William Barclay, a British theologian, tells the following story in his commentary on this Biblical text. He told a story about someone changing signs. That is, at an intersection of the road, one sign would point to the city of Seattle and another sign would point to the city of Tacoma. And the boy wondered to himself: How many people could I send down the wrong road if I changed the signs? Your very life is a sign post with a sign on it. Are you sending people down the wrong road or the right road?
Pointing toward Jesus, John the Baptist introduces Jesus to his audience, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
We continue to struggle with the reality of sin in the world and in our lives. Sometimes we are the wrong signs for others. Other times we are following the wrong signs. I have sin; you have sin; the world has sin. And people of the Church have sins. Everyone has sin.
The tragic deaths of innocent people from the shooting in Tucson, Arizona last week is still a shock for us and for people around the nation. We are trying to make sense out of this non-sense crime. The Church in Egypt are still recovering from the tragic deaths of 21 Christians after the New Year’s Mass killings; and yesterday, another gunman opened fire on a train killing 1 Christian and injured 5 others in Cairo. In the last four years, 34,612 people have died in drug-related killings in Mexico. The killings reached their highest level in 2010 with 15,273 deaths (Associated Press, Thursday Jan. 13, 2011). We have also heard of sins committed by priests in the Church. These horrible sins make us feel angry, disappointed, discouraged, fear, doubt and lost. We have seen the presence of sin around us. We see sin in the street of Gaza and Jerusalem in the Mideast. We see sin of abortions in the clinics across the nation and around the world. We see sin of murder, of robbery, of cheating and lying and abusing. Governments have established different laws to prevent people committing sins. We have invented death penalty in order to deter capital crimes. But no laws and no punishments, no courts can take sin away from the world.
When John the Baptist sees Jesus coming, he testifies, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Only Jesus has the power to take sin away. The sin we see and the sin we do not see, our personal sin as well as the sin of the whole world, social sin and ecclesial sins, Jesus is taking them all away. The readings for this Sunday call our attention to the identity and the mission of Jesus. Jesus is God’s faithful Servant and the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
The Servant from the reading of Isaiah echoes the same message as the Gospel story. At the moment of conception, God has called the Servant and formed him to be the liberator of God’s people, to bring back the tribes of Jacob and reunites the people of Israel. It is however, not enough to bring back only the nation of Israel. The Servant of the Lord is also to take the light to all nations. Through this Servant, God’s salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. This image of the Servant of God is fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus is the Chosen One who takes away the sin of the world, and he is to bring light and salvation to all nations and all peoples. Jesus assures us, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness” (Jo 7:12).
In the Old Testament time, lamb is used as a sacrificial offering. Jesus is the Lamb who sacrifices himself on the Cross as the offering for our sin and for the sin of the world. He affirms to Nicodemus, “As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, in the same way, the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (Jo 3:14-15). He continues to offer this sacrifice on the altar of the Eucharist. Every time we come to the table of the Eucharist, we hear the Church proclaiming, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Happy are those who are called to this supper.” We are called to this table to receive Jesus and to go out to testify for Jesus.
Someone share this beautiful story:
I watched a church in Atlanta honoring one of its senior pastors who had been retired many years. He was 92 at that time and I wondered why the church even bothered to ask the old gentleman to preach at that age.
After a warm welcome, introduction of this speaker, and as the applause quieted down, he rose from his high back chair and walked slowly, with great effort and a sliding gait to the podium. Without a note or written paper of any kind he placed both hands on the pulpit to steady himself and then quietly and slowly he began to speak....
“When I was asked to come here today and talk to you, your pastor asked me to tell you what was the greatest lesson ever learned in my 50-odd years of preaching. I thought about it for a few days and boiled it down to just one thing that made the most difference in my life and sustained me through all my trials. The one thing that I could always rely on when tears and heartbreak and pain and fear and sorrow paralyzed me.... the only thing that would comfort was this verse........ ...
”Jesus loves me this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong,
we are weak but He is strong......
Yes, Jesus loves me.....
The Bible tells me so.”
When he finished, the church was quiet. You actually could hear his footsteps as he shuffled back to his chair.