by Fr. Tommy Lane
When John the Baptist saw Jesus he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) What does he mean by describing Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world?” Describing Jesus as the Lamb of God had lots of meaning. It recalls the Passover Lamb.
On the last night in Egypt, the Hebrews killed a lamb and put its blood on the doorframes of their houses as protection from the angel who would pass through Egypt that night taking the firstborn of the Egyptians. (Ex 12:3-14)
They used a branch of hyssop shrub to smear its blood on the doorframes of their houses (Ex 12:21-23)
Not a bone of the slaughtered lamb was to be broken (Ex 12:46).
What does all of this have to do with Jesus? The Gospel of John describes Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Passover Lamb. In the Old Testament a lamb’s blood saved the Hebrews from disaster before they left Egypt and now the blood of Jesus, the New Passover Lamb, saves us from our sins.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus dies on the cross one day sooner than in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. In John’s Gospel, Jesus dies on the cross while the Passover lambs are being slaughtered in the temple by the Jewish priests. John’s Gospel wants us to understand that Jesus has replaced the Jewish rites and liturgies of the Old Testament.
When Jesus was dying on the cross John tells us, “A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth.” (John 19:29). This recalls the hyssop being used by the Hebrews to smear the blood of the Passover lambs on the doorframes. (Ex 12:21-23)
Finally no bone of Jesus was broken during all his Passion.
“Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the sabbath (for that sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him; but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.” (John 19:31-33)
This recalls the Passover Lamb not having any of its bones broken. (Ex 12:46)
The Gospel of John wants us to understand that God has done a new thing for us in Jesus. There is a totally new way of relating to God in Jesus. Now the way to the Father is through Jesus. All the ceremonies and sacrifices of the Old Testament have come to an end. Now Jesus is our way to the Father. Just as the lamb’s blood spared the Hebrews before they left Egypt so now it is the blood of Jesus that saves us from our sins. Therefore John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
When we read the first reading today (Isa 49:3, 5-6) in combination with the Gospel we could see Jesus as the servant spoken of in that reading. Jesus is indeed the light of the nations that salvation might reach the ends of the earth. (Isa 49:6) In the second reading Paul writes to the Corinthians that they are “…sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (1 Cor 1:2) You can read that as written to you also; you are “…sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” We have been sanctified by Jesus the Lamb of God and now with the Church all over the world we call on the name of the Lord Jesus. Jesus is our salvation. Jesus is the light of the nations.
God has done a new thing for us in Jesus. There is a totally new way of relating to God in Jesus. Now the way to the Father is through Jesus. Take Jesus as your best friend. He is the Passover Lamb whose blood was shed to save you. We are reminded of this at every Mass before receiving Holy Communion when the priest holds up the Sacred Host and proclaims,
This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of
Happy are those who are called to this Supper.
We respond in faith,
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, Lamb of God, we thank you for dying for us and shedding your blood to take away our sins. May we live as your faithful followers.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world. Have mercy on us.
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2008
More homilies for the Second Sunday of Year A
Related Homilies: Baptism of Our Lord (First Sunday)
On Jesus taking away the sins of the world see homilies on the Sacrament of Reconciliation