Saturday, 15 January 2011

Lamb of God

GospelJohn 1:29-34

Seeing Jesus coming towards him, John said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I spoke of when I said: A man is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me. I did not know him myself, and yet it was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptising with water.’ John also declared, ‘I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven like a dove and resting on him. I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptise with water had said to me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit.” Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.’

The beginning of Jesus' ministry is, naturally, one event that all the Gospel writers are compelled to write about. And in all the basic details they are in agreement. Last week I felt that there was something of a need to find the Jesus who had suddenly 'appeared'. To remind ourselves that there was a need for the Christmas story of a baby born to poor and unremarkable people; of a life lived out of the limelight. Seeing Jesus being born, living and growing as an ordinary human being was incredibly important - to validate everything that he says and does (as a human being rather than a god playing at being human)  and that everything that we, ordinary human beings, try to do in his name. 

The Gospel writer, John, has a different image of Jesus. That Jesus is human is undeniable to John. John the beloved, who took care of Jesus' own mother. Who had seen, walked with, talked with, and been held by the man. It would not even occur to him that anyone would doubt Jesus' humanity - but his divinity?

John, after all his years of reflection (the only apostle who died of old age, in his bed); after all the years of watching the faith grow; seeing the need to rationalise what was miraculous; the seeking to separate the sacred from the mundane; seeing the questions and doubts appear; John cannot let us have any doubt. 

John's Gospel begins at the beginning, not the Nativity beginning; not the Tribes of Israel beginning; not the start of Jesus ministry beginning but The Beginning. The Beginning of Time and Light and Order. The beginning with the Word.

Jesus is not a figure created by the Father to fulfil a mission; Jesus the Cosmic Christ is 'with' the Father since forever; for forever. 

And it is to recognise this that John the Baptist is called into being. Remember, John's mission began in the womb-  his sense of prophecy, of 'seeing'; his sense of the Holy Spirit with him throughout his life. John's mission makes him a mighty prophet; the greatest the people had seen; people called to change; the tide asked to turn. The promise of a new life, a new way of life was being made. 

John the Baptist is a much different man in this Gospel; a mystic; a man knowing what he is called to do. There is no sense of unworthiness in his words; why should there be? He looks forward to the one coming after him. He knows his place and acknowledges the guidance of the Holy Spirit in everything he does. John is a tuning fork attuned to the work of the Spirit; to the coming of the Spirit's Beloved. He is a dowsing rod seeking out the Chosen One.

The gathering of those who wish to believe; who want to be changed; who will accept the baptism of water knowing that a greater baptism is possible. This is the beacon that draws Jesus near. That ignites his life; that draws him into the beginning - this new beginning - this journey of sacrifice.

John proclaims - you see a man but I see much more - the gift of the Father's own son.

John admits, twice, I do not know him. His cousin; he may have known the boy; have met the man; but this divine presence? John cannot know; can only be guided towards; his gift of seeing stretching into the past and the future. 

John sees Jesus; sees the sacrifice that is being offered. The lamb that was sufficient for Abraham's sacrifice is not enough for God. The Lamb of God - is God.



Anonymous said...

Wonderful thoughts, Word. John's Gospel is mystical, you are so right. And, we know that John, as the Beloved, as the one Jesus entrusted his own Mother to, was so special and loved by Jesus. The Prologue to John's Gospel is so rich, I could meditate on it for a lifetime. Thanks,

Margaret said...

Can you elaborate a bit more? So the only sacrifice good enough for God was God? I don't think I understand.

Word in the Hand said...

I think (and the thing about any theology or trying to understand God is that it is only what you- or I - can think - we will never know) is that God has tried everything he can think of to get back in union with us. We imagine that he 'threw us out' but knowing the way children's minds work I don't think God did. I think we threw ourselves out of Paradise because we couldn't/didn't admit that we were wrong (too busy blaming each other and snakes) and apologise.
The story of the Prodical Son tells us of God's merciful love - he runs out to the lost son before the apology is even aired, ready to gather him back.
God has no default position - God is Love - and that is the relationship God is trying to mend with us but we go along with it ultil we get distracted by something else- some golden calf or earthly ruler shouting down our ear. This is sin - the belief that there is something more important more important than God. And God has tried everything; every covenant; every blessed King or annoying prophet; every promise 'What more can I give you human beings to let you know how much you mean to me, to bring you back? What do you want? Blood?'
And there it is - blood sacrifice - something we understand. The Christ, the Logos, the Ordering Principal of the Cosmos says to his Father 'I will live as one of them and I will die as one of them - I will be with them and know them as a Divinity alone will never know them - and I will bring each and every one of them back to you.' And the Father says 'How can I ask you to do that?' and the Christ replies 'Because we Love them so much and we have tried everything else.'And the Father says 'Yes.'
I think....

Margaret said...

Claire: Your explanation does it all. That is probably the wisest reflection on Christianity that I have every read, and, as a mother, it just sounds right. Thank you.

Word in the Hand said...