The Lamb of God

Gospel John 1:29-34

In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah assures us that God will redeem his people through his servant who will be the “light of the gentiles,” and proclaim salvation to all people. “I will make you the light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth”

What do we mean when we say during the mass “lamb of god who takes away the sins of the world?”  In today’s gospel, John emphasized the Baptist’s positive role in witnessing: “Jesus is the lamb of God, the son of God.” What did John mean by this?

John was probably referring to the paschal lamb that was slaughtered for the Passover every year (ex. 12:11-13). We also read in exodus that the ritual sacrifice of a lamb took place in Israel every night and every morning. It was meant to expiate the sins of the people. In the gospel, Jesus is depicted as the one who expiates the sins of all, as the only one who can deliver men from sin. The lamb is also the symbol of a conqueror in the old testament, who destroys evil. Again the lamb is a symbol of meekness, of a suffering servant, who goes obediently and silently to his death. In Jesus we find the fulfilment of all these symbols. He fulfils all these roles.

A tourist visited a church in Werden, Germany and was surprised to see the carved figure of a lamb near the top of the church’s tower. He asked why it was there and was told that when the church was being built, a workman fell from a high scaffold. His co-worker rushed down, expecting to find him dead. But to his surprise and joy, he was alive and only slightly injured. How did he survive? A flock of sheep were passing beneath the tower at the time, and he landed on top of a lamb. The lamb cushioned his fall which crushed the lamb to death, but the man was saved. To commemorate that miraculous escape, in gratitude, someone carved a lamb on the tower at the exact height from which the workman fell. It stands there to this day.

The Christians in Czechoslovakia on Nov. 29, 1989 did precisely that. When communism fell in their country on that day and the church was once again free, they put a sign in front of a church in Prague. It read “the lamb wins.”

Today, we come together at the liturgy, to remember and salute another lamb. Each of us likewise owes him much. He too gave his life for us. But with one substantial difference, Jesus voluntarily surrendered his life to save ours. If the lamb who saved the German workman’s life had taken his face out of the grass long enough to see the fellow coming down, he would have gotten  out of the way as soon as possible. He might as well have thought “that’s not my job.” But the lamb of God is something else again. He willingly laid down his life for us.

As Christians we all share in the mission of Christ. We all belong to Christ, the lamb of God. We are freed from sin by the lamb of God. We Christians know, that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our faith. Often the accusation against Christians is – “you do not live as the ones that have been saved”, seems to be justified. Do we really look like the ones “saved” or “redeemed?” Do we look like those freed from sin? Do we live like those in whom the spirit of Christ abides? What counts is not mere profession of faith in theory. It is the manner of living, which is required.

It was three days before Christmas. The mother was busy with chores preparing for the festival so she asked her seven year old son to shine her shoes. Shortly with a proud smile he handed the shoes to his mother- all shining. His mother was pleased and gave him a R5 coin. On Christmas day she put on her shoes to go to church. She noticed a lump in one of the shoes. Taking it off she found the R5 wrapped in paper. Written on the paper in a child’s scrawl were these words “I have done it for love.”

This little boy teaches us what selfless service is, how we have to render service with love. Every Christian should fulfil the role of the “servant of God” and that, with love. The church is the community of the faithful, of person’s like you and me. We are the “servants of God.” And we have a mission to fulfil. This requires recognizing Jesus as the “lamb of God”, the saviour of mankind, and giving first place to him and his message.

Are we willing to renounce personal name and fame for Christ’s sake? Are we in a position to acknowledge him in the Eucharist which we celebrate now in such a way that we can truly say: “ it is no more I, but Christ lives in me.”?

To handle yourself, use your head, to handle others- use your heart.