I really like John 1:19 to 28 because it is like a little story, and then a not-so-little story when you realize what John is saying about himself and what he is doing: he is announcing the presence of God in the world. In John 1:29-34 the language gets more complex and confusing and mystical. For all I am a poet, mystical language can drive me nuts. Why couldn’t he just talk plain? Was this plain talk back in the day or were they all just as frustrated then? John’s gospel doesn’t show us the Baptist of Jesus the way the other gospels do, but tells us. Verse 32: “And John testified….” Who is he talking to in these verses? What happened that he is “testifying”?
But I’d better back up, I’m leaping ahead again, because verse 29 and 30 are so confusing and mystical.
29 “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
My study bible has a confusing footnote that basically says lambs weren’t used as a sin offering and the Passover Lamb was not about sin.
But we’re used to hearing Jesus referred to as a Lamb of God, it doesn’t sound strange at first. At first reading and even twentieth reading, I was just like, sure, Lamb of God, check.
Is God a ewe or a ram? Is God the Shepherd? What is the sin of the world? The world still seems pretty sinful so was Jesus a fail? Wouldn’t maybe a huge whale or elephant be better at stamping out the sin of the world? Why would a little lamb, a baby creature, a weak creature take away the sin of the world? How could a lamb do this? And what do with do with the whole innocent-and-pure imagery that so (in my opinion) hurts the church. The goal isn’t to be innocent-and-pure, which we can’t be, the goal is to be: followers of Jesus? Forgiven? Humbled by grace? Does innocent-and-pure imagery bug anyone else?
Suddenly here we are again, with the Bible having layers of meaning.
What we have is John the Baptist, the one sent by God to announce God’s presence into the space-time continuum we know as the real world, saying: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. That means it is important and true.
And joyful. I get a sense of such complete joy from John’s words. He was so frustrated that the priests and Levites weren’t asking the right questions, weren’t understanding the situation, that now he is delighted to get to the point, delighted to say the good news: Here He is, the one I told you about. Sin is about to be defeated, the world is about to be healed, the Kingdom of God is near indeed.
Maybe I don’t understand this verse very well, maybe I never will, but the joy and delight and good news seems to shine off it like rays of light. What do you feel? What might you have seen on John’s face as he said these words? Was he talking to us? A crowd? The priests and Levites?
Peace be with you!