Isaiah 49:3, 5-6/Psalm 39(40):2, 4, 7-10/1 Corinthians 1:1-3/ John 1:29-34
Rev. Fr. Thomas Oyode.
“The Lamb of God who takes away the Sin of the World”
Last Sunday, while we reflected on the theme of the Lord’s baptism and its significance to our Christian life, we took note of how the first and second readings touch on the universality of salvation. Today (Jn. 1:29-34), John who was sent to reveal the Messiah to us, openly says that Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
First we begin with an understanding of the Lamb of God in ancient Judaism, bearing in mind that Christianity developed from Judaism. In his apocalyptic writing, John makes mention of the Lamb that sits on the throne and who is the conqueror (Rev. 5:7, 17:14). It is in this context of Judaism that we can understand today’s gospel because it is clearly different from the atonement theology that we find in the Pauline epistles and the Johanine epistles (not Johanine gospel). In this context, Jesus is the Paschal lamb in the sense that all the Old Testament metaphors and Traditions regarding the Lamb (including the Temple, Moses the Leader, the Passover, the festivals) find their fulfilment in him. In this Johanine gospel context Jesus is the lamb who offers himself willingly., he lays down his life and takes it up again (Jn. 10:17-18). This, thus, indicates the divine ultimacy, the divinity of Jesus which John already outlined as the focus of his gospel in John 1:1-18. Only God has ultimate control over life. He is the fulfilment of the Passover, and for this reason John shows that Jesus died before the last Supper, unlike what we find in the accounts of the synoptic gospels, because he is the Lamb for the Supper (Jn. 19:42), a theme which Ratzinger, Benedict XVI (Pope Emeritus), makes abundantly clear in the second volume of his “Jesus of Nazareth”. Jesus thus becomes the willing offering, the self-offering for our salvation. He is the spotless Lamb for the Supper whose Precious Blood pleads for us before God.
Secondly, the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world. This is also very significant in the Johanine context. The greek here for world is kosmos. This word means order, world, people, universe. It also means the sum total of everything. In this sense, Jesus as Lamb is not like the lamb of the passover which was to free a given people in time., he is the One, the Saviour who saves humanity, the entire universe (including its material form), including the history of the universe. The death of Jesus on the cross, therefore, is salvation of the world, past, present and future. It is perfectly universal. This is also the sense in which John 3:16 is understood.
It is for this reason that we say that the theme of universality is further taken up in today’s liturgy. The first reading (Is. 49:3, 5-6) tells us that the servant of God, Israel (a metaphor which attains full meaning in Christ), is to raise God’s people as a light to the nations. Simeon confirms the fulfilment of this prophecy (Lk. 2:32) and Paul in the second reading talks of a people everywhere who have been sanctified (1Cor. 1:1-3).
This sanctification finds its fullest meaning in the Sacrament of Penance and the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Here, Christ offers his mercy for our daily renewal and purification. His Blood is the power for deliverance and liberation and protection. Each time we come to Mass, we celebrate the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, and the Priest, like John directs our attention to him in the very words used in today’s gospel: the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He does indeed. He does not judge us as the world judges us, no one knows us and our stuggles as the Lord Jesus does. Let us go to him and be with him, to embrace him fully and open up yourself to him. He comes with the power of his Mercy which heals and the power of his Blood that saves from every evil and sin. Today’s reading invites us to practice deep communion, sharing in the saving life of Jesus.
Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may the Lamb of God free us from sin and protect us from every evil. Amen
Rev. Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
WITNESSING TO THE LAMB OF GOD
Today’s’ Gospel reading presents us with the basic theme of Jesus the Lamb of God. Jesus is called the Lamb of God in Jn.1:29 and Jn.1:36. Every name of Jesus in the bible gives a clearer and a fuller understanding of who Jesus is. To call Jesus the Lamb of God means that he is the perfect and ultimate sacrifice for sin. In the Old Testament the people were already used to sacrificing lambs for the forgiveness of sins; they were also used the words of Jeremiah in Jer.11:19 and Isaiah in Is.53:7 that say like a lamb he was led to the slaughter. So, the Jews who heard John pointing to Jesus as the Lamb of God would instantly have a clearer understand of Jesus and his mission.
Again, the Old Testament reveals so much about this, in Exod.12:11-13 the slaying of the Passover lamb and the applying of the blood to doorposts of the houses is a beautiful picture of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Through his death we are covered by His blood, protecting us from the angel of ‘spiritual’ death. More so, in Exod.29:38-42 every morning and evening, a lamb was sacrificed in the temple for the sins of the people. These daily sacrifices, were simply to point people towards the perfect sacrifice of Christ on the cross. In fact, the time of Jesus’ death on the cross corresponds to the time the evening sacrifice was being made in the temple. Therefore, we can boldly say that Jesus Christ is the perfect sacrifice God provided as atonement for the sins of His people.
In the history of faith, God required animal sacrifices to provide a temporary covering of sins: In Heb9:22 the bible says “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness”. In Gen.3:21 when Adam and Eve sinned, animals were killed by God to provide clothing for them. In Gen.4:4-5. Cain and Abel brought sacrifices to the Lord. Cain’s was unacceptable because he brought ‘fruit’, while Abel’s was acceptable because it was the “firstborn of his flock” Gen.8:20-21 after the flood stopped, Noah sacrificed animals to God.
Beloved in Christ, Animal sacrifices have stopped with Jesus Christ. In Heb7:27 Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrificial substitute once for all time and 1Tim.2:5 says He is now the only mediator between God and humanity. Any offering of animal sacrifice therefore, becomes a sin. Some of us even though we have come to know this truth we still go about offering sacrifices; killing goats and fowls in shrines, rivers and junctions. In fact, when you see the number of goats and fowls still being offered in junctions you may be forced to wonder if we actually saw the Lamb of God John pointed out to us. The implication of these ills is that they defy us and make us available for destruction.
Beloved in Christ, our life should be like that of St. John the Baptist, who pointed out Christ to others. We should point out Jesus to others. To point Jesus out to others is to be a witness. As Christians witness is our primary business; every other ‘busy-body’ in Church is to serve this primary purpose. In fact as Christian all our actions witness for us. There are two type of witness. Firstly, true witness and secondly false witness. Whatever you do, you are witnessing. It is either a true witness or a false witness. A Christian who fornicates sins and bears false witness to his partner, a Christian who tell lies bears false witness to those around him, but to bear true witness is to make Christ available again.
The First reading explains this further, it tells us that Israel’s new mission is to be the light of the nations, that God’s salvation may reach the ends of the earth. That is to say that the experience of exile for the people of Israel was not completely negative, they came up with a mission to witness for God. Being a true witness is the only ticket we have on earth to be relevant in heaven. Today, God will not be accepted on earth except we become living witnesses. To perfectly, corroborates this, the Psalmist of today says: see, I have come, Lord to do your will. That was a statement of boldness, how many of us can boldly say that. How many of us can still say in the face of that temptation, see I have come Lord to do your will. Beloved in Christ if we don’t do his will we become spiritually ill. God bless you.
Sunday, January 19, 2020