Second Sunday after Epiphany, 20 January 2020
Isaiah 49:1-7, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, John 1:29-42
Wednesday afternoon, after sweltering heat and smokey skies, the storm clouds rolled in and down came the rain. It was a time of rejoicing. Facebook filled with posts of ‘Rain, glorious rain’ and people documenting how much rain had fallen on their residence, farm or city residence. People were pointing to the wondrous joy of rain after such a long time of dry and heat.
Last week, in Matthew’s gospel John the Baptist hesitated to baptise Jesus but nonetheless he points to Jesus as the one who he is not worthy to tie his sandles and is greater than he. In the Gospel of John, the Baptist is the one who declares, ‘Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’ All four gospels identify John as the one who baptises Jesus and all four gospels tell us that the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove. Jesus identity is conferred on him by John, by the voice from the heavens and by the Holy Spirit descending on him in preparation for his ministry.
But what I would like to explore with you today is John the Baptist’s reference to Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God’. It’s an unusual title for a Messiah in Israel. The nation of Israel were looking and hoping for a Messiah who would come to save them from their rulers, the Romans. They were looking for a Captain of the army to lead them to victory. But this title Lamb of God suggest something altogether different. The Lamb of God, the spotless one, who takes away the sin of the world. Anglicans sometimes say the Agnus Die in their service just before communion is distributed. Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us. With these words, whether spoken in English or Latin embody the very heart of Christianity. Jesus is the one who comes to lay down his life for the forgiveness of sins. Why? Because of the greatness of God’s love toward us. In 1 John chapter 4, verses 9 and 10, we read:
‘God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.’
God’s love was revealed to us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God first but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for sin, specifically our sins. And what is the crux of sin? That we have been separated from God, we broke relationship with God and went our own way and yet God restores us to himself by the love of God through the coming of Christ into the world, through his incarnation, and death. At the heart of the message of the Gospel is the love of God. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that what draws us to Christ is not about the rules, but about living a life that is centred on God’s love for us. And so, continuing to read in 1 John chapter 4 verse 11, ‘Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another’. Jesus put it another way, in fact twice in two slightly different versions. In Matthew chapter 22, Jesus answers a pharisee with regard to the Law and replies that people ‘Love the Lord their god with all their heart, mind and soul and to love our neighbours as ourselves. In john’s Gospel during the last Supper, the words are slightly changed. Jesus says, ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you’. The emphasis changes from love your neighbour to love one another, and from love yourself to as I have loved you. And that is a very hard call.
Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, is then referred to by two of the disciples as ‘Rabbi’. Translated to mean Teacher. It is no surprise that this Lamb of God is referred to as Teacher. It is a term of utmost respect. Even today, middle eastern people will call their teacher Rabbi. I experienced this myself when I taught English as a Second Language. Many of my students would not call me anything other than Teacher and despite me trying to encourage them to call me Lynda, it was to no effect. In a culture where respect is paramount, the disciples recognised in Jesus, the Lamb of God, someone who would teach them. And it is exactly what find in John’s Gospel. The disciples as Jesus ‘where are you staying’. And Jesus replies, ‘Come and see’. They spend the whole day with Jesus. We don’t know what they discussed but I would hazard a guess Jesus had begun to teach the disciples about the Kingdom of God.
Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. And finally near the end of the Gospel reading today, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother calls Jesus ‘Messiah’ which means anointed one. In this passage Jesus is called by three important titles, the Lamb of God, Rabbi to mean teacher and Messiah.
And for us today, who is Jesus to us? When we sit down to pray, or perhaps tell someone else about how God has touched our lives. Who is Jesus to you? Is he teacher? The one who helps to shape your life? Is he the Lamb of God, the one who offers forgiveness to you? Is he the Messiah, the anointed one? The one who came to transform Israel and indeed the whole world, not through any effort of taking up arms. No, on the contrary, by calling us to love God and to love one another and to love as Jesus loved his disciples.