The gospel of today is an outflow of last Sunday. This is predicated on the fact that the event of the baptism of Christ necessitated John’s declaration of Jesus as the lamb of God. We shall therefore discuss Jesus identity as the Lamb of God, his function as taking away the sins of the world, John’s conviction to have made such declaration and finally his (John) character towards projecting Christ. We hope to deliver these theological treaties in 10 mins, say Amen! (And the congregation shouted Amen! with smiles).
JESUS IDENTITY AS THE LAMB OF GOD
After his baptism and temptations and about to begin his mission, the gospel shows John paying spontaneous tribute to Jesus with a tremendous title which has become woven into the language of devotion especially during Eucharistic celebration- The Lamb of God. A term that was used 29 times only in the book of Revelation.
Among all the titles, why must it be an animal title? And even among all animals, why must it be lamb. The word lamb may sound gentle in English but in Igbo parlance, it is humiliating to call someone lamb (that is; I bu aturu). It is just as good as calling someone a goat.
However, there are four great pictures that contributed and inspired John to make such declaration. First and foremost, John was thinking of the passover lamb.The feast was not far away. This happened in Jn.1:29-34 while the feast of passover began in Jn 2:13. It was at the same time that John saw Jesus that he saw flock of lamb driven to Jerusalem for the passover feast to remember the blood of the slain lamb that delivered Israel from death. Remember the assurance “when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Ex.12:13). John therefore, declared Jesus as the lamb of God in order to assure us that Jesus Christ is the one true sacrifice who can deliver us from death.
Another great picture that enabled John to call Jesus Lamb of God is that, as the son of a Priest (Zechariah), he knows all the ritual of the temple and it’s sacrifices and the value of lamb for morning and evening sacrifice (read Ex 29:38-42). The Jews value the sacrifice of a lamb so much so that even at war (in the absence of food), they were doing sacrifice at the Temple until it was destroyed in 70AD. Such knowledge of Jewish ritual about the sacrifice of a lamb enlightened John for the declaration.
Far more significant, there are two great pictures of the lamb in the Prophets. Jeremiah writes: “but I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter” (Jer11:19). And Isaiah has the great has the great picture of the one who was brought “like a lamb to the slaughter” (Is.53:7). Both these great Prophets had the vision of one who by his sufferings and his sacrifice, meekly and lovingly borne, would redeem his people. Besides, in later times the picture of Isaiah 53 became to the Church, one of the most precious forecast of Jesus in all the Old Testament. Probably, John the Baptist was the first to see it so.
There is a fourth picture which would be very familiar to the Jews, although very strange to us. Between the Old and New testament, during the days of great struggle of the Maccabees, lamb was the symbol of great conqueror. Judas, Maccabaeus is described as lamd, and also Samuel, David, Solomon. Lamb was a picture of conquering majesty and power. Jesus as the champion of God who fought with sin and mastered it In single context, deserves best the title “THE OF LAMB OF GOD! “.
Summing up the above four great pictures of the Lamb, it could deduce the love, the sacrifice, the suffering and the triumph of Christ.
HIS FUNCTION AS TAKING AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD
This was his undertaking, as a mediator between God and man, to take away that which is offensive to God’s holiness and destructive to the happiness of man. He removed the guilt of sin and the judgement. He is “Ho airon ” meaning “taking away” – not a single but a continuous act. Not just the sins of Israel but of the world, of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Moreover, he does this by taking it upon himself as the scapegoat in Lev11:21. Our duty therefore is to use eyes of faith to behold the lamb of God, taking away the sins of the world both of Adam and of our “ancestors” which we faithlessly believe is against our progress in life.
JOHN’S CONVICTION FOR SUCH DECLARATION
What gave John the temerity to be convinced that Jesus is the lamb of God is very explicit in that gospel (Jn 1:29-34). In two different verses (31, 33), he said “I myself did not know him” but In verse 33 he added “the one who sent me to baptize 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 baptize with the Holy Spirit”. It was this mysterious event that took place during his (Jesus) baptism that made John to conclude authoritatively as in vs 34 where he said “Yes I have seen and I declare that this is the son of God!” so that we who have not seen might believe and Blessed are we who have not seen and yet believe.
JOHN’S CHARACTER HERE IS A BIG SERMON TO OUR PROFESSORS
I wish to conclude with the character of John. Where was he making this declaration? before his great disciples, John and Andrew. He wanted them to see him (Jesus) as the better option and switch over to him. He would say I am not worthy to undo the straps of his sandals. On another occasion, he added; he must increase, I must decrease. Not minding he has achieved his own success before Christ yet he prepared ground for him. As lecturers or Professors, many students whose stars we have seen, have we tried to prepare an enabling environment for them to excel or do we keep making things difficult for them? We ought to realise that hatred or forming obstacles to the success of others adds nothing to ours. Humble generous souls will give others their due praise without fear of diminishing themselves by it. What we have of reputation as well as of other things, will not be the less for our giving every body his own. Meanwhile, our greatness and integrity stand the test of time in such a humble and selfless consideration of other’s success. It takes faith to do this and this is what we find in John.