Seeing Jesus coming towards him, John said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I spoke of when I said: A man is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me. I did not know him myself, and yet it was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptising with water.’ John also declared, ‘I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven like a dove and resting on him. I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptise with water had said to me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit.” Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.’
Gospel reading – Courtesy of Universalis Publishing Ltd. – www.universalis.com
“John the witness”
by Lukasz Nawrat SDB
“Look, there is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
With these words, John the Baptist offers his personal and public testimony to Jesus, giving expression to the Word of Life which the Holy Spirit has sown in his heart. And just as John gives his witness to Jesus as the Lamb of God, we, too, are invited to point him out to others by the way we love and speak, He who is our way, our truth and our life; our saviour, our path to the Father.
Today, we are asked by John the Baptist to firstly LOOK! Or, if you like, to look again. Look at the meekness and vulnerability of Jesus as the Lamb. The same Lamb who appears on the altar in the apparition of Our Lady of Knock surrounded by angels, accompanied by Joseph and another John, the writer of the Fourth gospel. When we look at the recorded image of the apparition of Knock we see at its centre, Mary and her dear child, Jesus, presented as a Lamb.
That God would appear among us in this guise is astonishing. So exposed to our violence and injustice, so defenceless. This is the height and depth of God’s love that he would allow himself to fall into our hands and be killed and in this act of submission, take away our sins, give us life in abundance.
As we look, let us pray:
Lord overflow my heart with your love so I may understand your will for me. Give me your peace. Grant me the courage to speak eloquently of you. Fill me with your life.
Jesus, merciful Lamb of God, raise us up, carry us as we carry our brothers and sisters. Make our burdens light.
And in all our struggles and difficulties may Our Lady, your Mother, watch over us with a mother’s love and care.
May God bless you and keep you safe.
by Fr Juan José Bartolomé SDB
Introduction to Lectio Divine
In John’s Gospel this episode takes place on the second day of the first week of Jesus’ public ministry. It centres on the testimony of John the Baptist concerning Jesus. On the first day John denied that he was the Christ, or Elijah or the Prophet. He was only a “voice” – someone whose own person did not matter but only the message, precisely because it was necessary to adhere not to the person of John but to his word. Now on the second day, seeing Jesus coming towards him, John said “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (Jn 1:29). John’s public testimony draws Jesus out of his anonymity. He is the expiatory victim. He has the fullness of the Spirit. He is the Son.
John the Baptist’s testimony is evidently a Christian profession of faith. Jesus has been handed over, as the sacrificial lamb, to redeem us from sin. It is in him that the Spirit of God dwells among men. Giving his life and possessing the Spirit are the marks that identify Jesus as the Son of God. Anyone who knows this cannot but proclaim it. Even in our day the Jesus who comes needs a precursor to discover him and make him known. Only those who are sent to preach conversion will succeed in making him known.
Read: understand what the text is saying, focussing on how it says it
The text offers the testimony of John the Baptist concerning Jesus. In John’s Gospel this testimony of John the Baptist serves as the official presentation. (In the synoptics. It is God himself who does it!). This shows the theological importance of this passage.
John is the only person mentioned in the text. He gives a single testimony, with a single motive, but given in two separate statements. His testimony was not asked for. It was testimony freely given: Jesus is the Lamb and the Son of God.
The first statement focuses on the person of Jesus, the second on his baptism. Although they differ in content, they have one element in common: John did not know Jesus, but he knew well the mission that had been entrusted to him (John): to baptise with water.
Before giving his first testimony, John saw Jesus coming. He begins his second statement by saying that he had seen the Spirit descending upon Jesus. He completes it with a new definitive testimony because he has seen. Why this insistence on seeing before testifying?
In the first part of his testimony, John focuses on the person of Jesus (who he says he did not know!) and he introduces him with three statements which reveal the divine nature of Jesus: he is the Lamb of God; he takes away sin; he came after John even though he existed before him.
The second part speaks of baptism of the Spirit (not of water!) given to Jesus and by Jesus. The one who gave John his mission also gave him a sign to enable him to recognise the Son of God. He saw the Spirit descending upon him.
Meditate: apply what the text says to life
John decided to give testimony when he saw Jesus coming towards him. The sight of Jesus made him become a witness. For us to become witnesses of Jesus today, how, when and where do we see him?
When John was aware of his own mission, he saw Jesus coming towards him. Jesus lets himself be seen by those who are where they were sent, not where they decide they want to be. Is my mission an opportunity for me to meet Jesus face to face? Jesus comes to me when I am where he has sent me.
Even though he did not know Jesus, the Baptist saw him coming and was able to say great things about him. To evangelize – to be able to speak about Jesus – belongs to those who are sent. Being where he was sent and doing what he was sent to do, are more important for the evangelizer than knowledge. It is obedience, not knowledge, that makes one a witness. What is my witness to Jesus? How do I know what I ought to proclaim? Where does my preaching find nourishment? Is my mission my school of evangelization?
John gave two testimonies concerning Jesus. In the first he presented him as belonging to God and as Saviour of mankind; in the second as the one who receives and gives the Spirit. The first testimony was given because he saw Jesus coming; the second because he was told by the one who had sent him to baptize. In addition to obedience in fulfilling his mission there is also obedience to the One who gives us the mission. The first prepares for the second. Do I live my mission as preparation for hearing God? Does what I do as one sent make me know Jesus better? What do I gain from being sent by God?
John says that he did not know Jesus before he saw him, but he bore witness nonetheless. What about me, do I know Jesus? Have I seen him coming towards me? What witness do I give concerning him? Do I say about him what I have heard from the one who sent me?
How do I rate myself as a witness to Jesus? What is the content of my testimony?
ruler of all things in heaven and on earth,
listen favourably to the prayer of your people,
and grant us your peace in our day.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.