Lamb of God: context

Ecce Agnus Dei - Francis Hoyland

Ecce Agnus Dei – Francis Hoyland

This coming Sunday is the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – the cycle of readings in which The Gospel according to Mark is the principal source of our Sunday gospels. That being said, our reading is from the Gospel According to John. In fact, regardless of which cycle of readings (A,B, or C), the “Second Sunday of Ordinary Time the Gospel continues to center on the manifestation of the Lord” with a gospel from John (General Introduction to the Lectionary, 105). It is done as a means of transitioning from the theme of “manifestation” highlighted in Epiphany to ordinary time readings – I suspect – because there are some years when the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the Monday following the Sunday celebration of Epiphany (when Epiphany Sundays falls on Jan 7th or 8th). The reading for the 2nd Sunday ensures the theme is continued in the simple verse: “We have Found the Messiah.”

35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” 37 The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. 40 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42 Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Kephas” (which is translated Peter).

In the prologue the Fourth Evangelist presented John the Baptist as “a man sent from God” who “came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.” (John 1:6-8; see also 1:15; and later 5:33) This opening characterization sets the stage for the narration of John’s ministry in 1:19–34. John’s identity is further probed when he is called to account by a delegation sent by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. Three times John denies being a particular end-time figure: the Christ (1:20; cf. 1:8, 15); Elijah (1:21a); the Prophet (1:21b; cf. 6:14; 7:40; cf. Deut. 18:15, 18).

After thus affirming three times who he is not, John in the present passage, at long last, is telling his interrogators who he is. Even though he is none of the scriptural figures expected to make their appearance in Israel in the last days, John does respond in terms of a figure spoken of in Scripture. He is “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’ ” (1:23) featured in Isaiah 40:3. In this characterization of John, the Fourth Evangelist joins together fully with the Synoptic portrayal of the Baptist (cf. Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4). According to the Fourth Evangelist, John’s witness centered on Jesus’ role in the divine plan of salvation as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29, 36). At its very heart, the purpose of John’s baptism and ministry is described as being bound up with revealing Jesus’ true identity to Israel (1:31).

Each year in the Lectionary Cycle (A: Matthew; B:Mark; C:Luke) the gospel for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time is taken from the first chapter of the Gospel according to John. The purpose for this is essentially the same – following the baptism of the Lord, which reveals the relationship of the Father to the Son and to the Holy Spirit – this week’s gospel reveals the relationship of Jesus to the disciples. And perhaps no one does so more robustly than the Fourth Evangelist.

The fourth Gospel is a book of “signs;” namely things, events, and people who point to something else. Such “intermediaries” are generally necessary in this gospel in order to come to faith. Even Jesus is a type of intermediary as the logos – the “Word” or “Revealer” of God. The theme and purpose of the “signage” becomes clear in John 20:31 – “But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” This gospel itself is a “sign” to point us to the Messiah, who is a “sign” who points us to God. As O’Day (524) states about this gospel: “… the story of Jesus is not ultimately a story about Jesus; it is, in fact, the story of God.”

It is to this that John testifies: “Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.

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