By Pamela A. Lewis
Reading from the Gospel of John, 1:29-42
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” 35The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”
37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
It takes a lot of humility to step aside and let another person receive glory and honor, especially if you’re the older one who must let that spotlight shine on the newbie. John the Baptist is older than Jesus, but he knows that Jesus is the One, the Lamb of God, and is therefore completely deserving of homage. Here, John is not just a baptizer; he is the witness and presenter of Jesus, telling everyone that he has seen the truth about him and that he bears record of it.
In many of the paintings in Western art which depict John and Jesus together, John is often shown pointing to Jesus, his gesture signifying his declaration, “Behold the Lamb of God” (which later will become “Behold the Man,” uttered by Pilate). This is John’s great sentence that summarizes what Jesus’ work will be: to duel with the problem of sin that afflicts the human race. Content to make a way for Jesus, John also points away from himself, as he must decrease so that Jesus may increase, and his words encapsulate his humility in fulfilling his mission. It is likely that John always announced “Behold the Lamb of God” every time he saw Jesus, because this was the most important thing to be said about him.
Jesus is the Lamb, and the Lamb has various forms: the Lamb already sacrificed before the foundation of the world; the Lamb Abraham received as the substitute for Isaac; the Lamb of the Passover; the Lamb at the great banquet envisioned by John the Evangelist at Patmos.
Through the ages, people have come to know Jesus by way of introduction through someone else, who said, like John the Baptist and like Andrew to his brother Simon, “Behold the Lamb of God.” Let us also point others to Jesus.
Pamela A. Lewis taught French for thirty years before retirement. A lifelong resident of Queens, N.Y., she attends Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, and serves on various lay ministries. She writes for The Episcopal New Yorker, Episcopal Journal, and The Living Church.
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