We move into our reading of the gospel of John with an accounting of John the Baptizer. The story is a collection of episodes, each focused around the theme of testimony. Together they flesh out, and actually echo, the Christology (theologese for the way in which to see Jesus) present in John’s retelling of the good news.
Today’s story happens over three days, and there are three encounters. The third day/encounter begins in the next verse. Within these words Jesus – the One to Come – is described as pre-existent (v 27), the Lamb of God (v 29) and the Son of God (v 34). They actually echo the same descriptions of Jesus as in the first chapter of John: the pre-existent Word of God (1:1-4); the Lamb of God through whom comes redemption and sanctification (1:10-13) and the Son of God – incarnate among us – (1:14-18). John writes, developing a strong argument, a comprehensive foundation for why he ends his gospel account saying, “This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.” John 21:24
Filled with questions, these encounters between John the Baptizer and the religious leaders of the day revolve around questions of identity: who are you? Who are you talking about? Why are you doing what you’re doing? Underneath them all is the deeper question: “Who do you think you are? Who aren’t what we expect? You aren’t even what we want!”
The title “Lamb of God” reminds us of the lamb that God provides for the sacrifice for Abraham in Genesis 22. It brings to mind the lamb of the passover, whose blood was used to paint the doorways of the Hebrews as a sign of their belonging to God during the Exodus (Exodus 12). In the time of Jesus it’s believed that the image of the Lamb of God was also an apocalyptic image of God’s anointed one [the meaning of “Messiah”] who would come to overthrow the enemies of God’s people – more of a Rambo-style military leader than a sacrificial lamb. Who were they expecting? Who was John expecting? What kind of Messiah are we expecting today?
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation
- What shimmers for you in this passage?
- What word, phrase or image touches your life today?
- How have you experienced Jesus as pre-existent word?; redeeming Lamb of God?; and God-revealing, present-with-us Son of God?
- How have you felt let down by God in this past year?
- How do you long to experience God in Christ – in power, in redeeming love, in transforming presence – in 2018?