ARE CHRISTIANS LIKE SIGN-POSTS POINTING TO THE LAMB OF GOD?
The beginning of Jesus public ministry was formally introduced by John the Baptist whose specific duty was to introduce the Lamb of God. Hence at the appointed time; after his baptism, the person of Jesus was revealed by John as the “Lamb of God.” We use that term so often that it is easy for us to overlook the deep theology and the tremendous love of our God contained in his sending his Son as a Lamb among us. When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). How did John recognize Jesus? After all, he confessed that he didn’t know him before (I did not know him-John 1:33)—or at least that he didn’t know that Jesus was the chosen Messiah. What happened?
The biblical tradition stresses two aspects of the lamb. First, his blood is shed as a source of life to others. The model is the lamb whose blood was sprinkled on the door posts on the night of the Exodus and the Passover. Secondly, the lamb is not violent. This is well expressed in Isaiah 53:7, “Harshly dealt with he bore it humbly, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers, never opening his mouth”. Leaders who are “lambs” are prepared to suffer violence against themselves, but refuse to inflict violence on anyone, certainly on those whom they lead.
The Baptist’s reference to Jesus as the Lamb of God brings to mind several images. In the Old Testament, the lamb has the character of innocence and used for sacrifice for purification. The Baptist would have been referring too to the story of Abraham’s binding of his son, Isaac, in Genesis 22, where God provided the sacrificial lamb thereby saving Isaac from death. The Baptist, who had long been preparing to announce the Messiah’s arrival, would have had all these scripture passages in mind when referring to Jesus as the Lamb of God. Like other people of that time, the Baptist would have been familiar with the prophecies about the future Messiah, so he could have been referring to the servant of the Lord in the Book of Isaiah (53), where the servant was presented as the lamb who would bring salvation to God’s people by bearing their sufferings and sorrows.
‘He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, One of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, While we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all. Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.
Hence since Jesus was to be wounded for our sins, bruised for our iniquities and scarificed for our salvation He is therefore our lamb and the lamb of God. He has taken upon himself the chastisement that makes us whole. This is how John the Baptist views Jesus when he says, “Look, there is the Lamb of God.”
In the visions of John in Revelation a book is brought out sealed with seven seals. The book is God’s plan for mankind. But the plan is sealed. “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”, a voice cries out. But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to examine it. The visionary sheds many tears because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to examine it. But then one of the elders said, “Do not weep. The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed, enabling him to open the scroll with its seven seals.” Then the visionary saw standing in the midst of the throne and the four living creatures and the elders, a Lamb that seemed to have been slain. Only the lamb was worthy to once more restore God’s plan for mankind.
John the Baptist saw Jesus and proclaimed, “Look, there is the Lamb of God. He is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus’s disciples would be given the power of God to transform the world. They would be given the power to create a new world, a world with a new way of living, the way of sacrificial love. When we say or sing, “Lamb of God” we are remembering what Jesus did for us and what he has empowered us to do for others. We are remembering his sacrifice to make God’s love real on earth. We are reminding ourselves that joining Jesus in sacrificial love is the only way we can be his followers.
In the context of the Holy Mass, we are reminded of the words spoken by the priest before the distribution of Holy Communion at Mass: ‘This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.’ We remember the details of the apparition of Our Lady at Knock in Ireland, where the central figure in the apparition was the Lamb of God, the innocent victim suffering for our sins, at the altar surrounded by angels, with Mary, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist prayerfully looking on. He is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world (verse 29). We say these words at every Mass, and we have become so accustomed to them that they no longer strike us. We can take the opportunity of this Sunday’s reading to let them come alive for us.
John the Baptist found his mission here on earth to be the forerunner of the Lamb of God to the world. His mission is not different from the mission of every Christian. We are to point out the Lamb of God to the world. There is nothing greater that any of us can do in our lives than point Christ out to others, first to our children who must follow us in pointing to the Lord for others to find him, and then to all who meet us.
Traditionally, a sign post points to an external reality/place remote from itself while a symbol contains in itself what it signifies/points. Remember the sign post to your house never enters your house. It only stays outside and by mere pointing, lead others to your house. We ought to live beyond mere pointing at the lamb to leading people to the lamb in our lives. Remember people no longer listen to preachers but to those who in their actions preach the Gospel to the people. Here comes a puzzle for us. Are we mere sign post pointing the lamb to others? Or do we show the way and take the lead to the lamb? These are questions for us today as we end the readings from John’s Gospel and begin the readings from the proper of Year A that is Matthew’s Gospel from next sunday.