John the Baptist is an interesting character for certain. He stood away from the crowds, in rough clothing, baptized and preached repentance. What the Baptist said counted for something and his opinions mattered.
Proof of that is John’s interactions with King Herod. John the Baptist was regarded as prophet. Many people sought him. These little details are important to remember when John calls Jesus “the Lamb of GOD.” Jn 1:29-34
That title, Lamb of God, had biblical significance and it caused people to pause and think. The first thought likely would be from Passover as the blood of the Lamb was sprinkled on the doors as a sign the chosen people were to be saved from the wrath of GOD. It marks their salvation, but it is a bloody sight. The lamb also was used often in temple worship, it was an offering to GOD. The lamb was an offering that was slaughtered. At celebrations it was a common custom to slaughter the finest lamb to serve at the feast. The lamb was often present at celebrations, but after it was slaughtered. It is food. The image is a celebration at a price. Look at the crucifix. The Lamb of GOD. The lamb is a feast, a meal, and a sacrifice.
I wonder what those present thought when John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus the Lamb of God? I wonder how many wished instead they proclaimed Him King. John was a prophet, declaring Jesus Lamb of God is prophetic. Proclaiming Him a lamb that takes away sins proclaims death. I wonder how many looked toward the ground.
One thing to remember is that John did not simply declare who Jesus was, John stood in the desert or by the river Jordan screaming “The Kingdom of GOD is at hand.” How easier would it have been for people to understand Jesus as King or military leader or rebel? That they could comprehend, but to follow someone to slaughter? The Lamb of God? Their journey had yet to begin. They had yet to be nourished by His word or know the depths of the Passion of the Christ, the love of GOD. They had yet to be nourished by the Lamb of God as the bread from heaven, the bread of life. They had yet to be nourished by the Lamb, through the Eucharist. Sacrifice, salvation, and nourishment. The Lamb of God. A Lamb that comes down from heaven. John the Baptist wasn’t wrong in giving Jesus this title but it does leave room for explanation.
There were many in that day that declared divine intervention, John was not alone. Many preachers or prophets had their followers. Many declared divine salvation according to their own formulas, a certain date or time or phase of the moon. An eclipse was a sign from GOD. Their views of that divine salvation was often dramatic, majestic, sudden and apocalyptic.
People often thought the divine would intervene in ways that escaped human logic. Many wandered into the desert expecting Gods intervention only to be slaughtered by the Roman armies. The people expected divine intervention, the Romans expected a rebellion. No one expected the Lamb of God. A rebel was easy to understand, even an apocalypse was within their understanding. A failed harvest is a sign from God. But a Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world? I add this only to give insight to those that first heard this phrase uttered. To understand their questions and their wonder.
Grasping humility isn’t the easiest thing to do. How easy is it to grasp a Shepherd from heaven coming down to mingle with His sheep. The Lamb of God. Is it easy to grasp that the Baptist points to the divine? That title is revealed in scripture, and it is those scriptures the Lamb will unlock, revealing to those that listen the LORDS divine plan. Through that Gospel the Lamb of God feeds His flock becoming for them food that comes from heaven. Through His death and resurrection the Lamb of God becomes that paschal lamb of sacrifice ransomed for the forgiveness of sins. This is the Lamb that the Holy Mass celebrates, and the one present in the Eucharist. “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.”
second Sunday of ordinary time A