Behold, the Lamb of God
Today we begin in earnest our trek through the New Testament for the year during “Ordinary Time.” I am going to try to go in historical sequence the best we can recover from the four gospels. Then we will go through the rest of the New Testament in the order in which it appears.
We saw John the Baptist on Sunday when we discussed our Lord’s baptism. John had raised quite a lot of curiosity and even expectation that he, himself, might be the Christ. You see, it had been four hundred years (!) since Israel (the Jews) had seen a prophet. Malachi, the last of the prophets, was about 400 B.C. So when John arrived on the scene preaching repentance and even baptizing, which the Pharisees obviously considered extraordinary, many people asked themselves, “Is he the one?” So the Pharisees, a highly respected group mostly made up of educated laymen and who were leaders among the Jews, sent a delegation to ask John if indeed he were the one.
In that day, there were thought to be three persons whom God would send to redeem his people: 1) the Christ, obviously; 2) Elijah, the one who was to prepare the way before the coming of Christ (Malachi 4:5-6); and, 3) the “prophet” foretold by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15). John denied being any one of the three but instead identified himself as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” of Isaiah 40:3. Jesus, however, did affirm that John was the Elijah who was to come first to prepare the way (Matthew 17:9-13), which, we must assume, even John did not know about himself. The apostles later affirm that Jesus was also the “prophet” (Acts 3:22; 7:37). John owned that he was not even worthy to untie the coming one’s sandals – the task of a slave in that day. The most important part is what John said about Jesus: “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the word.” John said that Jesus “was before me” and saw the Holy Spirit light on him as a dove, and remain on him. And so John bore witness, “This is the Son of God” who “baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”
All of this points to our Lord’s deity: “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” “he was before me,” “Son of God,” “baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit at his birth, but at his baptism received further affirmation of his mission to save his people. And now, seated at the right hand of the Father, he sends the Holy Spirit to call out a people from the world. He is the Father who loved them from eternity, the Lamb who gave himself for them, and the Spirit who births them anew.