Summary: Year A. 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany, January 20th, 2002 Title: “The intimate and living connection between Baptism and Eucharist.” John 1: 29-42
Year A. 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany, January 20th, 2002
Title: “The intimate and living connection between Baptism and Eucharist.” John 1: 29-42
In a cascade of testimonials, John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God in verse twenty-nine, as the pre-existent one in verse thirty, and as the transmitter of the Spirit in verses thirty-two to thirty-three and Son of God in verse thirty-four.
John begins his work with a poem, called the “Prologue” by scholars, verse one to eighteen, interspersed with prose at verses six to eight and verse fifteen. These latter verses stitch the poem onto the main work. The ideas in the “Prologue,” are not found in the gospel proper. This is unlike Matthew and Luke whose “Infancy Narratives,” their equivalent to John’s “Prologue,” are overtures to their main work, introducing ideas that appear later. The interstices in verses six to eight and verse fifteen, are about the Baptist and how he is not the “light,” but only a witness a “lamp” as in John 5: 35, to that light and not the Messiah but only testifies to his coming and arrival. From the very outset John makes it clear that the Baptist is a witness, along with Jesus’ works, empowered by the Spirit, and the Father John 5: 35-37.
Verses nineteen to twenty-eight, emphasize the Baptist’s role in terms of who he is not. He is not the Messiah, not Elijah, not the expected, Moses-like Prophet. His baptism is not the real deal. There were people at the time who believed the Baptist was the One, and John wants to make clear that they are mistaken by using John’s own testimony.
Verses twenty-nine to thirty-four, emphasize who Jesus is. Again, John uses the Baptist’s own testimony. The Baptist, although not a baptized Christian himself, speaks for Christians as he attributes three “titles,” to Jesus that Christians believe capture his essential identity and mission: Lamb of God, Pre-existent One, and Giver of the Holy Spirit. Christians saw Jesus as the fulfiller of Old Testament hopes and dreams. Since “hopes and dreams,” are vague, they became “incarnate,” enfleshed, specific, in many images or metaphors. This made it easier to imagine, grasp, pass on to other generations, and live a life consistent with the values they capture. There were many of these hopes and dreams translated into images- King, Priest, Prophet, Steward, Shepherd, Suffering Servant, etc. Our text singles out three of them.
If the author and editor of John did not have a copy of Mark in front of him, he certainly had knowledge of the traditional teaching on which Mark was based. John, however, reworks this material and translates it into a higher key, moving towards poetry. The author - editor shows signs of having or being familiar with the material in Matthew and Luke in front of him as well. On the surface of John this cannot be immediately recognized. However, a deeper probe reveals how traditional his source material is. Thus, Jn begins his work with the Baptist as does Mark, his preaching and baptizing, and his encounter with Jesus, who is the heaven-sent, Spirit-endowed, pre-existent, Son of God.
In verse twenty-nine, he saw Jesus coming toward him: As in Mark, Jesus is introduced abruptly. To John’s readers Jesus apparently needs no further introduction. Such was the case with the Baptist as well.
Behold, the Lamb of God: Like all the titles applied to Jesus, this is a rich one. It involves no fewer than five layers of meaning: the first layer is the lamb in nature. Just as the lamb gives up its life to provide others with life to be eaten- as is the Lamb of God in the Eucharist, and gives up its skin for protection from the elements of evil, to be “put on,” as Christ is put on in Baptism, so does the Christ give his life that others may live.
The second layer is the lamb as substitute for Isaac. As God provided a lamb for sacrifice in place of Isaac, so Jesus is the lamb God provides to be sacrificed in place of others.
The third layer is that of the paschal lamb. Although the Passover was not technically an atonement sacrifice, it was considered that way by the people of Jesus’ time because the priests had reserved to themselves the slaying of the lambs for the celebration of Passover. They would see little difference between lambs’ blood smeared on door posts as a sign of deliverance and the lambs’ blood offered in sacrifice for their deliverance.
The fourth layer of meaning would be the lamb as Suffering Servant. All the evangelists applied the poem of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 to Jesus, especially verse seven, “like a lamb that is led to slaughter,” and verse eleven, “he shall bear their iniquities.”