sin. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And God is inviting us into this salvation.
The church is the community of people, like John, who have had an epiphany. God has opened our eyes to see Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus saved us 2000 years ago when Christ died and was risen and promised to come again. Jesus assures us of this salvation when we gather together for worship, especially for Communion. Jesus becomes present to us in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. This bread is the Body of Christ. This wine is the blood of Christ. This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! May God open our eyes and change our lives. Amen.