John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Since I sat down to write, the silhouette of a giant blue spruce has slowly emerged against the lightening sky through the kitchen window. I knew the tree was there, but I couldn’t see it until light eased in around it. Over the last few minutes, though I still don’t see color, details of contour and depth are becoming clearer.
For some of us, the events of Epiphany, Jan. 6, shone light on a reality we haven’t wanted to see.
John the Evangelist tells us his xará (what we call in Brazil a person with the same name or birthday) John the Baptist “was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light,” (v. 8), the true light (v. 9), who reveals God the Father to us (v. 18). By the time the writer cites John the Baptist as recognizing Jesus as the Lamb of God, the Chosen One (v. 34), he has already described Jesus as the eternal Word, the world-Creator, the Life-giver, the unextinguishable Light, the status- and family-sharer (v. 12), the enabler of new beginnings (v. 13), the ultimate boundary-crosser and cultural contextualizer, full of unfailing love and faithfulness (or grace and truth, depending on your translation, v. 14 and 17), the revealed glorious only Son (the rest of God’s children are adopted), the one who is “far greater” (v. 15), the unstinting Giver of one blessing after another, the unique One who is himself God, near to the Father’s heart.
It will take us the rest of our lives to absorb all this. We won’t see all the shades and colors clearly until the full light of God’s glory shines on Jesus, when we’re with him face to face. Don’t you feel a bit jealous of those who are already there?
And then John the Baptist brings us back to earth with a thump. Jesus is the Lamb of God. My emotional reaction is similar to what I feel reading John the Evangelist’s description in Revelation 5: And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it? But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it. Then I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it. But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory! He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
From bitter weeping to the excitement of victory! But then comes the twist: Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered.
No! No! No! Don’t do it! How can you kill the king, the eternal one, the creator, the life-giver?
I want to linger in the glory. But John (both Johns) drive us forward, force us to our knees, back to tears, our faces on the ground. The Lion becomes the lamb, the sin of the world is my sin, the gracious, loving, faithful Truth-teller reveals to me more than I can bear. And so he bears it for me, both the hard truth and its inevitable consequence. Do I really want the light? John asks. Because to live in light requires practicing truth. It requires confessing my sins and my need for his cleansing, the cleansing only possible because Jesus the King, the one who is life itself, became the Lamb of God, offering his life in my place (1 John 1:1-9).