“Look, the Lamb of God!”

The following homily was preached at the Wednesday 6:00pm Rite II Healing Eucharist at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Lafayette, Louisiana on January 3, 2018, being the Wednesday after the First Sunday after Christmas.

Collect: Almighty God, You have poured upon us the new light of Your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. 

Readings: 1 John 3.1-6; John 1.29-34

“Look,’ [John] said, ‘there is the Lamb of God; it is He who takes away the sin of the world.’”—John 1.29

In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Amen.

We are still celebrating Christmas, today being its 10th day. But three days from now, January 6, will be the Feast of the Epiphany, also known as the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. This will begin the Epiphany season, throughout which we will see Jesus Christ manifested as the Word that dwelt with God from the very beginning and the Word Himself. And tonight’s Gospel lesson both reflects the message of the current season and foreshadows that of the next.

Seeing Jesus off in the distance, John the Baptist, Jesus’ forerunner, says to the crowd, “Look, there is the Lamb of God; it is He who takes away the sin of the world.” It is John calling Jesus the “Lamb of God” that is most significant, not just because it is a term found only in the fourth Gospel[1], but also for what it communicated to its first century hearers and, through time, to us.  

For many, hearing Jesus called the Lamb of God means that He is gentle and humble and good, like a lamb. There is truth to this, for Jesus Himself say

“Come to Me, all whose work is hard, whose load is heavy; and I will give you relief. Bend your necks to My yoke, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble-hearted; and your souls will find relief. For My yoke is good to bear, My load is light.” (Matthew 11.28-30)

But for first century Jews hearing John’s reference, it had little, if anything, to do with gentleness, humbleness, and goodness. What John was doing was referencing Jesus’ mission and destiny: to be the perfect sacrificial offering for sin, from which and in whom all of humanity will find its salvation.[2]

In these final days of Christmas, John referencing Jesus as the Lamb of God reinforces the purpose for which He came—Jesus was born specifically to die. As we earlier heard in tonight’s Epistle lesson, “Christ appeared…to do away with sins, and there is no sin in Him” (1 John 3.4). In the coming days of Epiphany, John’s reference will help reveal how Jesus is able to accomplish His appointed mission. Hear, again, John the Baptist’s testimony from tonight’s Gospel: “I saw the Spirit coming down from Heaven like a dove and resting upon Him…You will know that this is He who is to baptize in Holy Spirit…This is God’s Chosen One.”

In both Christmas and Epiphany, as well as throughout all the liturgical year, the message is the same.

“He entered His own realm…To all who did receive Him, to those who have yielded Him their allegiance, He gave the right to become children of God, not born of any human stock, or by the fleshly desire of a human father, but the offering of God Himself.” (John 1.11-13)

Let us, therefore, then be glad and give thanks unto the Lord, for, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who will take away the sin of the world, has come to us. We shall see Him for what He truly is, God’s Only-Begotten Son, His Chosen One, full of grace and truth. And as Christ will be raised from death in the splendor of His Father, we, through Him, will be able to set our feet upon a new path of life.[3]

In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Amen.

[1] Leon Morris. The Gospel According to John (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), p. 143.

[2] Bishop Robert Barron. Commentary on the Gospel for the Wednesday after the First Sunday after Christmas, Facebook.com, January 3, 2018.

[3] Romans 6.4

 

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