(John 1:29-34) If there were any doubt about Jesus’ identity – about who Christians claim Him to be – that is all put to rest with this week’s Gospel. There’s no mistaking Jesus for merely a good man or another prophet. He is divine, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity…He is God.
When John describes Jesus as one who “was before me,”1 it can only mean one thing: that Jesus has always been. We know that John’s mother Elizabeth conceived first – that she was already six months pregnant when Mary conceived.2 John goes on to testify about his own role in God’s plan – that he was sent to baptize so that Jesus “might be revealed to Israel.”3 Though clearly not what everyone expected, Jesus is none other than the long-awaited Saviour, the One who opens heaven and “baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”4
But the most significant and telling description of Jesus is as the sacrificial lamb. When John proclaims the words, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,”5 this statement was fraught with meaning. Even if John’s hearers could somehow accept that Jesus was the Son of God, this idea would have knocked their socks off! The Jewish people celebrated the Passover each year as a way to commemorate their ancestors’ freedom from slavery in Egypt, when the angel “passed over” their homes that had been marked with the blood of the lamb.6
Now, in reference to Jesus, these words would take on an entirely new meaning. “Back in Egypt it was the ‘blood of the lamb’ that preserved the Israelites from the angel of death. Now [Jesus] himself would be the Lamb whose blood saves mankind from death.”7 Jesus is “the true Paschal Lamb that has redeemed mankind from the bondage of death and sin.”8
These words of John the Baptist are so astounding because they describe what God has done for us, for all people. Jesus “silently allows himself to be led to the slaughter and…bears the sins of the multitudes.”9 These words are so significant that they’ve become part of our liturgy, spoken by the priest just after the consecration, when the Blood of Christ becomes present on the altar. What does this mean for us? As we receive the Eucharist, Christ’s blood covers us – the doorposts of our hearts – and we are saved.
– Kelley Holy
1 John 1:30
2 Cf. Luke 1:36
3 John 1:31
4 John 1:33
5 John 1:29
6 See Exodus 12:3-14
7 YOUCAT (Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church), 171.
9 CCC, 608.